Jhargram (West Bengal): West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Saturday gave a seven-day ultimatum to Maoist rebels in the state to choose between dialogue and arms, while she announced a slew of infrastructure and development projects for the Junglemahal region.
Asserting that politics of murder and negotiations cannot go together, Banerjee said soon after coming to power in May, her government sought peace, but the ultras did not stop bloodshed.
"We have started the peace process. There has been no joint security forces` operation for the last four months. We thought that will help. But we saw murders. Why? We say we want peace.
"In democracy, negotiations can always continue. We are not in favour of stopping negotiations. But you have to leave arms. Stop threatening the people," Banerjee said, talking tough.
"I am giving you seven days` time. Think over this. If you want a peaceful solution to the problem, no issues. We want the doors of negotiations to be open. This is a last chance. Bloodshed and negotiations cannot go together," the chief minister said addressing a largely attended rally at the Jhargram stadium of West Midnapore district.
She called upon the people of the area to join forces against the Maoists.
"People should come forward and rally against them (Maoists). They come from outside, use supari killers to murder people. They only make money at the point of the gun."
Banerjee had time and again claimed as an opposition leader that there were no Maoists in the state, and even adopted a soft approach towards the ultras after coming to power. She also appointed a team of interlocutors which have held discussions with Maoist leaders to pave the way for talks between the guerrillas and the government.
However, Banerjee hardened her stand after a series of killings by the left radicals since late August.
The chief minister said people, and not guns, always have the final say in democracy.
Taking the baby of a Trinamool Congress activist Lalmohan Mahato, who was recently killed by the ultras, in her lap, she said: "What is the future for this child? What is the future for its mother, a widow? What is the future for other widows, other families killed by them?"
Banerjee said her Congress-Trinamool Congress government wanted peace. "If there is peace, I can do everything for the region. I don`t want to do anything without peace. I will arrange for jobs, give you schools, colleges, hospitals. When negotiations are on, why is blood being spilled?"
Challenging the Maoists to murder her, Banerjee said: "Come on, I want to see how much guts you have. Why do you hide, come on bicycles and then flee after commiting a crime. I am not afraid of your rifles. You can murder my leaders also, but if you kill five of us, five lakh people will be there to fight for the people."
"Let us come face to face in Jhargram. We won`t take the help of the police, I will be here with my people. Let me see how far you can go," she added.
Banerjee said the Maoists did not believe in any doctrine. "Those who use supari killers are goons. They believe in neither Marxism nor Maoism. Politics of murder cannot be the product of any ism."
On her earlier announcement of recruiting 10,000 people from Junglemahal in police and National Volunteer Force, Banerjee said the recruitment process had already started.
She said those who do not get the police jobs, will be enlisted in an employment bank for Jungemahal and would be given employment later depending on their specific skills.
Banerjee, who was on her second visit to Junglemahal (the forested areas in West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts where Maoists are active) since coming to power, laid the foundation of a Rs.170 crore river bridge project over Subarnarekha, a road connecting Netai and Lalgarh and increased the procurement price of kendu leaves to be purchased by the government.
She also announced modernisation project for the stadium, and setting up of four other stadia, and polytechnic college at Ramgarh, 31 girls` hostels, four new colleges, a large number of drinking water schemes, new tourist lodges, vocational training centres, 20,000 cycles for girls students, two model schools and 5,600 houses for poor people.