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Naxal Movement

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Learning to talk outside gunpoint
Boyd Fuller and Shriya Mohan, 8-1-2013

2 *
Capturing hostages is believed to be the only way for Naxalites to get the government to lend them their ears. So by agreeing to talk only when kidnapped, are we not asking to be held at gunpoint? At left, Maoists during a training session in the Dantewada forest. (Right) Sukma Collector Alex Paul Menon, accompanied by an interlocutor, following his release by the Maoists in the forests of Chintalnar in Chhattisgarh, in May last year.— photos: Akhilesh Kumar *
When Roger Fisher, negotiation guru and former director of the Harvard Negotiation Project, was once asked in an interview if he could really negotiate with a terrorist, he said, “I’d much rather listen to them than fight. A lot of times, they’ve got legitimate grievances packaged as extreme political positions.”
Near the end of 2012, the government made an important move towards negotiations with the Maoists, promising to put in place Crisis Management Groups (CMG), which are essentially teams to negotiate hostage situations in Left Wing Extremist (LWE) States. Clearly, the two high profile Maoist kidnaps of last year — Collector Alex Paul Menon at Chhattisgarh and the Italian tourists at Orissa — created much national distress. But as we embark on combating a new year of conflict, let us reflect for a bit.
Capturing hostages is believed to be the only way for Maoists to get the government to lend them their ears. So by agreeing to talk only when kidnapped, are we not asking to be held at gun point?
Getting the parties to the table is not the main problem, however. Recall the Committee for Concerned Citizens (CCC) — a group of former bureaucrats, journalists, intellectuals and fellow citizens who convened the 1994 Andhra peace talks. The CCC had earned enormous legitimacy as a result of the records of the victims of...

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