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Maoists want preview of Mamata mind

Calcutta, July 24: The underground Maoist leadership wants to speak to the government’s interlocutors before articulating their position on chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s talks offer.

“We want to know Mamata’s mind in clear terms since we are getting conflicting signals from her public announcements and media reports about her feelers to us,” a state-level Maoist leader said today.

The government interlocutors have already met some jailed Maoists and are planning to meet others.

The Maoist leader said Mamata’s appeal for talks and the decision to recruit 10,000 special police constables from among tribal youths in Jungle Mahal while retaining central forces in the zone till “all sides agree to a cease-fire” were “conflicting”.

“Mamata’s exhortation to Jungle Mahal youths to take up weapons for the country and the government, coupled with her move to recruit the special constables and deploy them in the area, smacks of a similarity with Chhattisgarh’s special police officers (SPOs) raised to attack us and divide tribals. This does not gel with her appeal for peace talks,” he said.

Although government sources said the special constables would be part of the regular police force, the Maoist leader said Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh, too, had recently decided to regularise the SPOs after a Supreme Court rap.

Government sources spoke of “informal talks” between the two chief ministers. But the sources denied that Mamata took the cue on special police constables from Singh. They spoke on development issues, including distribution of subsidised rice to tribals, the sources said.

The rebel leader said they still did not consider Mamata an “enemy” as they did former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

“Although we feel betrayed after she made the withdrawal of joint forces and release of political prisoners conditional, we still do not put her government in the same bracket with those run by the Congress, BJP or the CPM,” he said.

Sources said CPI (Maoist) politburo member Khobad Ghandy’s letter to Mamata could be an indication of the rebel leadership’s attitude towards her.

In his letter from Tihar jail before the Bengal polls, Ghandy, the sources said, wrote that he was sure Mamata would win and “asked her to review cases of political prisoners, including him, and release them”.

Ghandy has been made an accused in a 2008 case related to the attempt on Bhattacharjee’s life in West Midnapore.

In a letter to the government-appointed panel on political prisoners after the polls, Ghandy repeated this appeal and enclosed his letter to Mamata.

Government and Trinamul sources said Mamata was worried about Maoist efforts to regroup in Jungle Mahal and reports of a recent “truce between armed CPM harmads and a section of the Maoist-backed People’s Committee against Police Atrocities”.

“But she is willing to talk and won’t take tough measures against the Maoists till we report back to her on the outcome of our efforts,” said an interlocutor. “She is aware that some, including a section of the police, are opposed to the talks.”

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