By Rajesh Joshi
BBC News, Delhi
Indian writer Arundhati Roy says she is ready to be an “independent observer” if the Indian government agrees to peace talks with Maoist insurgents.
She gave her reaction following a fresh proposal for talks made by the rebels.
Maoist military wing leader Koteshwar Rao – or Kishenji – called the BBC from an undisclosed location.
He said the group would stop violence if the government invited intellectuals and rights activists like Ms Roy and B D Sharma to mediate in peace talks.
Although refusing to be a mediator in any talks, Ms Roy told BBC Hindi radio that she would be happy to participate in talks as an independent observer.
“I am a writer and I know for sure that I don’t have the skills of a mediator,” she said.
She added that she couldn’t act as a representative for the Maoist party, but she supported the offer of talks made by them.
“I think it is very important that Kishenji says his party is ready for talks and the government should welcome the offer,” said the Booker Prize winning author.
Maoists have fought for a communist state for 20 years
The government and the insurgents have been locked in an armed conflict which has claimed hundreds of lives in recent years.
The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of poor people.
But Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the insurgency as the “biggest internal threat to India since independence”.
Recently, a senior home ministry official, G K Pillay, said that some retired army officers were helping Maoists plan out their military offensive.
He said that the way the Maoists plan and execute their military operations indicates they get help from trained military people.
But Kishenji has denied that his party gets any help from retired army officials.
Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram has already said that he would accept “no ifs, no buts and no conditions” for talks after the Maoists made a conditional ceasefire offer.
The Maoist movement originated more than four decades ago in a village called Naxalbari in the state of West Bengal.
It is believed that the rebels now have a presence in 223 out of about 600 districts in India.