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Andhra Pradesh: Stage set for historic peace talks

By Syed Amin Jafri in Hyderabad
October 14, 2004 19:38 IST
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The stage is set for peace talks between the Andhra Pradesh government and two Naxalite organisations -- the People's War and Janashakti -- in Hyderabad on Friday.

The talks will take place at Marri Channa Reddy Human Resource Development Institute at Jubilee Hills. The first round of talks may last three to four days.

An air-conditioned conference hall with the capacity to seat 30 people has been reserved for the talks. Police and government officials will not participate in the talks, but they will be present in the premises to assist the government team with inputs.

The agenda for talks is as follows:

1. Equitable distribution of land to the tillers.
2. Repudiation of World Bank-dictated economic policies.
3. Restoration of democratic rights of the people.
4. Social justice to Dalits, equal rights to women, protection of minorities' rights, and self-governance.
5. Statehood to the Telangana region.
6. Development of backward areas of Rayalaseema and north coastal regions.
7. Re-imposition of total prohibition.
8. Enhanced funding and focus on education, health and people's welfare.
9. Eradication of corruption.
10. Curbing oppressive activities of landlords and feudals.
11. Prevention of the ill-effects of imperialist and capitalist culture on the people.

Chief Minister Dr Y S Rajasekhar Reddy held a meeting with the nine-member official team on Thursday.

This will be the first-ever direct talks between the Andhra government and top leaders of the People's War and Janashakti.

The chief minister will not participate in the talks. Home Minister K Jana Reddy will lead the official delegation, which includes three more ministers -- Dharmana Prasada Rao, D S Redya Naik and Koneru Ranga Rao. Others in the official team are: Paladugu Venkat Rao, T Purushottama Rao, K Keshav Rao and Marri Sashidhar Reddy (all former ministers) and Tirupati Urban Development Authority chairman K Karunakar Reddy.

People's War will be represented by its AP state committee secretary Ramakrishna, AP-Orissa border special zone committee secretary Sudhakar and North Telangana special zone committee secretary Ganesh.

Janashakti's team comprises its state committee secretary Amar, state committee member Riyaz and senior leader Challapalli Srinivas Rao.

Both PW and Janashakti have also nominated emissaries/mediators comprising overground leaders of the revolutionary movement, civil and human rights activists and academics and retired bureaucrats.

A monitoring committee has been set up to oversee the implementation of the ongoing ceasefire between the two sides.

The naxalite leaders, over the last three days, have reiterated their commitment to the peace talks, while making it clear that their armed struggle will continue to achieve their goal of a revolution.

Jana Reddy pooh-poohed the apprehensions expressed in some quarters that the talks will fail owing to the "uncompromising stand" of the naxalites on continuing the armed struggle. "PWG's line of continuing with the armed struggle will not come in the way of the talks. Anyway, armed struggle is not an issue in the talks. Each side will have its own strategy during the talks and this is not uncommon," Jana Reddy said.

The ceasefire agreement between the two sides will be approved and signed during the first round of talks.

The government has classified the naxalites' demands into three categories -- those under the purview of the government, those falling outside its jurisdiction and the issues already settled.

The government will reiterate its willingness to pursue land reforms and take up distribution of land to the landless in a time-bound manner. On various issues for ensuring social and gender justice, the government will not hesitate to go "an extra mile," sources said.

On other economic issues, too, the government will formulate and revise its policies and programmes so that the disadvantaged sections and the poorest of the poor are able to rise above the poverty line. All-round development of remote and interior areas will also be taken up with special funding from the Central government.

The government will seek to assure the naxalites that funds will be raised locally and nationally for implementing major projects and schemes but it will not be possible to drive out the international financial institutions and multi-national corporations.

On the larger issue of liberalisation, globalisation and privatization, the official line is that the state cannot insulate itself from these processes.

On the Telangana issue, the government will reiterate the stand taken by the Congress that a separate Telangana state can be formed only through process of consultation and consensus with all political parties. However, the government will take all steps to expedite the process of socio-economic development of the backward region.

The government has also identified some issues that are "non-negotiable" in the context of the country's constitutional and legal framework. The naxalite parties will have to work as conventional democratic groups and honour the laws of the land. A democratically elected government has the primary responsibility of ensuring law and order and it cannot allow any flagrant violation of legal and constitutional provisions by any group or party.


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Syed Amin Jafri in Hyderabad