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Seal on ceasefire, demand surprise

Hyderabad, Oct: 15: The inaugural day of peace talks between Naxalites and the Andhra Pradesh government found both sides agreeing on the ceasefire deal though the rebels sprang a new demand.

The Naxalite leaders wanted the state not to take World Bank loans or accept its conditions. Tomorrow, the Asian Development Bank chairperson will be here to discuss the release of the third instalment of a Rs 4,500-crore infrastructure loan.

The ceasefire agreement, in effect since June 16 and extended till November 16, was formally signed by both sides today.

The contentious issue of armed struggle and carrying of arms by the Naxalite dalams during campaigns in villages was put off for later in the talks.

Police or special forces would no longer engage in encounters, enter forests for patrolling or combing or announce cash rewards against the rebels.

The Naxalites, in turn, would keep their hit list of 120 people ' including MLAs of three main parties, former chief minister . Chandrababu Naidu and top policemen ' in abeyance.

They will also not make provocative statements against the police and their talks delegates will not carry arms for the duration of the talks.

Earlier, state home minister K. Jana Reddy, leading the nine-member government team, tried to convince the leaders of the newly-formed CPI (Maoist) and the Jana Shakti that people's problems could be solved through constitutional and legal means.

The rebels were rigid on an armed struggle and carrying arms in villages even during peace talks though CPI (Maoist) state secretary Ramakrishna said they would keep the hit list in abeyance and abjure violence during talks.

A source in the rebel ranks said the government team expressed its helplessness in pushing the talks forward unless both sides kept arms away.

'Otherwise, there would be no meaning in sitting together. It will not make a good photo opportunity if as the home minister I sit with two AK-47 wielding gunmen next to me while you have your own posse,' Reddy reportedly told the 11-member (including five emissaries) Naxalite team.

The two sides disagreed on two clauses ' in the modalities for the talks ' regarding non-issuance of statements by bureaucrats and political parties during the talks, a government delegate said during the lunch break.

Earlier, Reddy cautioned against nurturing high hopes when he was entering the venue, the M. Channa Reddy HRD Centre, at Jubilee Hills here. 'Do not expect us to come out with results in a hurry,' he said.

During the talks, Ramakrishna objected to the state proceeding with the Pulichintala irrigation project despite protests by farmers of Telengana.

This afternoon, chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy was in Pulichintala village to lay the foundation of the Rs 530-crore first phase of the project aimed at irrigating nearly 15 lakh acres in Guntur.

A government delegate informally told reporters: 'We have heard them and we have told them about our approach and stand on various issues. Now, the stage is set for examining each of the demands one by one.'

Visitors

The Naxalite leaders have been swamped by phone calls and visits by people claiming to be victims of various social ills since they landed at the Manjira guesthouse here.

Among them was Lakshmi Parvati, the widow of .T. Rama Rao, who met the Naxalite leaders last evening to reportedly seek action against . Chandrababu Naidu for allegedly amassing wealth.

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