On Monday, govt had banned CPI-Maoist.
After six days of joint operation by the West Bengal police and central paramilitary personnel in Lalgarh, Maoist rebels have offered to sit for talks with the state and central governments, indicating they are indeed under pressure.
“We are ready for talks with the state and central governments if the intellectuals who visited Lalgarh (in West Midnapore district) last Sunday arrange for a meeting,” CPI-Maoist leader Sagar said in a statement to news agencies.
According to agency reports, as a precondition, the Maoist rebels want an immediate ceasefire to create a “peaceful atmosphere before the talks”.
On Sunday, a group of Kolkata-based artists and intellectuals visited Lalgarh and after meeting the villagers appealed to both the administration and the Maoists to cease fire and come to the negotiation table. But then Maoist leader Kishanji rejected the offer to lay down arms.
But even if the Maoists are keen to sit for talks, there is no indication that the administration will agree to their ceasefire offer. Only yesterday the central government banned the CPI-Maoist, declaring it a terrorist outfit. Both the Centre and the state governments are in agreement to continue with the operation to flush out the rebels from Lalgarh. With that goal in mind, already 10 more companies of central force have been sent there. According to government sources, to pave the way for a talk with the Maoists, they will have to lay down arms first.
In 2004, after the Congress government came to power in Andhra Pradesh, a ceasefire was announced and the Maoists had a few rounds of talks with the state government, but that did not yield any result.
Incidentally, a day after the Centre banned the CPI-Maoist, its spokesman Gour Chakraborty was detained this evening and taken for interrogation by the special branch of Kolkata police.
Chakraborty was detained immediately after he came out of the studio of a local news channel where he took part in a panel discussion.
Earlier, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said the ban imposed by the Centre is “automatically applicable in West Bengal”. Keeping pace with the central government’s combative mood against the Maoists in the country, Bhattacharjee today said the state government would soon raise a special ‘combatant force’ to tackle the Maoists and other terrorist elements.
Meanwhile, the operation Lalgarh has entered into its sixth day, and the joint force has now been reinforced with 10 more companies of central force, indicating that they are planning a sustained campaign. But according to senior police officials, no major thrust will be made against the Maoists in the coming two-three days and the joint force will now focus on consolidating their gains. Accordingly, the joint force has started setting up check posts along the Jharkhand border to monitor and restrict the movements of the Maoists. Also, because of the sweltering heat in the region and the barometer hovering around 47 degree Celsius, jawans are increasingly becoming sick. Already one jawan has died of heat stroke, and several others have been incapacitated, the senior commanders have decided to go slow with the operation.
The Maoists, perhaps desperate and on the run, presumably tried to register their presence and bolster their moral by attacking and ransacking a few party offices of CPIM in Jhargram and Purulia on the second day of the two day bandh called by them.
The CPIM chief minister has another fight in his hands. After a two day long meeting his party central committee has reached a conclusion that the recent electoral setback suffered by the party has much to do with the poor performance of the Left Front government. In a strongly worded statement the CPIM central committee said yesterday that “ In West Bengal…there are shortcomings in the functioning of government, panchayats and municipalities….This is due to the failure of the government to implement various measures directly concerning the lives of the people.”
What the party leaders have found out now was not unknown to the people in the state. Mahasweta Devi, a noted novelist and social worker, who has been working among the tribal communities in West Midnapur and Purulia for years, has reiterated that the administration needs to pay attention to the economic development of the people of the area urgently.
The common grievances of the people there is that they have been deprived of the development for long. The chief minister today denied that no development had been done in that area. He merely conceded that more development was needed in Lalgarh. But Buddhadev Bhattacharjee’s claim that a special cell of state administration has already been working for the development of Lalgarh and adjacent tribal belt has evoked a surprised reaction from a minister of the Left Front government. Kiranmoy Nanda, minister in charge of department of fisheries development, expressed surprise and said today that he was not aware of the existence of any such special cell. (EOM)