For the first time in 11 months since the tribal movement began in Lalgarh, the Maoists on Friday said that they were ready to speak to West Bengal government but linked to a series of conditions including release of Maoists, and ceasefire but ruled out laying down of arms.

“We are ready for a discussion but the government should first declare ceasefire followed by us,” Maoist leader Kishenji told PTI from an undisclosed location.

“The government will also have to unconditionally release all the prisoners they have arrested from the time when the joint operation started in June this year,” Mr. Kishenji said.

“The arrests are unethical, illegal and undemocratic. This is the primary condition from where the process of negotiation can start,” he said.

Next, the government would have to form a “people’s committee” which would comprise representatives from the Maoist side and the government. The committee would form a common agenda on which there could be discussion, Mr. Kishenji said.

Asked if the government insists on laying down arms by them, Mr. Kishenji said “we have always considered the state to be an oppressive force and so long as there will be arms in the hands of the state, we will continue our arms struggle. So, the question of laying down of arms doesn’t arise”.