Chidambaram to Maoists: we’ll talk but stop violence


Kolkata/Ranchi/Patna : As Maoists again blasted train tracks in Bihar and Jharkhand during their 72-hour shutdown, the government Tuesday warned that operations against the guerrillas would continue but also offered talks if the violence stopped.

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After a two-hour meeting with the governments of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal, Home Minister P. Chidambaram claimed that intra-state operations against the ultras had made significant progress.

“My appeal to Naxals (as the Maoists are also known) is if you abjure violence, that is if you call a halt to violence, we are not asking you do anything more, we are prepared to talk to you on any matter that is of concern,” Chidambaram said in Kolkata as the shutdown to protest the proposed operation against Maoists drew to an end.

Over the last three days, Maoists have disrupted rail and road traffic, leading to the cancellation of hundreds of trains with repair work under way in vital connecting points of Bihar and Jharkhand.

“Unfortunately, past appeals have been spurned. So we were obliged to continue the operations,” Chidambaram said, flanked by West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and his Orissa counterpart Naveen Patnaik.

Apart from the two chief ministers, deputy chief ministers of Jharkhand Raghuvar Das and Sudesh Mahto and top officials of Bihar took part in the parleys at the state secretariat Writers’ Buildings where the progress of the security operations were reviewed and plans for inter-state offensives chalked out.

This is Chidambaram’s second meeting with state chief ministers in the last month to work out an action plan. The last meeting held in Raipur in January with officials of five state governments examined escape routes of the rebels between Orissa and Jharkhand and deployment strategy of joint forces on the borders of Maoist-hit states.

Chidambaram said he was not claiming that the operations had made “remarkable achievements” but progress had been “slow and steady”.

To buttress his point, the home minister cited the arrest of some key leaders of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist and deployment of more forces in the affected areas.

“The progress is slow and steady. You cannot measure it like a cricket match score board. In fact considerable progress has been made… We will continue to make progress.”

As Chidambaram firmed up strategy, Maoist rebels kept the violence going in Jharkhand as well as neighbouring Bihar.

In Jharkhand, they blew up blew up railway tracks in two places in Giridih district, about 190 km from the state capital Ranchi.

Railway authorities cancelled seven trains and six trains were diverted. More than 3,000 buses in Jharkhand were stranded and no long route buses were operational.

In Bihar, Maoists struck in Jamui district by blasting a track near Narganjo station, about 170 km from Patna. Narganjo is situated on the Kiul-Howrah rail route of East Central Railway.

At the internal security conclave on Sunday, Chidambaram specifically mentioned that all the six-affected states, including the Bharatiya Janata Party ruled Gujarat and Chhattisgarh, had endorsed the government’s action plan on the operations.

“There was not a single discordant note. All chief ministers are on board,” he said.

Left wing extremists continue to target vital installations and kill innocent civilians in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Orissa and West Bengal, claiming 1,125 deaths in 2009.