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Indian gov't says no talks with Maoist rebels

Published: Thursday, July 2 2015 4:05 p.m. MDT

India's Congress party workers hold placards during a candle light vigil for those killed in Saturday’s Maoist attacks in Chhattisgarh state as they stand near the Gateway of India monument in Mumbai, India, Monday, May 27, 2013.Troops fanned out across central India on Monday in a massive manhunt days after hundreds of Maoist rebels attacked a convoy of ruling party members and leaders, killing 24 people in an area considered the stronghold of the rebels, police said. Placard in Marathi, right, reads, India's Congress party workers hold placards during a candle light vigil for those killed in Saturday’s Maoist attacks in Chhattisgarh state as they stand near the Gateway of India monument in Mumbai, India, Monday, May 27, 2013.Troops fanned out across central India on Monday in a massive manhunt days after hundreds of Maoist rebels attacked a convoy of ruling party members and leaders, killing 24 people in an area considered the stronghold of the rebels, police said. Placard in Marathi, right, reads, "Congress stands strongly against Naxalism". (Rajanish Kakade, Associated Press)

NEW DELHI — The Indian government on Tuesday ruled out peace talks with Maoist rebels who killed 24 governing party members in a daring attack over the weekend in an eastern state.

Indian Junior Home Minister C.P.N. Singh said the government had in the past offered to hold talks with the insurgents, but no one came forward. The Maoists instead demanded that the government first withdraw thousands of paramilitary soldiers deployed to fight the rebels in several states.

"The time for talking is over," Singh told CNN-IBN television news channel, adding that the rebels were not interested in talking to the government.

"I think that's how we need to review the situation," he said.

The rebels, known as Naxalites, have been fighting the central government for more than four decades, demanding land and jobs for tenant farmers and the poor. Since 2005, more than 6,000 people — including civilians, security troops and the rebels themselves — have died in Maoist violence across the country, according to data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management.

India's Congress party workers pay floral tribute to those killed in Saturday's Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh at a prayer meeting held at the party's headquarters in New Delhi, India, Monday, May 27, 2013. Troops fanned out across central India on Monday in a massive manhunt days after hundreds of Maoist rebels attacked a convoy of ruling party members and leaders, killing 24 people in an area considered the stronghold of the rebels, police said.  (Manish Swarup, Associated Press) India's Congress party workers pay floral tribute to those killed in Saturday's Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh at a prayer meeting held at the party's headquarters in New Delhi, India, Monday, May 27, 2013. Troops fanned out across central India on Monday in a massive manhunt days after hundreds of Maoist rebels attacked a convoy of ruling party members and leaders, killing 24 people in an area considered the stronghold of the rebels, police said. (Manish Swarup, Associated Press)

Singh's assertion came as thousands of troops searched for the attackers through the densely forested stronghold of Maoist rebels in Chhattisgarh state. The ambush on Saturday came despite claims by the government that it has greatly weakened the guerrilla insurgency it termed the nation's greatest internal security threat.

The Maoist attack targeted Congress party politicians returning from a campaign event with the indigenous tribal community in a rebel stronghold. The victims included Mahendra Karma, a Congress official who founded the much-criticized Salwa Judum militia to combat the rebels.

The Salwa Judum had to be reined in after it was accused of atrocities against the tribal people it claimed to be protecting.

The BBC said it received a note late Monday from the rebels saying they carried out the attack to protest the government's "anti-people policies."

The BBC also said the rebels apologized for the deaths of some innocent people in the attack.

India's Congress party president Sonia Gandhi, fourth right, and vice president Rahul Gandhi, third right, sit at a prayer meeting held at the party's headquarters to pay tribute to those killed in Saturday's Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh in New Delhi, India, Monday, May 27, 2013. Troops fanned out across central India on Monday in a massive manhunt days after hundreds of Maoist rebels attacked a convoy of ruling party members and leaders, killing 24 people in an area considered the stronghold of the rebels, police said.  (Manish Swarup, Associated Press) India's Congress party president Sonia Gandhi, fourth right, and vice president Rahul Gandhi, third right, sit at a prayer meeting held at the party's headquarters to pay tribute to those killed in Saturday's Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh in New Delhi, India, Monday, May 27, 2013. Troops fanned out across central India on Monday in a massive manhunt days after hundreds of Maoist rebels attacked a convoy of ruling party members and leaders, killing 24 people in an area considered the stronghold of the rebels, police said. (Manish Swarup, Associated Press)

Also Tuesday, India's Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh called for a "very tough security and police action in the areas highly affected" by insurgency.

He said the government's focus was on development in insurgency-hit areas and addressing problems tribal people face, particularly relating to land acquisition.

The rebels have ambushed police, destroyed government offices and abducted government officials. They have blown up train tracks, attacked prisons to free their comrades and stolen weapons from police and paramilitary warehouses.

The insurgency began in 1967 as a network of leftwing ideologues and young recruits in the village of Naxalbari outside Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal state. The Naxalites are now estimated to have 30,000 fighters and have pledged to violently overthrow the Indian government.

They control vast swaths of the so-called Red Belt in central and eastern India, where troops and officials rarely venture. The rebels are thought to operate in 20 of India's 28 states.

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