Union Railway Minister and Bengal’s firebrand Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, 54, wants to talk to the rebels across the table. Her comment follows a call for talks with the Maoists by union home minister P. Chidambaram two days ago.
While mentioning that the Centre-initiated joint police operations in Lalgarh were not right, Mamata said the union home ministry was against arresting of tribal leaders like Chatradhar Mahato. She said police operations were not the solution to the Maoists problem.
Mamata was speaking to private television channel, Star Anando, in Kolkata on Saturday.
The CPI(M) however did not seem to share her view. Surrendering weapons was the primary precondition for talks with Maoists in Bengal, the party said, less than 24 hours after CPI(Maoist) central committee member Koteswar Rao alias Kishanji told a news agency that the rebels were ready to sit for talks with the government but would not lay down their arms.
“What sort of talks can be held under these circumstances? They (the Maoists) do not believe in democracy. As long as they indulge in violence there cannot be any atmosphere for talks. They should first surrender weapons and sit for discussions across the table”, CPI(M) state secretary Biman Bose said on Saturday afternoon shortly before leaving for Delhi.
Mamata preferred to be liberal in her views. “The Centre should initiate talks with the Maoists. If the government can talk to the United Liberation Front of Assam and separatist forces in Kashmir, why not the Maoists? They are also people of this country,” said Mamata even as she iterated that the rebels should first shun the path of violence and discuss their problems with the government.
“But such a meeting should not be a hush-hush affair. Call the Maoists in public and hold talks,” she said.
On Friday, a news agency reported that Kishanji was open to the idea but not ready to surrender weapons A massive police operation to flush out Maoists from the red corridor covering several states of the country is to begin after Diwali.
Reacting to Kishanji’s comment that Mamata should be the chief minister of the state, the Trinamool chief urged the Maoist leader to come for talks is he had faith in Mamata. The intellectuals could also act as mediators during the talks, she suggested.
However Mamata did not spare the Centre. “Police operations by the Centre were not the right decision. I think the CPI(M) had managed to convince the Union government to send forces to Lalgarh,” she said.
This was not the first time that Mamata came out in the open against operations by the joint forces in West Midnapore.