While suggesting that security forces would continue to be stationed in Maoist-affected areas for restoring law and order as well as assistance in development work, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said here on Wednesday that the Centre's offer for talks with Maoists was still open.

The Centre was not asking Maoists to give up their ideology or surrender or even lay down arms, but “simply stop the violence and come for talks,” he said at a special session organised by the Bharat Chamber of Commerce.

The Minister asserted that the left-wing extremist movement was a greater challenge than terrorism in terms of violence. “Terrorism is a major challenge for the security and sovereignty of our country. But left-wing extremism is a greater challenge than terrorism in terms of the number of people killed. Ten times more people are killed in left-wing extremists' attacks than terrorism,” he said. The Centre was riding on dual planks of development activities and law and order restoration in the affected regions to tackle the situation.

Mr. Chidambaram pointed out that the Chief Ministers of West Bengal as well as of other States facing the Maoist menace, had repeatedly urged Maoists to come to the dialogue table. “Our offer of talks with the Naxals are still open…We want that the Naxals suspend violence and are not asking them to give up their ideology or lay down arms or surrender or disband the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army. Simply stop the violence and come to talks.”

The Minister, however, obliquely rejected the demand for withdrawal of security forces from the Maoist-affected regions, saying there was no “alternative” to the deployment of forces to restore normality and carry out development in the affected areas.