For the first time in West Bengal, Maoists on Tuesday declared they would observe ceasefire for a month if the state government reins in the joint CRPF and state police forces.
Since this followed a threat by chief minister Mamata Banerjee on September 25 to go all out against the rebels after four months of soft-line approach, leading security experts termed the offer a tactical ploy to group.
A statement signed by Ashim Mandal, alias Akash, state secretary of the CPI (Maoist), said, “We are in favour of peace. If the state government promises to halt joint operations for a month and adhere to it in letter and spirit, we will also restrain arms for the same duration.”
Historian Sujato Bhadra and social activist Choton Das, two of the six interlocutors engaged by Banerjee on July 7 to initiate dialogue with the rebels, have also signed the statement.
“It is also incumbent upon the government to seize illegal arms from vigilante groups. If we come under attack from such groups, we will bring it to the notice of the government through the mediators,” the statement added.
Bhadra said, “We are yet to discuss the proposal with the chief minister. Such a meeting may take place after the Puja on October 11.”
“I have no comments to make,” said state director general of police Naparajit Mukherjee, who visited West Midnapore last week to meet Central Reserve Police Force and district officials to fine-tune the resumption of anti-Maoist operations.
The union home ministry also did not comment. But sources in the security establishment were suspicious about the development. One officer wondered how the CPI (Maoist) could go on ceasefire in one state and fight security forces in another.
“Our assessment is that the Maoists are going to use this time to plant more landmines, organise large-scale mobilisation of frontal organisations and recruit cadres... This is what they did in Andhra Pradesh in 2004,” the officer said.Security forces had killed a Maoist in the state for the last time in March. After coming to power in May 2011, Banerjee had suspended anti-Maoist operations. But a series of killings by the rebels, including two Trinamool Congress leaders, forced her to warn them of action on September 25.