Questioning the government’s approach towards Naxalite problem, members of an official panel that had gone into extremism issue have said instead of it telling the ultras to abjure violence, both sides should declare a ceasefire and create an atmosphere for talks.

“If the government is serious enough to alleviate the tribal problem, then it should persuade the Maoists to come for talks,” former IAS officer Debabrata Bandopadhyay, Chairman of the panel, told PTI.

The Planning Commission had set up the expert group on Development Issues with the Causes of Discontent, Unrest and Extremism in May 2006. The panel has already submitted its report on Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas.

Observing that the government is taking a “wrong approach”, Mr. Bandopadhyay said, “The government should not speak of (Maoists) abjuring violence. Both sides should go for a ceasefire and create a conducive environment so that they can sit for talks.

“Both should leave aside some of their demands and agree on a negotiable situation. Naxals have to shelve the aim of seizure of power for the time being and negotiate with the state in the interest of thousands of poor and innocent families,” said Mr. Bandopadhyay, who had played a key role in the Left Front government’s ‘Operation Barga’ on land reforms.

Maoist leader Kishenji had said earlier that his outfit was ready to sit for talks on the basis of the recommendations made by the Bandopadhyay committee.

Prakash Singh, former Uttar Pradesh DGP and a member of the committee, told PTI that the government’s move should be more calculated and well-planned.

“The government should be open for talks, but the offer should not be given at the wrong time. The Home Minister’s offer for talks just after the Naxal attack at Dantewada was unjustified,” he said.

“If the government is ready to speak with terrorists of Kashmir, the ULFA in Assam and extremists all over the country, then why are they not speaking with ultra-Leftists?”

The Maoists have control over large parts of the country and so the option of negotiations should always be kept open, the ex-DGP felt.

Singh said, “If the Maoists believe that they have the people’s support then they should prove it on the floor of the House.

“Let Maoist leaders like Kishenji contest elections and become the chief minister of West Bengal or any other state, but killing people cannot be a solution to the problem,” he said.

Terming the Maoist problem as a “political” one, Bandopadhyay said, “The tribals are suffering from injustice for long because of the failure of the administration to implement protective regulations in scheduled areas resulting in land alienation, forced eviction and dependence on money lenders.”

He said that over 2.40 lakh out of 8 crore tribal population in the country have been displaced and not yet been rehabilitated. “Police operation cannot solve the problem.”

Even after a year of extensive operations, very few hardcore Maoists have been arrested, he said. “The arrested persons are mainly tribals who went to them (Maoists) for some purpose.”

The government, Bandopadhyay said, should first implement the laws meant for the welfare of tribals and wean them away from the Maoists.

The government then would be in a position to dictate the agenda and then only it could persuade the Maoists to come forward for talks, he said.

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