NATIONAL

Bihar ready for talks with naxals

PATNA OCT. 13. For the first time in three decades since the naxalite movement took roots in the State, the Bihar Government has decided to hold talks with the banned outfits.

The main naxalite group, the People's War (PW), has welcomed the initiative though with reservations.

The proposal for talks was outlined at a meeting of police officials chaired by the Director-General of Police, D.P. Ojha, to take stock of the PW threat against the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief, Laloo Prasad Yadav, and his wife and Chief Minister, Rabri Devi.

The PW, however, clarified that neither Mr. Yadav nor the Chief Minister was on its hit list. However, it added that the Jharkhand Chief Minister, Arjun Munda, continued to be on its hit list.

The Chief Secretary, K.A.H. Subramanian, said the naxalite problem was not merely one of law and order and, hence, it needed to be handled at various levels including negotiations with the ultras to resolve their grievances. The stress would be on land reforms, minimum wages and generating employment potential in the rural areas. Moreover, the attempt would be to bring them into the democratic mainstream.

The Bihar and Jharkhand in-charge of the PW, Arvind, now lodged in the Beur Central Jail in Patna, welcomed the Government proposal as a matter of policy but with several riders.

He said the Government should underline its sincerity in holding negotiations. It should come out with a concrete proposal, besides creating the necessary conducive atmosphere for such an exchange of views. He also wanted the Government to lift the ban on the naxalite groups and treat them as political parties.

This is the second attempt in Bihar to tackle the naxalite menace. The earlier exercise was undertaken by the Bindeshwari Dubey Government in the 1980s under the Siddharth Operation. The socio-economic part of the operation never took off, but the police operation took a repressive outlook.

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