Govt sabotaged talks with Maoists: Swami Agnivesh
Posted by Admin on August 4, 2010
Social activist Swami Agnivesh, who was trying to broker talks between the Maoists and the central government, has accused the home ministry of betraying the peace process.
Agnivesh was in direct touch with the CPI (Maoist) spokesman Azad and had, at the request of the government, convinced him to come to the negotiating table. But before the talks could take place, the rebel leader was killed in an encounter, which the Maoists and civil society groups alleged was fake and stage-managed.
Agnivesh said Azad was carrying his letter for peace talks when he was reportedly taken into custody along with journalist Hem Chandra Pandey. Both were later killed in an encounter by the Andhra Pradesh Police.
“It looks like a very dirty encounter. You have done vishwaasghaat (betrayal) with the talks. I am deeply pained by the developments. Yes, I suffer from a deep sense of guilt now and I believe Azad died because on your (the government’s) request, I intervened to take the peace process to its logical end,” Agnivesh said at a public meeting held to demand a judicial inquiry into the death of Azad and Pandey.
Terming Azad’s killing a “very big loss”, the activist said he met home minister P. Chidambaram after the encounter but was disappointed by his response.
According to Agnivesh, Chidambaram told him that if he wanted a probe ( into the encounter), he should approach Andhra’s home minister Savita Reddy since it was a “state matter”. He said it was the home ministry which wrote to him to bring the Maoists to the table for talks. ” I was happy about the written offer because it wanted the rebels to abjure violence for 72 hours as a condition for talks,” he added.
Agnivesh also said that it was the government which spilled the beans on the peace offer to the Maoists.
He said he got the ministry’s letter – marked ‘confidential’ – on May 11 and was keeping the matter to himself. But on May 17, the home minister made the contents of the letter public in an interview to a private news channel.
“I called him the next day. He said that I also could make it public now. I then sent several copies of the letter to journalists and others.” Agnivesh got a reply from Azad on May 31. The Maoist spokesperson said the CPI (Maoist) was ready for talks as well as for the 72-hour ceasefire, as proposed by the government.
“I again met Chidambaram and showed him Azad’s reply, telling the minister that it was a big breakthrough. I was given a technical reply that the Maoists needed to abjure violence,” the peace broker said.
The peace activist said he was initially reluctant to believe that Pandey was killed to eliminate evidence regarding Azad’s fake encounter since he was an eye-witness.
But the Centre’s strong reluctance in ordering a probe had given credence to the allegation. Agnivesh made another startling allegation against the government.
He said when Pandey’s body was brought to Delhi, no one was ready to keep it before cremation. So, he made the necessary arrangements at his Jantar Mantar office.
“While the body was lying there, I got a call from the home ministry. The caller told me that I, too, could land in trouble ( for keeping a Maoist leader’s body). This is how the government operates,” the activist added. Agnivesh met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on July 20 to demand a proper investigation into the death of Azad and Pandey.
“The Prime Minister didn’t reject the suggestion outright. He was much more sensitive than the home minister and told me that he would do something.
Since I did not get a response, I called up the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday (Monday). I told them that frustration over the government’s inaction on the issue was growing fast,” Agnivesh said India Today