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Mamata sets 7-day deadline for Maoists

In a surprise shift, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee sounded an ultimatum to Maoists on Saturday, saying they had seven days to rethink their violent ways. HT reports.

india Updated: Oct 16, 2011 10:32 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times

In a surprise shift, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee sounded an ultimatum to Maoists on Saturday, saying they had seven days to rethink their violent ways.

Mamata took the Maoists head on in words that she never used before calling the rebels "supari killers", "jungle mafia" and "goons".

"Those who kill people cannot have any ideology. They are simply supari killers and nothing but jungle mafia," said the chief minister on her second visit to Maoist-dominated West Midnapore after taking over.

The first visit was on July 12.

The chief minister, who has been pursuing a softline towards the Maoists since she came to power in May, seemed to be hardening her stance when she said the rebels have to lay down arms.

Mamata's words appeared distinctly different from union home minister P Chidambaram who, on September 22, invited the rebels to the table without any precondition such as surrender, layding down of arms or disbanding their guerilla force.

"We are only asking them to shun violence and come for talks. We are not asking them to surrender or lay down their arms or give up their ideology or disband their People's Liberation Guerilla Army," Chidambaram had remarked in Kolkata.

On Saturday beginning her speech with the Maoist question, she dared the rebels to take her on in her typical rhetoric.

"Why are you hiding in the jungles? Come out if you have the courage? Do you want to kill me? Come out and take me on? Let's see how courageous you are," said Mamata.

"What is the future of these children - bullets?" she asked pointing to the one-year plus kid of Babu Bose, the Jhargram Janamukti Morcha secretary who was killed by the Maoists on September 25.

On Saturday Mamata displayed ample evidence that her patience was repeatedly tested by the Maoists who killed at least three Trinamool Congress leaders in West Midnapore after she became the chief minister.

"There has been no action by the joint forces over the past five months. But the killings went on. This cannot go on. There can be no dialogue if they keep on killing people," said the chief minister.

On July 7 Mamata had mandated six civil society members to bring the rebels to the dialogue table.

During the day Mamata took stock of development programmes in the maoist-dominated area.

From employing 10,000 local youths as 'junior police constables' and home guards to laying the foundation stone for a bridge on the Subarnarekha river, from drinking water project to giving cycles to girl students, she monitored the progress of several projects.

She said the government would also rebuild the tourism industry around Jhargram, a picturesque town about 150 km to the west of Kolkata and right in the heart of the Maoist-dominated territory in Bengal.

"This is such a beautiful region and many tourists used to come here for holidays. None ventures here now," said Mamata.

The chief minister also clarified she wants to resume night train services that have been suspended since May 28, 2010 - the day of the Gyaneswari Express sabotage that killed 148 passengers - on the Kharagpur-Tatanagar route causing great incovenience to the local people.

First Published: Oct 15, 2011 16:52 IST