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India's Maoist Rebels Offer Ceasefire, Talks

  • Anjana Pasricha

Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldiers carry the body of a colleague at Bhimrao hospital in Raipur (file photo – 30 Jun 2010)

Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldiers carry the body of a colleague at Bhimrao hospital in Raipur (file photo – 30 Jun 2010)

In India, Maoist guerrillas say they are prepared for a three month ceasefire and a dialogue with the government. But it is uncertain if the government will accept the offer.

The offer of a truce and talks with the government came from a top leader of the Maoist guerrillas, Koteshwar Rao.

Rao wants the government to declare a simultaneous truce. He laid down his terms in an audio tape distributed to domestic news channels Tuesday night.

Ready to negotiate

The Maoist leader Rao says they will never agree to suspend hostilities unilaterally. He says both sides must stop hostilities on the same day and at the same time.

He says the rebels are ready to come to the negotiating table if there is a genuine initiative from the government. He also proposed the name of possible mediators.

However, the government has always insisted that the rebels give up violence for 72 hours before it would ask security forces to suspend operations against them. The government has launched a major operation to root out the rebels in several states where they are entrenched.

The Maoist leader says he is making the offer in response to appeals by both the Prime Minister and the President on the occasion of the country's Independence Day on August 15.

Prime minister’s appeal

In his Independence Day speech to the nation on Sunday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the government is determined to tackle the threat posed by Maoist rebels.

At the same time the Indian leader also appealed to the rebels to abandon violence, come forward for a dialogue with the government, and help accelerate the country's social and economic development.

Maoists justify cause

Rebel violence has surged this year, with the Maoists mounting daring attacks on security forces and other targets. Hundreds have been killed.

The Maoist guerrillas say they are fighting for the rights of the poor and the landless. In recent years they have spread their influence across a wide swathe of eastern and central India, which are some of the country's poorest and most underdeveloped regions.

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