Tenuous truce

Published : Jul 06, 2002 00:00 IST

The People's War Group in Andhra Pradesh has agreed to hold direct talks with the State government, but the killing of two women naxalites in Khammam district is likely to throw a spanner in the works.

BELYING scepticism about the preliminary talks held between the Andhra Pradesh government and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), People's War Group (PWG), the latter has agreed to send its underground leaders to hold direct talks by July 20.

But the surprise offer came with a rider. The ultra-Left party wanted the government to stop anti-naxalite operations and create an atmosphere that is conducive to talks. "If not, we will continue to participate in talks while taking necessary strides in the war of self-defence," a PWG note submitted to the government asserted.

On June 20, the third round of talks between Ministers K. Vijayarama Rao and T. Sitaram and the PWG emissaries P. Varavara Rao and Gaddar went on for more than two and a half hours. If the government was satisfied that the PWG had come down a step by showing willingness to come for direct talks, the naxalite party too had something to claim as a victory. The government had let the PWG representatives, who carry reward amounts on their heads, free passage to the negotiations.

Although the two sides seem to have arrived at a possible consensus on the fringe issues, they appear to be moving in a sphere that manifestly lacks negotiating space. While the PWG made it abundantly clear that giving up armed struggle cannot be a part of the agenda to be discussed, the government too asserted that in a democratic society armed struggle was not acceptable as part of a political philosophy or struggle. The government asserted that it will not allow the PWG to take advantage of the government's sincerity to hold talks and indulge in "unlawful activities". The carefully worded statement issued by the Chief Minister's Office a day after the third round of talks was intended to clear the popular perception that the two Ministers were not successful in stating emphatically the government's intentions.

The preliminary rounds, which were held ostensibly to prepare the modalities for direct negotiations, appear to have led to some prejudice and some sort of resentment among the negotiating parties. Both sides now accuse each other of being disinclined to finding a durable solution. And in this backdrop came the killing of two women naxalites in Khammam district in an exchange of fire with the police on June 24.

Already both sides have made known their displeasure against each other. While the PWG accused the government of continuing the combing operations and of carrying out extra-judicial killings, the police have gone on record alleging that PWG cadres were organising meetings forcibly and resorting to extortion. But both sides realise that jettisoning the peace process would result in loss of credibility. In effect, they find themselves in a situation where one party's gain entails the other's loss.

In this background, a debate is on the cards as to what could be the framework for the negotiations. Will the framework be aimed at a final agreement. If so, what impact will it have in neighbouring States such as Maharashtra, Orissa, Chattisgarh and Karnataka, where the PWG has a strong presence? Answers to these questions are anyone's guess. What is clear now is that each side appears to be taking a maximalist stand that projects any kind of concession during the direct talks as a failure.

In short, the possibility of a situation where both sides can claim to be in a win-win situation is very remote, and the spectre of open hostilities breaking out again continues to loom large. However, the ongoing exercise has had a welcome outcome: during the last 40 days or so, there has been a respite from the violence, and for this both sides are trying to take credit. But the latest exchange of fire in Khammam district could well lead to a resumption of hostilities.


THE Andhra Pradesh government took the initiative and circulated a list of issues that it wanted to discuss with the People's War Group leaders who are expected to attend the talks.

The following are the points that have been listed in a note titled "Objectives and related issues" (for discussion), given to the PWG representatives who attended the preliminary round of the talks.

1. To uphold the rule of law. The State is responsible for enforcing law wherever its violation occurs. Law enforcement agencies have to function within the framework of law. When they violate the law, there should be an impartial inquiry and punishment to those found guilty.

2. Protection of the lives and properties of all sections of people. People's right to voice their views and 'assemble peaceably without arms' should be fully protected. There should be no killings and destruction of properties.

3. Ensure social and economic justice. This inter alia consists of the elimination of social discrimination in all its forms, implementation of land reforms, land distribution and the future of Regulation of 1 of 70 in tribal areas, employment, particularly in rural areas, and government policies and programmes to end social discrimination in the villages and a review of existing laws relevant to the issues. The Directive Principles of State Policy are intended to achieve social and economic justice. The law, the practices and measures to that end are to be examined and enforced.

4. Restore peace and ensure development. Peaceful conditions should prevail in the State. Elected representatives, political leaders, workers and officials from the administration should be able to visit the villages and meet the people without any hindrance from any quarters. Development process must proceed unhindered.

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