Centre offers to facilitate talks with Maoists

 Stating this Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said that the operation was, so far, going according to plan though “we have to be prepared for the unexpected.”

The Home Minister has endorsed the appeal of West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to the Maoists and the tribals to come forward for talks. “If they wish to talk, they should come forward to do so. We will be happy to facilitate talks,” he told  newspersons after a cabinet meeting presided by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“The operation will take time. In fact, it will take considerably more time than had been expected,” he said . “The forces are moving towards Lalgarh. They are moving cautiously. We are also appealing to the people, particularly the tribals, through loudspeakers and handbills that the forces are not against the people,” he said. Maoists have been active in the three western districts of the state — West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia. They also backed the Trinamool-sponsored movement against the state government’s bid to establish a chemical hub at Nandigram in East Midnapore district.
Lalgarh has been on the boil since November last when a landmine exploded on the route of the convoy of Chief Minister Bhattacharjee and the then central ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada.

The Home Minister also said that the naxalites were entrenched in the area for the last six months and it was difficult to give their numbers. Chidambaram sidestepped a query whether the State government failed to check entrenchment of Maoists. “I am not here to make any judgment,” he said.

On the question whether it was a war-like situation, he said government does not go to war with its own people. “They may have grievances . But there is a way to resolve the grievances in a democracy”. Taking to arms and claiming certain area as liberated was not the way things work in a democracy, he said.

Planning a three-pronged offensive to flush out the Maoists from Lalgarh, about 150 km from Kolkata, security forces on Friday continued their march towards the trouble zone as Maoist rebels dug more roads and burnt a bridge to stall them. Elaborating on the operations, Chidambaram said the state police was “leading from the front” with the Central Reserve Police Force providing “assistance”.

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