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Govt ready for talks; Naxals demand release of tribals

Govt ready for talks; Naxals demand release of tribals

WB government sources say they are close to clinching a deal.

Kolkata/Sankrail: As Naxal rebels continued to hold police officer Atindranath Dutta captive, the West Bengal government Wednesday said it was ready to hold negotiations with them if they gave specific proposals as pre-conditions for his release.

"If there are specific proposals, the government is ready to negotiate," state Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty told reporters at the state secretariat Writers' Buildings here.

However, he made it clear that it was not possible for the government to accept every demand of the Left-wing ultras "in the larger interest".

"Whatever demands we can meet, we will. And whatever steps are needed to get him freed, we will take," Chakraborty said.

On Tuesday, around 50 Naxals riding motorcycles abducted Dutta, the officer-in-charge of the Sankrail police station in West Midnapore district, at gunpoint from his house and brought him to the police station.

Then the Naxals shot dead sub-inspector Dibakar Bhattacharya and assistant sub-inspector Swapan Roy and looted 19 firearms from the police station before whisking away Dutta to their hideout on a motorcycle.

Describing Dutta as a "prisoner of war", CPI-Naxal top leader Koteshwar Rao alias Kishanjee Tuesday sought the release of arrested CPI-Naxal women members in the 40-60 age group and those who have children at home as the condition for setting the police officer free.

Meanwhile, the police recovered one landmine and a metal pot containing Naxal posters near the violence-hit area, where the streets wore a deserted look. Most shops and roadside kiosks were closed, with normal life almost coming to a halt.

"One landmine and a metal pot containing Naxal posters were recovered between Sankrail and Kultikari areas," Inspector General of police (Law and Order) Surajit Kar Purakayastha told IANS in Kolkata.

"In the posters the Naxals demanded the immediate release of People's Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) leader Chattradhar Mahato," Purakayastha said.

Dutta's family members - his wife Indrani, father Ashok and mother Chhanda - and other kin called on Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at the state secretariat Writers' Buildings, hoping the government would take no steps that would put his life in danger.

After a 45-minute meeting, a family member said they were satisfied.

"We had a comprehensive discussion with the chief minister. He gave us a patient hearing. He said he will keep in mind whatever we have said. He said he will consider everything," Sanjib, a relative of Dutta told reporters.

"We are satisfied after meeting him. We hope he won't take any steps which Kishanjee will not like," Sanjib said.

Meanwhile, top Naxal leader Kishanjee assured Dutta's family that he will not be harmed and be presented before the media soon.

However, he said the officer will be released only after the women arrested by the security forces are freed.

Expressing shock over the Sankrail Naxal attack, Trinamool Congress chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee urged the central government to investigate whether the joint operation by the security forces to flush out the Left-wing ultras from Lalgarh was yielding any results.

On the other hand, state's ruling Left Front major Communist Party of India-Marxist urged the government to take the initiative to release the police officer as also two other policemen - Sabir Mollah and Kanchan Garai - abducted a few months back.

first published:October 21, 2009, 23:38 IST