‘If Nitish Kumar wants I am ready to intervene'

Wondering why the Bihar government was not releasing the eight Maoists as demanded by the rebels in exchange for the four abducted police personnel (though the Maoists claimed that they killed one of them), social activist Swami Agnivesh alleged on Thursday that the government would have acted faster had “some rich person” rather than “a few poor policemen” been kidnapped

Referring to the swapping episode of three Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists for passengers on board a hijacked Indian Airlines flight in 1999, Swami Agnivesh told The Hindu from New Delhi that “such precedents are not rare in the country and could be applied in this case too since “the Maoists are not hardcore terrorists.”

“I have even spoken to Bihar Assembly Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary, and told him that I can intervene in the matter if Chief Minister Nitish Kumar wants but there has been no reply so far,” he added.

Meanwhile, reacting to the open letter addressed to him by Maoist leader Kishenji in which the latter accused him of ‘toeing Chidambaram's line,' Swami Agnivesh said that he had supported the steps suggested by the Union Home Minister towards declaring a mutual ceasefire since they were “practical and well taken.”

He criticised the Centre for “dragging its feet” over the issue of ordering a judicial probe into Maoist spokesperson Azad's killing.

“Either let the Prime Minister flatly refuse commissioning a judicial probe into Azad's killing or keep the promise he made to me on July 20 to look into the issue. Unless the Centre comes out clean about the allegations that Azad was killed in cold blood, no peace process could be initiated,” Swami Agnivesh said.

Coming out strongly in support of Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee's “efforts” to bring out the truth behind Azad's killing as well as initiating a peace process, he said the Maoists should be “grateful” to Ms. Banerjee rather than criticise her.

In the open letter, Kishenji accused Ms. Banerjee of holding the ‘apolitical' rally at Lalgarh on August to reap “petty political gains” for the Trinamool rather than starting a peace initiative.

“Reach out to youth”

Shujaat Bukhari reports from Srinagar:

Swami Agnivesh on Thursday appealed to the Union government to reach out to youth in Kashmir. Protests in the Valley were not orchestrated from across the border. People were not for Pakistan, but they surely talk about “Azadi,” he told The Hindu, before winding up his three-day visit to Kashmir.

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