West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday stood firm on her seven-day warning to the Maoists on the option of either laying down arms or facing the onslaught of the state.
Banerjee said the rebels should come up with a statement by October 22 on announcing their decision to stop killings, extortion and threats, and end armed rallies and meetings.
The statement should come from a top-level leader and not any lower-rung member.
“Else, the government will do its job from October 23,” she reportedly said in a 90-minute meeting with her team of interlocutors, headed by historian Sujato Bhadra.
However, the chief minister sweetened her tough talk by holding out the offer of talks.
“If the rebels want to come to the talks table after shunning violence, the government will welcome the move,” she said in the meeting, in which the mediators reportedly impressed on her the need for restraint.
Emerging from the meeting, Bhadra said: “The dialogue process is on and will continue. The peace process will go on.”
During her visit to Jhargram in West Midnapore on October 15, Banerjee had handed the rebels a seven-day ultimatum to give up arms and come to the dialogue table. The deadline ends on October 22.
On the other hand, civil society members have started mounting pressure on the chief minister to soften her stand against the rebels.
“The joint forces should be immediately withdrawn. The chief minister should remember all her poll promises and keep them,” said eminent writer Maheshweta Debi, who called a press conference at her residence despite her ill health on Tuesday.