Naxal-govt talks stalled over venue differences | india | Hindustan Times
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Naxal-govt talks stalled over venue differences

The Maoists are ready for talks and so is the government to find a lasting solution to the naxalite problem. But the preconditions set by both the sides have grounded the talks even before they could take off. Ejaz Kaiser reports.

india Updated: Feb 20, 2009 01:06 IST
Ejaz Kaiser

The Maoists are ready for talks and so is the government to find a lasting solution to the naxalite problem. But the preconditions set by both the sides have grounded the talks even before they could take off.

Senior Maoist leader Pandu alias Pandanna, a Dandakaranya special zonal committee member and spokesperson, had sent a proposal about two weeks ago to hold peace talks with Raman Singh government. It responded positively.

But then began the pre-talk preparations, where the dialogue seems to be stuck for the moment.

The state government wants the red guerillas to shun violence before talks can begin. That has always been the central government's position too.

"We welcome the peace offer but naxalites should shun the path of violence and come forward for talks”, said chief minister Dr Raman Singh. State DGP Vishwaranjan feels even the centre should be involved in the talks.

“The DGP assertion assumes significance as it appears unclear how one section of Maoists could be involved in peace negotiations when they remain rebels persists in other parts of the nation”, said Shashank Sharma.

The Maoists on their part want a conducive environment. By this they mean, disbanding of Salwa Judum, scrapping of Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and a halt of atrocities against tribals. No meeting of minds here, with the government maintaining that Salwa Judum was a civil militia campaign of the tribals, without any government involvement. Scrapping of the Act is unthinkable too.

The two sides could not even agree to the most important aspect of peace talks -- the venue. The Maoists invited the Chattisgarh cabinet to their forest hideout in Southern Bastar Abujhmaad. “We will provide the full security to the entire cabinet” Pandu declared in a press statement.

Nothing doing. “If they wish to have negotiations let them come to Raipur”, said the state home minister Nanki Ram Kanwar. Then it put in another rider: No political leadership will head the talks, though it had no obections to anybody mediating.

Other political parties are none too optomistic over peace talks offer. Senior Congress leader Mahendra Karma, who pioneered the Salwa Judum movement, said the talks at the local level will not be enough. “All such peace talk initiative is presently at preliminary stage but the offer should only be dealt at the Central level”, he said.

But the Communist Party of India leaders disagree. “That doesn’t meant the offer from the naxal zonal committee should be rejected”, said Manish Kunjam, CPI leader and president of All India Adivasi Mahasabha.

This is the first peace offer by the Maoists, after 2004. Negotiations with the Andhra Pradesh government then had failed.

But the civil society groups have begun to expect a positive outcome now.

One of the petitioners against Salwa Judum campaign in Supreme Court Nandini Sunder said that the tribals who have been taken to the relief camps or fled to Andhra Pradesh can return. “Villagers haven’t been able to cultivate their fields and live in terrible insecurity, their children suffer from severe malnutrition”, she said.