For the first time, the Union government on Tuesday firmly indicated its readiness to start a process of holding dialogue with the outlawed CPI (Maoist) provided the outfit called a halt to violence.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram said the government would be willing to start a process “through which the State government[s] concerned and the Central government can hold talks with them [CPI-Maoist] on any issue that concerns them and the people they claim to represent.”

Mr. Chidambaram noted that the only hurdle in holding talks with the CPI (Maoist) was the violence that stalked the areas in which they operated.

The Minister made the offer in a letter to the former Lok Sabha Speaker, Rabi Ray.

Mr. Ray, along with other prominent members of civil society, under the banner of newly-launched Citizens Initiative for Peace, had urged the government to begin a dialogue with the CPI (Maoist) and stop the offensive against naxalites in some States. Mr. Chidambaram took cognizance of the statement of the Initiative, published by The Hindu on Monday.

In his two-page letter to Mr. Ray, the Minister pointed out that recent statements made by CPI(Maoist) leaders Muppala Laxman Rao (Ganapathy) and Mallojula Koteshwar Rao (Kishenji) justified violence and armed struggle.

Responding to the letter, the Citizens Initiative for Peace, in a resolution passed at a meeting here on Tuesday, said that the dialogue should be “unconditional.” It added that the Centre should stop its current offensive in areas where Maoists were active and Maoists should also cease all hostilities so that a ceasefire was facilitated.

Mr. Chidambaram said that in 2009 alone, the CPI (Maoist) had caused 183 violent attacks on economic targets, including railway tracks, telephone towers, power plants, mines, school buildings and panchayat bhavans. There were at least 21 acts of violence during the two-day bandh on October 13-14.

The government was also concerned about the real issues that affected people – food security, land and forest rights, education, health and justice, he said.

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“Naxalite leaders, cadres are also Indian citizens”

Home Minister P. Chidambaram, in his offer of holding talks with Maoists, reiterated his belief that the best way to address the real issues that affected people – food security, land and forest rights, education, health and justice was through a democratic system of governance. He admitted that the system may – and indeed does – have many shortcomings, but “it is still the best of governance for a large and diverse country like India.”

The Minister made the offer in a letter to the former Lok Sabha Speaker, Rabi Ray.

He said the government believed that all political parties and all shades of political opinion can find space and opportunity to work in a democratic system to advance the causes that are dear to them.

“The CPI (Maoist) can be no exception. It is in this view that we have declared that the CPI (Maoist) should abjure violence and talks to the governments concerned – both at the Centre and at the State levels – on any issue that affects people.”

Quoting from a lecture made by him on October 5, the Minister said naxalite leaders and cadres were Indian citizens and the poor tribals and non-tribals they mislead were also Indian citizens. “No government of a civilised country will wage war against its own people. What we ask is that naxalites should abjure violence.”

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