PC renews offer of talks if Maoists halt violence

Last Updated: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 - 20:11

Kolkata: Offering carrot and stick, the Centre
on Tuesday said it was ready to hold talks with the Maoists if they
"halt" violence after a meeting of chief ministers of eastern
states skipped by Bihar`s Nitish Kumar and Jharkhand`s Sibu
Soren.

"We are not asking you do so anything more. If you halt
violence we are prepared to talk to you on any matter that is
of concern. But the condition is that you must halt violence,"
Chidamabaram said, appealing to Maoists to abjure violence.

"Unfortunately, past appeals have been spurned, therefore
we are obliged to continue operations. As long Naxals continue
violence, operations will continue," he told a press
conference after a 2-hour meeting here with chief ministers,
deputy chief ministers and top officials of four eastern
states.

Kumar told reporters in Patna that he could not be away
from the state capital for long and today is the scheduled day
for the state cabinet to meet. Soren, who had cited illness
for not attending the meeting, had deputed his two deputy
chief ministers.

Against the backdrop of reports that Kumar kept away at
the instance of Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, Chidambaram
sought to playdown his absence.

He said Kumar had told him in Delhi on Sunday that he had
some prior commitment and that he may not be able to attend
the Kolkata meeting. "His senior officials are here. Either I
can go to Patna or he can go to Delhi (to discuss Maoist
issues). That is not an issue," Chidambaram said.

Chidambaram said, "The government must continue operations
against Maoists in a careful, calibrated and controlled way if
Maoists do not halt violence."

On the statement by the Bihar Chief Minister that the
Maoist problem could not be solved by force, the Home Minister
said, "We all agree that force alone will not solve the
problem. But in order to put an end to violence and
re-establish civil administration, it is necessary to use
force.

"The purpose of the operation is not to kill anyone. These
are our own people. We care for them. Our troops do not fire
unless fired upon," Chidamabaram said.

Having a dig at a section of the media and NGOs, he said,
"They had propagated a massive carnage, but no such thing
happened. Forces, both central and state, acted with great
restraint."

He said intra-state operations against the Maoists have
been started in West Bengal and Jharkhand and inter-state
operations would be launched.

"The meeting discussed inter-state operations between West
Bengal and Jharkhand and West Bengal and Orissa and some
decisions have been taken. These decisions will be
implemented," the Home minister said.

Expressing confidence that there would be further progress
in operations in the next six months, he said, "We will
reclaim areas now dominated by Naxals. Civil administration
will be established in those areas."

After re-establishment of civil administration, he said,
"ministers and chief ministers have assured us that they will
rush in with development programmes -- schools, roads, medical
care, drinking water and job opportunities."

Chidambaram said he was quite happy about the progress of
the operations. He, however, admitted that there were "some
inadequacies here and there. We discussed both strength and
weaknesses. Progress will be slow, but steady."

He said considerable progress has been made in Jharkhand,
Orissa and West Bengal, and pointed out that "key Maoist
leaders have been apprehended."

The inter-state junctions of West Bengal-Jharkhand and
Bihar-Jharkhand are considered hotbed of Left wing extremists.

On Soren`s absence, he said, "I am told that he has been
admitted to hospital this morning, but two deputy chief
ministers of Jharkhand (Raghubar Das and Sudesh Mahto)
arrived.

"Soren was with me for two hours only ten days ago and we
had discussed in great details. He is fully onboard. I am in
constant touch with both Nitish Kumar and Soren."

The meeting, convened by the Union Home Minister to help
states to coordinate their campaign against Naxals, began an
hour behind schedule as Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik
arrived late.

The meeting was attended by West Bengal Chief Minister
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, while Bihar government was
represented by its Home Secretary Amir Subhani and DGP Anand
Shankar.

Developmental issues were also discussed at the meeting
attended by CRPF chief Vikram Srivastav, Additional Secretary
(Home) DRS Chowdhury, Additional Director (IB) P Mahendra,
Joint Secretary (Home) Kashmir Singh and Security Advisor Brig
D S Dadwal.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 - 20:11

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