A top Maoist leader regretted the death of civilians during Monday’s attack on a bus by the rebels in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district.
CPI (Maoist) Special Zone Committee member of Dandakaranya, Ramanna, spoke to CNN-IBN’s Rupashree Nanda from Bastar over phone. Ramanna said Maoists regretted the killing of civilians but alleges that the police used them as human shields. He also rejected the offer of conditional talks by Home Minister P Chidambaram.
CNN-IBN: What you have to say about Monday’s killing of civilians?
Ramanna: In yesterday’s (Monday’s) incident it is alleged that Maoists targeted civilians. Our target were Koya commanders. Our aim was precise and correct and 16 Koya commanders are dead. Police was using civilians as human shields.
CNN-IBN: If the government did a wrong thing by using civilians as human shields, can you say that you did the right thing in blasting a bus and killing innocent and poor people?
Ramanna: You are right. Out target were not civilians. Our target were the Koya commanders. The administration is using civilians as a human shield, so they got killed. But I regret this.
CNN-IBN: Chidambaram has offered talks if you give up violence. Are you ready to give up violence and accept the offer for talks?
Ramanna: Our party has already responded to his offer. The government did not even believe us. Over here when there is a heavy presence of security forces, and their atrocities are continuing every day, villagers are fleeing. What is the purpose of talks?
CNN-IBN: Sir, don’t you think if you engage the government in talks, some solutions can emerge, that it is worth giving talks a chance?
Ramanna: First, administration has to stop operation Green Hunt and create an atmosphere of peace. We cannot give up our weapons. We are not ready to give up our weapons.
CNN-IBN: If you don’t lay down arms, how will the government talk with you. Are you being reasonable?
Ramanna:In Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, in this country and the world even in Nepal discussions were always held as the rebels still held weapons. Why is the government asking us to give up weapons? The government is using its military option to displace people and hand over the land, forest, and water to private companies. We can never agree to that.
CNN-IBN: Do you have anything to say to Chidambaram, Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi?
Ramanna: They must stop operation Green Hunt, and withdraw forces. Chidambaramji does not know about people. He is a corporate director and works like one. He is not a political leader, he does not think like a political leader, he has no understanding of the issues of ordinary people; he does not have the right to be a political leader.
CNN-IBN: So who in the Congress party is a political leader? Who would you talk with?
Ramanna:There is no one in the Congress party. Our party has already named some people (from civil society).
CNN-IBN: If the government does not withdraw operation Green Hunt, what will be your strategy?
Ramanna: We will continue to fight; we will take the struggle forward. We have the support of the people. Our people’s organisation constitutes of lakhs of people. We will continue to do what we have been doing.
CNN-IBN: Chidambaram has offered talks if you abjure violence?
Ramanna: He is making fools of the media. No one will believe him.
CNN-IBN: What are your issues? What can be done so that people stop killing and being killed?
Ramanna: We also agree that the killing has to stop but it is the government (shashan ) that is killing its own people. In operation Green Hunt they have already killed 150 adivasis (tribals). The Gompad massacre is still being heard in the Supreme Court. They have burnt down 3000 houses. More than 200,000 adivasis have become refugees. The government has to first rehabilitate the displaced people. When people are being displaced, how can you hold discussions? When people are not here, who will you discuss with?
CNN-IBN: If you target civilians, don’t you fear that you will lose popular support?
Ramanna: Yes. Civilian deaths constitute less than 1 per cent of the killings. In every operation we exercise extreme caution that ordinary people should not suffer. That is the discipline we follow. That is our code of conduct. About yesterday, we agree we made a mistake, we regret it. We don’t have a policy of killing people. We serve people. You can come, investigate and find out how many innocent civilians we have killed.
CNN-IBN: Our viewers would want to know whether you will target civilians again?
Ramanna: No we will not target civilians We have not done that before, are not doing it now and will not do it in the future. It is the police, which brought the civilians in the bus.