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No talks with Maoists till they shed violence: Centre

By Renu Mittal
November 08, 2009 22:29 IST
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"The Centre will not invite Maoists to talk till they abjure violence," said G K.Pillai, the Home Secretary.

Pillai was speaking at a seminar organised by South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA). The other participants were Maoist sympathizer and PUCL, Hyderabad, chairman and eminent human rights lawyer, K.B.Kannabirn, and human rights activists Gautam Navlakha and Shabnam Hashmi.

Siddhartha Vardarajan, senior journalist, moderated the debate.

For the first-of-its-kind seminar the government and Maoist sympathizers shared a common platform to debate ''Insurgency, Human Rights and the Media''.

Pillai's response at the seminar suggested that the government is in a mood to send a positive signal and create conducive conditions for a future dialogue.

Pillai said that the Maoists would have to "abjure violence and we are not asking them to lay down arms". He also revealed that the instructions have gone to security forces that suo motto there should no firing from their side.

"Clear instructions have gone to the paramilitary forces that if no one fires at them they are not to fire first", he said.
This is being seen as a gesture from the government which in effect is saying that, "We will not attack first."

In response to the home secretary's gesture, Kannabirn, who was the chief negotiator during the dialogue between the Andhra Pradesh government and Maoists, said that the government cannot simply say stop the violence particularly since the security forces have been using violence even without provocation.

 "There should be no staged encounters and combing operations should not be used for killing in the name of the atrocities they have committed," he said.

The home secretary on the other hand said "no militant movement comes to the table unless they are under pressure" and efforts at building up pressure would have to continue".

Pillai said that "small-arms" industry is flourishing all over world China is one the biggest suppliers of small arms. He said the Maoists are being supplied small arms by the Chinese mafia.

The home secretary admitted that the availability of forces is limited and the "media made too much hype of the use of forces to contain Maoists".

Pillai said the strategy is to bring the forces into certain select, limited areas so that they can provide security to the civil administration moving in to build infrastructure in those areas whether it be roads, bridges, schools, primary health centres etc.

"Why should Maoists object to roads being built," asked the home secretary. He added that the forces would also fire upon Maoists if any attempt is made to disrupt any development work.

Admitting that it was a long upward haul before any results can be seen, the home secretary, who just returned from a visit to Nepal, said that in this operation the state governments would not only have to co-operate, but would also be put to the test.

He said because of the lack of manpower, vast areas of Bihar are without the rule of law and its not only Maoists but various offshoots have grown and prospered. In Bihar, there are only 56 policemen for every 1 lakh population, which speaks volumes for the problem. He said in Uttar Pradesh, at least two lakh vacancies exist in the police department.

Giving a broader overview of how the situation regarding the Maoists has deteriorated in the last few decades, Pillai said one of the basic causes was the lack of police reforms.

"Had those reforms would have been implemented on time,  50 per cent of problems would have been solved, " he said.  
 The underlying thread given by the media and the human rights activists was that "you cannot kill insurgency by killing insurgents".

With both the state and the non-state actors pushing for a dialogue, the continued push and a more determined and committed coverage by the media would serve the purpose of pressurizing not only insurgent groups, but also the government to come to the negotiating table.

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Renu Mittal in New Delhi