Wait for Maoist 'leap of faith'

New Delhi, Jan. 22: The government is looking for a "leap of faith" by the Maoists to facilitate talks between them and its emissaries, Jairam Ramesh said today.

Such a "leap of faith" had been demonstrated by militant outfits in Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram and Punjab in the past. "Yesterday's militant can be today's political leader," he said.

The appeal by the Union rural development minister follows from a course-correction by the government since its offensive against the rebels from "security-only to security-plus-development", he said.

"I do not speak on behalf of the Indian state. But, quietly, some dialogue (with the Maoists) must be on. I have talked to two of their ideologues by going to their houses. But the net result on the ground is nil. We need a leap of faith," he said.

He recalled that two years ago, then home minister P. Chidambaram had said that he was ready for talks even if the Maoists do not lay down arms and disband their cadre. Months later, in an interview to Swedish writer Jan Myrdal, CPI (Maoist) general secretary Muppala Laxman Rao, said talks may have been feasible if the government stopped the offensive by its forces and released the party's leaders who were jailed and who would represent it in talks.

Ramesh described this as an "impasse". But asked why the government could not accept these conditions, like it had done in Nagaland (where the NSCN-IM has a ceasefire), he said he would not know the reasons but sought a response through a "leap of faith".

Ramesh identified the features of the government's approach to the rebels in a lecture at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library titled "Maoism in the 21st century".

He said mining and displacement was a major contributor to the growth of the Maoist movement whose "footsoldiers are the tribals". But "just as we should not romanticise the Maoists we should not demonise corporates either".

He said the growth of the Maoist movement, despite its violence, has "woken India to its tribal predicament". Political parties have not addressed tribal issues.

This was because, unlike other sections like minorities, tribals make a difference in barely 50 Lok Sabha constituencies. In the era of coalition governments, this was important but because tribal communities lived within themselves, no political party had mobilised them on a pan-Indian scale. This was the vacuum that the Maoists had filled.

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