by Shree Shankar Sharan
Friday 5 October 2007
Respected Chief Minister,
I am grateful for the appointment you gave me on the 8th of September which, alas, was too late for my flight back to Delhi. Besides, there had been a wanton attempt on the life of Sri Janardan Reddy on the 7th and that, for the time being, left my agenda of talks with you in tatters.
But in the exalted position that you are, there is no room for losing one's head or reacting vindictively though everything must be done to protect innocent lives and enforce peace and order within the law. I am glad you have still offered talks provided they (the Naxalites) lay down their arms.
Your very willingness to talk, on the condition you have laid down, amounts to admitting that there is something of substance to talk about. It is this something that one needs to focus on. This something could not be trivial as it would not give the Naxals the kind of footage that they enjoy among the poor and the weaker sections in rural areas.
I have a personal experience of their strong rural roots because I and Raiz Ahmad, Director, Gandhi Sangrahalay at Patna, with a Leftist friend used to visit the site of every attack on Naxal- supporting villages in South Bihar by the Ranbir Sena, the private army of landlords in Bihar, and vice versa and have witnessed how convinced and indoctrinated the victim groups were in favour of the Naxalites as their protectors from the atrocities of landlords and an uncaring state. Only the actors then were the CPI-ML (Liberation).
Now Maoist terror reigns after the CPI-ML not openly, but effectively, shed violence and has taken the parliamentary route encouraged by a more sensitive leader, Vinod Mishra, and a few electoral victories in their strongholds. Those who spearhead violence in Bihar are the Maoists who recently launched a jail break. We, the Gandhites, having seen Gandhiism in action once again in the JP movement, also share the credit for the change of the CPI-ML tactics though not their hard- core beliefs or their revolutionary discourse.
Something similar seems possible in AP as well. I have met some of the Naxal sympathisers at Hyderabad and know some of them at Patna and the PUCL Chairman Kannabiran and the Committee of Concerned Citizens Secretary Shankaran and have been briefed how the government with the mediators started talks with the Naxal leaders and how it collapsed.
THERE is no use offering talks on unacceptable terms. Nowhere in the world have arms been laid down by a revolutionary group before reaching an accord, be it in Ireland or Nepal. If we seriously mean to resolve the impasse by talks we have to ease this condition.
Nor do we have the option of not talking and putting them down by force. We cannot hope to succeed where America and Britain have failed, be it in Iraq or Ireland. The Maoists are too widely spread to be easily putdownable. If you succeed in AP, they rise in MP, and if in MP, they rise in Bihar. Their reported arms link with Nepal or the LTTE in Sri Lanka through a wide open border is equally difficult to control.
In all fairness, the Maoists with reference to land for the landless have an agenda which we have failed to meet in the course of democratic governance. We can only take away this plank from them by meeting this problem both on its merit, to alleviate rural poverty and as a way to achieve peace with them.
I suggest that despite the current heat, to hasten peace, the government should try a track-two diplomacy with the Maoists (secret talks) that goes on with the Kashmir insurgents or Pakistan or in the North-East with an agreement to ceasefire after some progress. I suggest using some of the same mediators for the track-two talks. AP's recent prosperity makes it all the more urgent for peace to hold, lest it loses business confidence and goes the Bihar way. A concerted effort by all the troubled States led by you will ease a national problem.
With kindest regards, I remain truly your and AP's well-wisher,
Shree Shankar Sharan, IAS Retd.
(Convener, Lok Paksh)