06/23/2009, 00.00
INDIA
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Maoist rebels call for truce as military advances on their positions in West Bengal

The Indian government has added the Communist Party of India (Maoist) on its terrorist groups list. In Midnapore District the military is carrying out an operation to recapture villages taken over by the rebels. The Maoist movement is present in 13 of India’s 28 states. Since 2005 at least 3,000 people have died in attacks carried out by the rebels.

Kolkata (AsiaNews) – Maoist groups have called for a truce and the start of negotiations with India’s central government and that of West Bengal. They are also demanding a ceasefire if government forces stop their advance into their territory. This comes 24 hours after Indian authorities decided to add the Communist Party of India (Maoist) on its list of outlawed terrorist organisation and five days after India’s military began operations around the city of Lalgarh, Midnapore District (West Bengal). It might even mark the end of ‘Flush out operation’ launched by the military and the police against the Maoists.

In recent weeks the rebels had attacked a police station in Lalgarh and caused a wave of violence against local security forces, members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and West Bengal state officials.

After warning about possible violence the government banned the Maoist party as a terrorist organisation under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

When the government announced its ban the Maoists reacted by a two-day strike and demonstrations in the States of Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa and Chattisgarh.

In West Bengal they criticised the government’s decision, saying it was detrimental to finding a political solution to the conflict that has been going on in the state since the 1990s.

According to unofficial sources at least 3,000 people are thought to have died in the country in Maoist attacks since 2005.

The rebel group is present in 13 of India’s 28 states and is considered India’s most serious national security threat.

Also called Naxalism, named after the city of Naxalbari (West Bengal), Indian Maoism emerged in the late 1960s. It represents a blend of Maoism and traditional demands by tribal communities in the states where it developed.

It has set up a parallel administration and raises taxes estimated of some 15 billion rupees (US$ 240 million) in some regions in the states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal and Maharashtra

“The situation is such that the rule of law is near collapse in some areas of the State [of West Bengal]. The government should enforce the law and maintain order through non-violence, democratic rule and human rights protection. It should enable ordinary people to take part in political life,” said Lenin Raghuvanshi, director of the Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR).

“The Maoists are using every opportunity provided to them by a corrupt legal system that is stacked against the poor. Flawed local governments have given them the means to reach out to the lower classes. They have been able to use force to establish red corridors in an area that runs from Tamil Nadu to Nepal,” he added.

(Nirmala Carvalho contributed reporting)

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