Maoists Offer 72 Day Cease-Fire and Talks With Indian Government
Posted by Ka Frank on February 25, 2010
This article appeared in the Washington Post on February 23, 2010.
This is a very significant (and politically astute) offer. Singh and Chidambaram will have a hard time rejectiing this peace initiative by the Maoists. The terms are simple–both sides stop military operations in order to begin negotiations. The CPI (Maoist) has stated that stopping all mining operations and tearing up the MoUs in the adivasi areas, and releasing villagers accused of Maoist ties during Operation Green Hunt are at the top of their negotiating agenda.
The Maoists are also making an attempt to reach out to liberal intellectuals and human rights groups who have generally opposed military actions by both the government and the Maoists while exposing the government’s human rights abuses. The Maoists have also timed the 72 day cease fire period to expire on May 7, around the time of the arrival of the monsoons, which makes it very difficult to launch new military operations. It will be interesting to see what the government does.
Maoist rebel offers cease-fire, talks with India
NEW DELHI –India responded cautiously Tuesday to an offer by a top Maoist guerrilla leader for a cease-fire and talks with the government, with the home minister saying he would wait for a formal proposal before considering the offer. Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said he wanted a short, simple statement from the rebels without preconditions before responding to the offer by Kishenji, a senior Maoist leader in eastern India.
On Monday, Kishenji told television channel NDTV in the eastern state of Orissa that “Our revolutionary violence will stay on hold for as long as state terror is put on hold.” If the government puts “violence on hold, not for 72 hours but for 72 days, then we will immediately stop our revolutionary violence,” Kishenji said.
That would require the government to halt its Operation Green Hunt offensive – aimed at flushing the militants out of their forest hide-outs – from Thursday until May 7.
Kishenji also called for “liberal intellectuals and human rights groups” to mediate talks between the rebels and the government. But the government ruled out any preconditions for talks with the rebels. “I would like no ‘ifs,’ no ‘buts’ and no conditions. Once I receive the statement, I shall consult the prime minister and other colleagues and respond promptly,” Chidambaram said in a statement.
Inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, the rebels have fought for more than four decades demanding land and jobs for farmers and the poor. About 2,000 people – including police, militants and civilians – have been killed in the past few years.
The rebels, who have tapped into the rural poor’s growing anger at being left out of the country’s economic gains, are now present in 20 of the country’s 28 states and have an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 fighters. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called them India’s biggest internal security threat. Some local governments in central and eastern India are unable to function because of rebel attacks.
In response to the government offensive, the insurgents have blown up train tracks, attacked railway stations and assaulted railroad employees. Last week, they killed two dozen police at a security camp in the village of Shilda, about 105 miles (170 kilometers) southwest of West Bengal’s capital, Calcutta.
Another group of suspected rebels later raided a village in eastern India and killed at least 12 people in an apparent act of revenge after several guerrillas were captured and turned over to police. On Monday, a guerrilla fighter was killed when rebels attacked a police camp in West Bengal, said Manoj Verma, a local superintendent of police.
Press Statement by Concerned Citizens
GOVERNMENT SHOULD RESPOND TO MAOIST OFFER
We welcome the announcement by the CPI (Maoist) to observe a ceasefire and enter into talks with the Government of India. Given the government’s expressed willingness to engage in talks, we hope that this offer will be reciprocated. This necessarily requires a halt to all paramilitary armed offensive operations (commonly known as Operation Green Hunt) immediately. It is also imperative that there should be complete cessation of all hostilities by both sides during the currency of the talks.
We are of the view that the Central Government, and not the State Governments, should be the authority to conduct talks as the problem covers various states.
Additionally, the Central Government should ensure that, while the talks are being held, all MOUs, if entered into, should be frozen and not implemented; no compulsory acquisition of tribal lands and habitats be undertaken; and tribals should not be displaced. This is because the Central Government is bound under law to strictly comply with the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution that, among others, safeguards manifold rights of the tribals including their ownership over land and resources.
We further urge that during the period of the ceasefire and the course of talks, independent teams of observers and human rights groups should not be prevented, by either side, from going to the affected areas.
Justice Rajindar Sachar, Randhir Singh, B.D. Sharma, Arundhati Roy, Amit Bhaduri, Manoranjan Mohanty, Prashant Bhushan, Sumit Chakravartty, G.N. Saibaba, S.A.R. Geelani, Madhu Bhaduri, Karen Gabriel, P.K. Vijayan, Saroj Giri, Rona Wilson, Anirban Kar
23 February 2010
Concerned Citizens, c/o Sumit Chakravartty,
B 57 Gulmohar Park (1st Floor), New Delhi – 110049