Following up their offer of a ceasefire last month, Maoists in eastern India appeared to move a step closer to talks with the Centre by naming social activist and writer Arundhati Roy as one of three persons they want as mediators.
The other two are dissident Trinamool Congress MP and popular Bengali singer-poet Kabir Suman and former Madhya Pradesh bureaucrat B.D. Sharma.
They were named by CPI (Maoist) politburo member and spokesperson Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji in a statement to the media on Saturday night.
While Roy was not prepared to play such a role, Suman was more than willing and Sharma, who now runs an NGO in Delhi, was not available for comment.
Roy said, “I will make a terrible negotiator as mediation requires a very special set of skills that I do not have,” she said on Sunday. She however said she was prepared to play the role of an independent observer. “The Maoist offer should be taken seriously and both sides should agree to a ceasefire.”
Sharma, who had worked for tribal welfare in the impoverished Bastar region of what was once Madhya Pradesh, was not available for comment.
Sharma first shot into the limelight as Bastar collector in the mid-Sixties when he highlighted how tribals were being exploited by the government machinery. He also prevailed upon several government employees and officers to marry the tribal girls they had kept as mistresses.
An associate told HT that Sharma was engaged in a series of meetings in Kanpur and would not be able to comment immediately on Kishenji’s statement naming him as a mediator.
But Suman was ready to be taken to the jungles blindfolded. “Whoever can initiate a dialogue between the Maoists and the government will be doing a great service to the nation. I am even ready to be taken blindfolded to meet any leader,” he said on Sunday.
(With inputs from HTC, Bhopal)