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Jairam Ramesh during a 2011 visit to Tuku village in Gumla District of Jharkhand, a Naxal hit area. Photo: Hindustan Times (Hindustan Times)
Jairam Ramesh during a 2011 visit to Tuku village in Gumla District of Jharkhand, a Naxal hit area. Photo: Hindustan Times
(Hindustan Times)

Jairam Ramesh equates Maoists with terrorists

The rural development minister says no possibility of dialogue as Maoists don’t believe in Indian democracy

New Delhi: Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday branded India’s Maoist rebels as terrorists after a deadly attack last week by the insurgents on Congress party leaders in Chhattisgarh.

He challenged the rebels to join the political mainstream to get their grievances redressed.

“Anybody who spreads terror is a terrorist," said Ramesh, who has toured half of India’s more than 80 Maoist-affected districts since taking office as rural development minister in July 2011, as he gave a series of comments to reporters and interviews to television news channels.

Ramesh said there would be no let-up in security operations to secure Maoist strongholds.

“I don’t think you should romanticise the Maoists. They are not in this game for tribal welfare," he said of the rebels who demand land and jobs for the poor, and want to establish a communist society by overthrowing what they call India’s “semi-colonial, semi-feudal" form of rule.

While admitting there is need for focused development in the tribal areas, Ramesh said there is no possibility of a dialogue with Maoists as the rebels don’t believe in Indian democracy. “You can have a dialogue with people who want to have a dialogue. Maoists are not here for tribal welfare," Ramesh said.

The minister’s remarks follow the killing of more than two dozen people including senior Congress party leaders in a Maoist ambush in Chhattisgarh on Saturday.

Among those killed were state Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel, his son Dinesh, Mahendra Karma, the founder of the anti-Maoist civilian militia Salwa Judum, and former Congress legislator Uday Mudliyar.

Former Congress Union minister Vidya Charan Shukla was critically injured in the attack and is in hospital.

The attack that wiped out most of the top Congress leadership in the state has shocked the party and has been seen as the most audacious since Maoists killed Jharkhand Mukti Morcha Lok Sabha member of Parliament Sunil Mahato in 2007.

Congress spokesman Bhakta Charan Das on Tuesday demanded the resignation of Chhattisgarh’s chief minister, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Raman Singh, for what he termed the “irresponsible attitude of the state government", the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

The insurgency which has affected large swathes of India has often been described by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as India’s “biggest internal security challenge".

In his comments, Ramesh urged Maoists to take a leaf out of Aam Aadmi party chief Arvind Kejriwal’s book and join mainstream politics.

“Maoists should learn from Arvind Kejriwal," he said of the anti-corruption activist turned politician who had attracted thousands of people to the protests anchored by anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare in New Delhi two years ago.

“He (Kejriwal) decided to join politics to change the system. This is what Maoists should do," said the minister, who plans to travel to another Maoist-affected state, Jharkhand, next week to address tribals.

Ramesh, however, also spoke of the need to redress the grievances of tribals and others who have been displaced—some of them multiple times—by economic activity such as mining or construction of hydel power projects.

This will ensure lessening of support for Maoists, he said. “That is why a Bill like the land acquisition Bill is important," he said, referring to a legislation that promises adequate compensation to land owners and dependants that is pending before Parliament for approval.

Ramesh said there should be a moratorium of a certain period on using land seized back from Maoist rebels for activities such as mining.

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