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Naxalite groups pull out of peace talks

By Our Special Correspondent

HYDERABAD, JAN 17. The CPI (Maoist) and Janashakti, two main Naxalite groups in Andhra Pradesh, today announced their decision to withdraw from the three-month-old peace talks initiated by the State Government.

A joint statement issued by leaders of the two outfits said the decision was in protest against the intensified combing operations by `Greyhounds,' the elite force of the police, and the "encounter killings taking place on a daily basis." Denouncing the Rajasekhara Reddy Government's policies as anti-people, they gave a call to the people to wage a war to establish a new democratic society.

The strongly-worded statement came barely two hours after a Cabinet meeting resolved to go in for the second round of talks with Naxalite leaders and initiate other conciliatory measures such as slowing down the combing operations and asking the police to observe restraint.

The statement was signed by the CPI (Maoist) State Committee secretary, Ramakrishna, the North Telangana Special Zonal Committee secretary, Jampanna, the Andhra-Orissa Border Special Zonal Committee secretary, Sudhakar, the Janashakti State secretary, Amar, and senior leader, Riyaz. Four of these leaders had participated in the first round of peace talks held here from October 15 to 18. They said they accepted the Government's formal invitation for talks for finding a solution to problems facing the State like restoration of democratic rights, land distribution, the World Bank's diktats and a separate Telangana. "But the Government did not conduct itself with responsibility during the talks."

These developments, they said, proved that the ruling classes would not resolve people's issues through talks. They accused the Government of trying to suppress the Naxalite parties in the name of negotiations.

Minister's plea

Within hours of the announcement, the Home Minister, K. Jana Reddy, appealed to the Naxalites to reconsider their decision since the Government remained committed to continuing the peace talks. Talking to reporters, he urged them to view the recent encounters as "unfortunate incidents."

He assured that there would not be combing operations nor any repression. Asserting that the police have been instructed to avoid excesses, he said the Maoists should also see that there was no loss of life or destruction of property. They should also desist from carrying weapons while visiting villages.

The Minister said he would consult political leaders and mediators in the talks to create a congenial atmosphere for holding the next round. As this process would take a fortnight, he asked both sides to observe restraint.

There was some respite from violence on Monday after three consecutive days of encounter killings and reprisals by Naxalites resulting in the death of 10 persons, including nine extremists and a sarpanch. Maoists burnt a bus and destroyed two liquor shops in Guntur district. A bandh called by the Janashakti evoked partial response in various districts, except the agency areas of Warangal.

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