In the government’s most forceful call for peace to the Maoists, union home minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday urged the rebels to come to the dialogue table without laying down arms or leaving their ideology behind.
“I am requesting you on behalf of the central and state governments that are negotiating with you, please stop the violence. We are ready to talk without any precondition,” he said during a programme of the Bharat Chamber of Commerce here.
“The Maoists don’t have to give up arms or their ideology, and they don’t need to disband the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army. But stop the violence and join the dialogue process.”
Officials in Delhi said the offer was in line with the Centre’s stated position that makes an exception for Maoists and only requires them to abjure violence before talks can begin. Insurgent groups in the Northeast, on the other hand, are required to lay down arms before the government can begin direct talks with them.
Chidambaram — in his 34th month as home minister — reiterated Naxalism was a bigger threat than terrorism, in terms of the lives lost in violence.
He also said, “We have realized that the infrastructure for internal security must be developed.” The Centre has started the process of increasing the strength of the National Investigative Agency and is making the filling up of IPS posts its priority, he added.
Another major factor in the fight against Naxalism, Chidambaram said, is development. “Development should be top priority where the administration is there. But where the administration is not visible, the rule of law must be imposed.”
The minister's remarks come in the backdrop of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee steadfastly pursuing a soft line towards the rebels. She appointed six interlocutors on July 7 to try and initiate a dialogue and has virtually suspended anti-Maoist operations, earning the ire of the Orissa and Jharkhand administrations.
Chidambaram's statement is expected to encourage Banerjee to pursue the peace talks and might also give the rebels some confidence on how to respond to the government's proposal.