Bengal says yes to ban, Maoists to talks

Written by Political Bureau | Kolkata | Updated: Jun 25 2009, 04:12am hrs
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjees government on Tuesday chose the middle path between the Centre and the CPM on tackling the Maoist rebellion in the state, agreeing to implement the ban on the CPI (Maoist), but claiming the freedom to decide on the manner of its implementation.

West Bengal had been Indias only Naxal-affected state where the CPI (Maoist) was not proscribed. Bhattacharjee had, after meeting with home minister P Chidambaram on Saturday, said he would seriously think about changing that. His party, however, reacted strongly after Chidambaram specifically included the CPI (Maoist) in the ministrys list of banned terrorist organisations yesterday decrying the move in Delhi and Kolkata.

The ban (on the CPI (Maoist) was imposed by the Centre and it is applicable to the whole country. So we have no other option but to accept it... But it is the state government which will decide how the ban will be implemented, Bhattacharjee said after a cabinet meeting today.

While we have to accept the central ban we have to keep in mind that there is one opinion among Left leaders that by banning it you cannot solve this problem. So we have to make a 3-pronged strategy to combat this menace. The three areas are, socio-economic development of tribal areas, political campaign and mobilisation that will include rallies, distribution of leaflets, meetings etc. and, finally, administrative measures, Bhattacharjee said.

The chief minister said his government had already set up a task force for the development of tribal areas, and spent Rs 13 crore on irrigation, agriculture, education, drinking water, etc. There appeared to be some confusion over this claim: At the Cabinet meeting, Agriculture minister Naren Dey told Bhattacharjee, I am the minister for agriculture, but I am not aware of any such committee.

Facing the heat from security forces at Lalgarh the Maoists today said they were ready to negotiate, but only after a ceasefire.

We are ready for talks with the Centre and West Bengal government if the intellectuals who visited the troubled Lalgarh area last Sunday, arrange for a meeting, CPI (Maoist) leader Sagar said. But a spokesman for the Naxal outfit, Gour Chakraborty, said the meeting would be possible only if central forces were withdrawn and the state police announced a ceasefire.