The statement by the Maoist leadership that it is ready for talks if the Centre halts security operations targeting the ultras for 72 days is good news. The government should seize the opportunity and engage the Maoists with an open mind. The talks should not be treated like routine discussions. The representatives should be empowered to take decisions and move forward. The Maoists should come to the negotiating table without any further delay.
The government should engage the Maoists with an open mind and discuss all issues threadbare with the objective of persuading them to join the mainstream. If the demands of the Maoists are genuine, they should be acceded. What is important is ridding the country of violence and senseless killings.
It would be unrealistic to expect Maoists to give up arms before talks. Any attention an insurgent group gets from the state is on account of its violent activities. If the government is serious about resolving insurgency through talks, it should agree to the proposal of a 72-day ceasefire on both sides as a pre-condition.
Although Operation Green Hunt has been launched with the objective of crushing the Maoist insurgency in Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa, and Jharkhand, it has yet to deliver the desired result. The offer of dialogue by Maoists with a rider that the government must halt its security operations for 72 days is welcome under the circumstances. Only an effective implementation of the two-pronged strategy — using force when necessary and time-bound measures to address socio-economic deprivation — will provide a permanent solution to the Maoist insurgency.
The country has undergone enough suffering at the hands of Maoists who, by waging a war against peace-loving citizens, are preventing development. The governance they wish to introduce if they succeed will be intolerant — they will not brook any dissidence or resistance from any section. The government must not waste time negotiating with them, thus giving them an opportunity to rearm and regroup.
The Maoists' offer of talks with the Centre with intellectuals and rights organisations mediating will go a long way in setting things in perspective. Perhaps their presence will help cool tempers and persuade both parties to listen to each other without prejudice. This is a golden chance to end violence, of which villagers and tribals have been the worst sufferers.