Bengal interlocutors step aside from peace process

Bengal interlocutors step aside from peace process

"The prevailing situation in Junglemahal (Maoist affected areas of the state) doesn’t allow us to carry forward the peace talks. We have expressed our helplessness and inability to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (in a letter) today,” rights activist Sujato Bhadra, who headed the six-member team, told IANS.

He said of the six members, only Debashish Bhattacharya has differed on the decision to withdraw from the peace initiatives. Bhadra, however, refused to comment if the killing of Communist Party of India-Maoist politburo member Kishenji had a bearing on the decision.

The interlocutors had held two meetings with the Maoists, who spelled out a conditional truce offer, announcing they were prepared not to take up arms for a month if the West Bengal government halted operation of the joint security forces in the Junglemahal area to build an atmosphere congenial to dialogue.

Before assuming reins of the state in May, Banerjee had promised removal of the forces.

After being sworn in, she halted the counter offensive though the uniformed personnel were not withdrawn.

The ties between the government and the Left radicals soured after the guerillas gunned down some Trinamool men.

While the Maoists blamed the government for not withdrawing the securitymen and called off their ceasefire proposal, an angry Banerjee signalled resumption of counter-offensive in the Maoist-affected areas.

On Nov 15, the interlocutors had met Banerjee expressing their desire to withdraw from the process, but following her request they later said the peace initiative would continue.
Last Thursday, Kishenji was killed in, what the forces claimed, a gunfight. Following the incident, the Maoist central committee in a statement said the outfit would not be involved in any future peace process and alleged that their leader was "murdered" in "cold blood" in a "fake encounter".