Pushed into a corner by the Chhattisgarh government's anti-Maoist operations, leftist insurgents on Saturday offered to hold peace talks - the second time they have done so in a fortnight.
Senior Maoist leader Pandu alias Pandanna made the fresh offer while talking to local news channels from his forested hideout. "We invite Chhattisgarh government to come to Abujhmad forest for peace talks. We will provide the entire cabinet full security," he said.
Abujhmad forest is located in state's southern restive Bastar region, where insurgents have set up their own interim government and have also developed terror infrastructure to support Maoist militancy in several states.
Chhattisgarh's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has been cool to the fresh peace offer, with Chief Minister Raman Singh saying: "Maoists have to end violence before coming to the peace talks table."
Pandu, a spokesperson of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), had Jan 31 issued a press statement offering peace talks to find a solution to decade-old Maoist militancy in the state.
Top police officials see the peace talk move as a "diversionary tactic" by the rebels to buy time through persuading government to halt anti-Maoist operations so that they can regroup and also reassess their strategy to overcome relentless police attacks on their bases.
Maoists have killed some 1,250 persons in the state since 2004, with the majority of casualties reported from trouble-torn Bastar.