“We are willing to call for a ceasefire and holding talks with the West Bengal government on the condition that it too announces withdrawal of security forces from the Lalgarh region,” according to Koteswar Molajella Rao alias Kishanji, Polit Bureau member, Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Speaking to The Hindu over phone from his hideout in the Lalgarh region of the State’s Paschim Medinipur district, Mr. Kishanji said: “We have no problem starting dialogue with the State government given the condition that both the parties should declare ceasefire sitting in front of the media.”

“No response”

Asked what would be the demands of the Maoists during the dialogue, he said, “Our demands for the withdrawal of troops and development of the region have been sent to the State government several times through open letters. But we never received any response. Let it speak first this time about their demands.”

Mr. Kishanji, however, expressed doubt regarding the Centre talking about holding discussions with the Maoists if the latter laid down arms, saying: “If the Centre is serious about holding talks with us, why is it permitting the Indian Air Force to bombard us? It sounds contradictory to the Centre’s declared intentions.”

Calling the ambush of 17 policemen in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra on Thursday as “the second biggest success of the Maoists in Maharashtra since 1999,” he warned of similar attacks if troops “entered Maoist areas anywhere in the seven States.”

Regarding reports in which police said the Maoists had hatched the conspiracy of carrying out a landmine attack on Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s convoy along with Chhatradhar Mahato and few city-based social activists at a city hideout, he said that it was a “police propaganda method to confuse people.”

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