The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Arms rider for rebel talks

Hyderabad, Oct. 30: The Andhra Pradesh government today invited People's War rebels to a fresh round of peace talks but made it clear little progress was possible unless they agreed to lay down arms.

Reviewing the first phase of the talks that ended last week, the cabinet said the arms stand-off and arbitrary grabbing and distribution of private and government land by the Naxalites had put a question mark on further discussions.

The cabinet also took exception to the rebels holding people's courts to settle judicial and non-judicial disputes. It resolved to set up a land commission to identify surplus land for distribution but refused to swallow the rebels' arbitrary and high-handed methods.

State information minister Mohammed Ali Shabbir said all violent and anti-democratic acts would be dealt with an iron hand and the rebels would not be allowed to carry arms during fresh talks, if any.

'People want peace and not weapons. All negotiations and talks with the Naxalites will only be according to the Constitution,' he said.

Chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy said the point of the talks to usher in peace and development in the villages would be lost if the armed Naxalites roamed around freely terrorising people.

He urged them to emerge from the forests they were hiding in and sit for fresh talks. Insisting that they lay down arms for the long term, he said discussions on other issues were possible only if the arms issue was resolved first.

But the rebels do not look in any mood for compromise. 'We took to weapons on public demand and will give up only if the people want it. We came for talks with the government only on people's request,' Naxalite leader Ramakrishna said last week.

The only concession the rebels were willing to make was they would abstain from killing elected representatives or police officers on their hit list during the period of the talks.

In a sign of impending trouble, police have denied the Naxalites permission to hold a rally at Adilabad tomorrow. Their plans to inaugurate a martyr's memorial in Muppada village in the Dandakaranya forests in north Andhra have also been put on hold.

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