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I stand by what I said on Maoist leader Azad's killing, says Mamata Banerjee

By Samyuktha

Kolkata, Aug 18 (ANI): Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamta Banerjee today said she stood by her statement on Maoist leader Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad's killing made at a rally in Lalgarh, West Bengal on August 9.

"Whatever I said in Lalgarh I stick to it. In our democratic set up we always prefer an amicable settlement and peaceful solution," she said.

At the rally, Mamata had said: "The way Azad was killed was not right and asked for a probe into his death.

"I feel the way Azad was killed is not correct. Swami Agnivesh had made him agree to hold talks (with the government). What happened was not correct. I feel the process (for holding talks with the Maoists) should start," she added.

Asked about a reported statement by Maoist leader Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji that they were willing to accept Mamata Banerjee as mediator, She said she had only heard about it in the media.

On Tuesday, Kishenji offered a three-month ceasefire for the sake of peace and for talks.

"President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in their Independence Day speeches, have appealed to the Maoists to abjure violence. We are never for violence but the government has instigated us to take up arms," Kishenji said from an undisclosed destination.

"We are always against terrorism and corruption of any kind...It has been our party's mandate to fight corruption and so we are mobilising people all over the country to ensure that they raise their voice against injustice," he added.

Kishenji also suggested some names of mediators including writer Arundhati Roy, singer and Trinamool Congress MP Kabir Suman, B D Sharma, Gopal Narlekar and Ramanna.

He also demanded that the Rs. 8,000 crore that had been sanctioned for modernisation of police force and Rs. 60 lakh per day being spent for the anti-Naxal operations should be utilised for employment and income generation schemes in underdeveloped districts of the country. (ANI)

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