NEW DELHI: The Naresh Chandra panel has suggested that the government give up its pre-condition of cessation of violence for opening talks with Naxalites and, instead, reach out to the CPI (Maoist) brass who are favourably inclined to a constructive engagement.
The high-powered panel, which submitted its report in May, recommended that the government covertly explore the possibility of opening a channel of communication with pro-talks elements within the top Naxal leadership. As per the roadmap, the Intelligence Bureau may covertly approach pro-talks leaders through conduits and sympathizers. They may be engaged by a specially constituted team of “seasoned”, retired bureaucrats who have been involved in shaping the policy on Left-wing extremism. They must use their knowledge and skills to make the Naxal leaders understand that the government will not be cowed down by their acts of violence and that dialogue is the best option to redress their grievances, the panel said.
The call for engaging the Naxalites comes at a time when many top CPI (Maoist) leaders have either been killed or are behind bars. With no more than half a dozen politburo members left to lead the “revolution”, there are murmurs of discontent among senior leaders over intensifying the war against the State. In fact, this had recently caused a split in the Orissa state leadership, with renegade Sabyasachi Panda writing to party boss Ganapathy that protracted war was not suited to Indian conditions. He has since been expelled from the outfit.
Given the background, the method in limiting the olive branch to pro-talks elements is understandable. According to sources associated with the Naresh Chandra committee, even if the peace efforts do not lead to talks but manage to bring out the pro-dialogue elements in the CPI (Maoist) in support of the government’s initiative, the confusion and division within the Naxal ranks would have come to the fore.
The emphasis on “covert” talks, apart from ensuring the personal safety of the interlocutors, is aimed at avoiding fixing of responsibility in the event of failure of the initiative, the panel explained.
Significantly, the Naresh Chandra committee warned against a repeat of the 2004 misadventure, when a short-lived ceasefire-cum-talks between the Andhra Pradesh establishment and CPI (Maoist) was conveniently used by the latter to regroup.
The committee recommended that there should be no letup in guard in the event of a dialogue. Area domination will have to continue and forces must keep track of the Maoist elements who come overground for the talks.
Ever since the Andhra experiment flopped, the Centre has been wary of entering into a dialogue with the Naxals. There have been offers from former home minister P Chidambaram, first suggesting that the Maoists lay down arms to set the ground for talks, followed by a dilution of this pre-condition to only stoppage of violence for 72 hours, but neither had any takers. More recently, home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said the government was ready to talk to Naxals if they surrendered.
The Naresh Chandra committee was constituted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last year to go into the entire gamut of issues concerning national security.