Unfortunately, the same mindset prevails at the Centre too. According to reports, the Maoists had used the ceasefire to form a separate wing comprising of highly-trained and heavily-armed guerillas. Maoist leaders also claimed that they received arms from foreign militant groups, mainly from Pakistan. Who else could have supplied them except for the ISI? There were also reports from the local police that “Maoists planned to use the ‘peace talks’ only to mobilise resources, plan strategies and strengthen them further”.
The documents seized by the police also revealed the list of donors that included forest contractors, power-plant operators, politicians, industrialists, etc. donating liberally to the Maoist cause—not out of love, but out of fear. The cabinet ministers from the coastal districts had also brought to the notice of the Chief Minister the feverish activity of the Maoists in large-scale recruitment of youth to its cadre and extortion of money. The recruitments are on a structured basis and the pay scales of the recruits range from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000. The extortion has been institutionalised. A local daily published the ongoing rates. Farmers owning tractors have to pay Rs 20,000, rice millers—from 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh, realtors and residential colleges—Rs 1 lakh to 5 lakhs, and businessmen—from Rs 50,000 to Rs 3 lakh, while contractors are on the regular funding list.
What came as an eye-opener for the state government was the murder of Superintendent of Police (SP) of Munger in Bihar by Maoists. Incidentally, the slain SP, Surendra Babu, hailed from Andhra Pradesh. Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa were not spared either before full-scale encounters and mine explosions began in Andhra Pradesh. Every day there are encounters—fake or genuine in the state. The Maoists target leaders from all the parties. Since the Maoists have achieved what they wanted, they are no longer interested in the second round of ‘peace talks’ while the government is hopelessly divided over its future plans. The state Home Minister, K. Jana Reddy, is ready to put in his papers for the stalemate in the second round of talks. The Telengana Rashtra Samiti, an alliance partner of the Congress, is adding to the ruling party’s embarrassment by threatening to pull out of the government if the latter fails to order an immediate enquiry into the encounters. Every police encounter invites retaliation by the Maoists by way of killing a political leader, irrespective of the party. Elected representatives and other political leaders are therefore fleeing their constituencies and taking shelter in the state capital.
While the Maoists want the combing operations to stop, which in fact lead to encounters, the government expects the Maoists to lay down their arms. Both are not possible. If the Maoists give up arms, it is nothing but an ideological suicide for them. The government was aware of it and the Maoists made it clear that there was no question of their giving up arms. A face-saving formula for the sake of initiating the talks was that they would not carry arms when they arrived at the state capital for talks. What did the government achieve with these kinds of meaningless compromises and purposeless talks except to extend 5-star hospitality and media exposure to the Maoists, whose declared objective has been to wage an armed struggle against the state?
The ill-conceived strategy has boomeranged on the Congress party itself. Maoist singer and an emissary of the Maoists for ‘peace talks’, Gaddar, has warned that the failure of peace talks in Andhra Pradesh would have a bearing on the Congress party’s electoral prospects in Bihar and Jharkhand. He appealed to the Congress chief, Sonia Gandhi, to restore the peace process in the state. Will she mediate between her Chief Minister and Rajiv-Sonia loyalist, Dr Rajasekhara Reddy and the Maoists, for they are threatening to sabotage her party prospects in these two states going to the polls this month?