Oct 4: Maoists to talk to government in West Bengal

October 4, 2011

[1] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Maoists-agree-to-ceasefire-during-talks-in-West-Bengal/articleshow/10230413.cms

[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-15166700

[3] http://dailypioneer.com/nation/11117-create-genuine-conditions-for-peace-talks-maoists-to-west-bengal-govt.html

————-

[1]

KOLKATA: Maoists in Jangmahal area of West Bengal have agreed to a ceasefire, a statement from mediators appointed by the state government announced on Tuesday. The statement has been attributed to the Maoist leader, Bikash.

The announcement comes within days of the government announcing a resumption of offensive by joint forces following killing of Trinamool Congress leaders in West Midnapore.

Maoists have in the past pointed out that they were ready for talks provided the state government withdrew joint forces from the area as Mamata Banerjee had committed in her election manifesto.

While there are apprehensions within a section of Maoists of renewed offensive by security forces once the rebels come to the table for talks as had happened in Chhattisgarh with the murder of Azad, a section of government officials fear that a ceasefire would allow Maoists an opportunity to regroup.
————

[2]

Maoist rebels in India’s West Bengal have begun a month-long ceasefire, the rebels have said in a statement.

The statement, signed by Maoist leader Akash and government-appointed mediators, was made public on Tuesday.

The rebels want the government to withdraw forces from the Junglemahal area – where they are active – and start the process of peace talks.

Maoists leaders stress that their move will only apply to West Bengal and is not a pan-Indian ceasefire.

The rebels are active in several eastern and central states.
Political rivals

One of the mediators told the BBC after the announcement that “the ball is now in the government’s court”.

“If the government accepts the ceasefire and reciprocates it, it will move towards the peace talks,” Sujato Bhadra said.

Soon after winning the state assembly elections in May, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee appointed a team of mediators to negotiate with the Maoists.

Starting peace talks with the rebels was a part of her election manifesto.

During elections, her political rivals accused her of taking support from the Maoists. Ms Banerjee denied the charge.

She unseated the state’s communists after more than 35 years in power.

The Junglemahal region of West Bengal, which borders the state of Jharkhand, comprises West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts.

In May 2010, more than 145 people were killed when a train crashed in the area after Maoist rebels allegedly sabotaged the rails.

The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of indigenous tribal people and the rural poor.

A government offensive against the rebels – widely referred to as Operation Green Hunt – began in late 2009.

It involves 50,000 paramilitary troops and is taking place across five states – West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa and Chhattisgarh.
———

[3]

In an encouraging development, but also seen by the police administration as a ploy, Maoists in West Bengal have offered a ceasefire laced with pre-conditions.

A statement released by Bengal CPI (Maoist) secretary Akash, the Maoists have offered the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Government a one-month truce and asked the Government in Kolkata to “create genuine conditions for peace talks” by suspending all kinds of operations by the joint security forces deployed in the Jangalmahal. The release is jointly signed by Sujata Bhadra and Chhotan Das the two civil society members appointed by the Chief Minister to negotiate peace with the Red ultras.

The offer comes close on the heels of a stern remark by the Chief Minister that both peace talks and senseless killing by the militants could not go hand in hand.

Soon after coming to power, Banerjee had floated a committee of interlocutors led by Bhadra which was engaging the Maoists in peace dialogue. “The offer has been made by one side and now it is upon the Government as to how it reacts to it or whether it suspends the operations,” Bhadra said, adding both sides should show genuine intention for peace and development by climbing down from their rigid positions.

Tuesday’s offer is seen as an encouraging chapter in the Maoist-Government negotiations. But top intelligence officials have cautioned the Chief Minister on the “past treacherous record” of the Red ultras, a senior officer engaged in West Midnapore operations said.

Incidentally, intelligence inputs received by the Home Department, which is also handled by the Chief Minister, has given alarming reports showing how the Maoists had strengthened their position in the Jangalmahal taking advantage of the ceasefire of the past four-five months “to Chhattisgarh levels.”