By Sujeet Kumar
Raipur : Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh has invited underground Maoist militants for talks, saying the government was very concerned about the safety of those driven to relief camps by the violence and that in the long term the rebels could not possibly win.
“Maoist militancy is an inter-state problem. During the past four months, guerrillas have managed to maintain a lot of pressure on police but in the long term fight they will never achieve success against police and paramilitary forces,” Singh told IANS in an interview.
“Violence or armed movement has never produced solutions to any strife worldwide. Only peace dialogues with an open mind can bring in results,” said Singh, who heads the state’s 41-month-old Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government.
Tribal-dominated Chhattisgarh is one of the worst affected among the 13 Indian states hit by Maoist violence.
When asked whether the government had sent any feelers or emissaries to the rebels for initiating dialogue, Singh, 55, said: “I am inviting the guerrillas through the press. If they respond, our top police officials will engage in dialogue.”
Though Maoists gained ground in Chhattisgarh in the late 1970s, the state has been at the epicentre of violence since June 2005 when a section of the tribal masses launched a civil militia movement known as the Salwa Judum against the rebels in the forested Bastar region.
The movement led to a sharp escalation in Maoist violence as hundreds of thousands of people, mainly from impoverished tribal families, came in the firing line between the guerrillas and the police.
The Salwa Judum’s cadres along with the police have become the primary targets of Maoist militants as the government supported the movement with arms and monetary backup.
Officials say at least 50,000 people have so far left their native forested villages due to threats from Maoists and have settled in over 22 government-run makeshift relief camps in the Dantewada and Bijapur districts.
“The government is highly concerned about the safety and future of 50,000 relief camp settlers. They will return to their native villages once the situation improves and peace returns,” the chief minister said.
Maoists carried out one of their deadliest attacks on a police camp in Bijapur in March this year, massacring 55 cops, including 39 special police officers (SPOs), who have been drawn from local youths and given a few weeks of training to assist and inform police.
Singh said: “They (SPOs) will be absorbed phase-wise as home guards and to a certain extent in the police force as well, but its not possible to provide all SPOs long term war and weapons training and then creating SPO battalions.”
Officials say at least 20,000 armed guerrillas have formed a red zone from southern India up to Nepal’s border. In 2006, India witnessed 749 deaths in Maoist violence, with Chhattisgarh alone accounting for 48 percent of the casualties.
Officials admit that casualties have crossed the 200 mark in Chhattisgarh in the first four months of this year.