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I stick to my remarks at Lalgarh: Mamata

Special Correspondent

KOLKATA: Asserting that she “sticks to” whatever she had said at the Lalgarh rally last week, including her remarks on the death of Maoist leader Azad, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has welcomed the Communist Party of India (Maoist) leadership's suggestion for a three-month ceasefire and peace talks.

As for Maoist Polit Bureau member Kishanji's statement on Tuesday that also suggested her as a mediator, Ms. Banerjee said: “I have only seen media reports. Let me cross-check all details.” She was speaking to journalists on Wednesday on her way to New Delhi. The Congress in West Bengal also welcomed Kishanji's offer of peace talks with Ms. Banerjee as the mediator. It was now up to her to decide whether or not she would take it up, it said.

About the criticism of the Left parties and the BJP of her remarks at the August 9 rally dubbing the death of Azad a “murder,” Ms. Banerjee retorted: “What Lalgarh? I went there and I am proud to say what I did. Again I will go to Lalgarh. I want to see peace there. “…Whoever is fighting the battle, we have to support the cause of the people if the battle is genuine and related to the people.

“I gave my views. It is my freedom of expression…Anybody can criticise. I will welcome it if its positive but, at the same time, I'll request whether they want to see the bloodbath [continue] there…. The party colour may be different; the party ideology may be different. I cannot impose my opinion on anybody, but they [her critics] cannot impose theirs [on] me too,” she said.

In regard to the talks between the Centre and Maoists and the conditions set by Kishanji, Ms. Banerjee said: “If anybody is willing to discuss and negotiate, it is good for the country.” She had not talked to the government, but was willing to give her opinion if sought.

Clarifying that she made the appeal to Maoists to abjure violence and come for talks as “a party chief,” Ms. Banerjee said that though “it is a government issue, if both sides agree, at least the lives of people would be saved and the country's security [problem] solved.”

In reference to Kishanji's offer of talks, she said: “If they [Maoists] have responded to the appeals for peace by the President (on August 14) and the Prime Minister on the Independence Day, it is good for the country.” “Let the problem be solved through negotiations, … through the democratic process… It is for the government to decide. I cannot interfere… there is a separate Ministry for that.”

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