Terming Maoists ‘cowards,' Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram made a fresh offer of talks with the rebels if they abjured violence. He ruled out military action against them.

On his maiden visit to the Maoist-affected region to review the progress of the anti-Maoist operations and assess the situation, he said that while the lack of development was an issue, he requested the people not to extend either material or moral support to the Maoists since “they will only continue killing people.”

“The naxals are cowards. Why are they hiding in the forests? We had invited them for talks…If they really want development…, they are welcome to talk about anything in the world. Just give up violence,” he told journalists after his two-and-half-hour visit.

Mr. Chidambaram also slammed the Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (PSBJC) for “directly or indirectly” supporting the Maoists and offered to use his “good offices” to talk to the State government if it had a “genuine problem.”

After his arrival here, Mr. Chidambaram held an hour-long meeting with both security and administrative officials at the Lalgarh thana and then interacted with the locals about their grievances.

Denying that under-development was driving the locals to back the Maoists, he said: “Very poor people live in this part of West Bengal, and nobody supports the naxalites…they are, no doubt, unhappy that development has not come to this area, but they also know that the naxals are not going to bring about any development.”

Acknowledging the grievances over the lack of education, proper ration, electricity and medical care, he said the State government should improve its performance.

Saying that the visit made a “mixed impression” upon him about the security operations, Mr. Chidambaram said that though the positive part was that a “few key naxalites” could be neutralised, the “weak” part was that Maoist killings continued. The Home Secretary and the Director-General of Police were asked to work on the weaknesses.