Mamata sticks to Azad remarks, welcomes Maoist talks offer

Mamata Banerjee said her remarks on Maoist leader Azad’s death were her own.

Last Updated: Aug 19, 2010, 00:25 AM IST

Zeenews Bureau

Kolkata: Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday said she sticks to her remarks on Maoists made at a rally in Lalgarh recently.

Speaking to reporters before leaving for Delhi to attend the ongoing Parliament session, Mamata said her remarks on Maoist leader Azad’s death were her own and her party’s, and not of the government.

She further stated that she would answer all the questions on Lalgarh rally in Parliament.

The Trinamool Congress chief’s remarks came a day after Maoists made a conditional ceasefire offer to the Centre and named Mamata as their choice for the mediator.

Mamata today said she has seen the media reports about the offer but will have to cross-check and verify them before making her stand clear.

She reiterated her desire for a negotiated solution to the Maoist problem in the country, while saying the political parties should support people’s struggle where genuine.

She however refused to directly react to Maoists’ ceasefire offer, saying it was for the government at the Centre to decide on how to go about Maoists’ offer.

"Neither I can impose my opinion on others, nor others can do the same on me," Mamata said.

The Railway Minister’s remarks came shortly after the Left alleged a nexus between the TMC and Maoists, referring to Koteshwar Rao’s (Kishenji) comments that Mamata be made a mediator in talks between the government and the Maoists.

Rao had yesterday declared that the Maoists were ready for talks provided a three-month truce was declared. The government however insisted the Left wing rebels first abjure violence.

The announcement, two days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked the ultras to come for talks, was made in an audio tape sent out to select media houses in Kolkata.

Kishenji said in the audio tape: "Both the government and our outfit will declare the three-month armistice simultaneously. Then only the ground will be prepared for the talks."

The West Bengal-based Kishenji, who in recent years has emerged as the public face of the CPI-Maoist, referred to Manmohan Singh`s Independence Day address Sunday calling upon the Maoists to talk to the government.

"The President (Pratibha Patil) and the Prime Minister have appealed to the Maoists to abjure violence and come for talks," he said. "We would like to make it clear that we are not in favour of violence. On the contrary, it is the government which has forced us to take up arms," the CPI-Maoist politburo member added.

The Maoist leader, however, insisted the ceasefire should be a bilateral move by both the government and the rebels.

"We will not declare any unilateral ceasefire unless the government comes up with some positive steps. Let the Prime Minister take the initiative to withdraw the joint forces if he is really sincere to restore peace and normalcy in the troubled areas," he said.

Kishenji said the Maoists had got information that the government could ask Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee to be the go-between for the talks. "If she doesn`t have any problems to mediate, we are game".

The CPI-Maoist top gun referred to writer Arundhati Roy, Trinamool Congress MP Kabir Suman, human rights activist Gautam Navalkha and B D Sharma as the other facilitators for the talks.