The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CM salvo at Andhra on Naxalites
- Bengal open to talks but in no hurry

Calcutta/New Delhi, Sept. 23: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today said the Andhra Pradesh government's initiative to hold peace talks with Naxalite outfits has helped them spread in other states.

'Andhra Pradesh is the problem. Their policy is causing damage to others,' the Bengal chief minister said.

At the recent meeting of the chief ministers of the nine Naxalite-affected states with Union home minister Shivraj Patil, in Hyderabad, everyone criticised Andhra, Bhattacharjee said at Writers' Buildings. 'No government approved of Andhra's move to hold talks (on such conditions). Since the time the new chief minister held talks with PW (People's War), the outfit has expanded its area of operation.'

Director-general of police Syamal Dutta represented Bengal at the meet. Apart from the chief ministers of Andhra, Orissa and Jharkhand, none turned up.

Congress' Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy took over as Andhra chief minister after N. Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam Party lost the May elections.

'The leaders of both (rebel) groups which operate in Bengal speak Telugu. These outfits sneak into Jharkhand, Bihar and Bengal from Andhra,' Bhattacharjee said.

He also blamed the porous Jharkhand border for the Naxalites' easy access to Bengal. 'If it weren't for the Jharkhand border, we would never have allowed them here.' Bhattacharjee added that joint operations and intelligence exchanges with Jharkhand were on.

The chief minister also said in principle, the Left Front government is open to talks with the People's War-Maoist Communist Centre. 'However, there is no basis for the talks. They want police operations to stop but they are moving freely with arms. Where is the basis for a dialogue in such a condition' he asked. 'There is also no basis for dialogue as their leaders are absconding. Where can we find them'

However, a Union home ministry official said it is not an insurmountable problem. Talks are hardly ever initiated directly with the extremists but through intermediaries and mediators who have contacts, the official said.

Minister of state for home affairs Sriprakash Jaiswal said some states did raise the issue in course of the deliberations in Hyderabad but added that if the states want talks, they have to identify mediators.

Dutta declined comment when asked if the state was softening its stand in saying it was open to talks with the Naxalites. But, once pressed, he asked: 'What's the harm'

'No one from their side has expressed any eagerness to talk with us,' he added.

The state has asked for another battalion of central reserve police to combat the rebels.

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