A day after the body of policeman Lucas Tete, killed by Maoists, was found and with no idea where the three other abducted cops are, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday offered the lure of a safe passage to get the extremists to the talks table.
He appealed to the Maoists to release the three policemen held hostage since they were abducted during an encounter last week in the Lakhisarai area of Bihar.
“I will personally hold talks with the extremists if they want it that way. I had already made this offer two days ago. I am not moving from that position," Nitish told reporters after an all-party meeting on Saturday evening.
Immediately after this call for talks, the CM himself pointed to its biggest problem — whom to talk to. “In such a confusing situation, who can talk to whom. We have identified our negotiators. It is me. Can they name one from their side?” he asked.
Late on Saturday night media reports, however, said the Maoists had rejected the talks offer. He said the Maoists must identify their leaders who would negotiate with the government.
“It is the unanimous call of all political streams for the unconditional release of the hostages. It is also their collective promise that the negotiators will not be harmed. A democratically-elected government will not fear to negotiate face-to-face with any group, extremist or otherwise and irrespective of the outcome,” he added.
Answering a question on the issue of mediation, he shot back, “Who will be the mediator? We can agree on that, once the ice is broken.”
A self-styled spokesperson of the Maoists said earlier on Saturday that the three policemen taken hostage were safe, but warned that time was running out.
In the operation to locate them, police claimed to have arrested two top Maoist operatives, including Pintu Das, a dreaded local commander.