Immediately after the release of Dinesh Sharma, both the government and the Maoists are at each other's throat. Everyone who watched the release of Sharma could vouch for the fact that Sharma did not look like a person who was made to sign documents under pressure and will not believe it even if he says so. Reporters did not ask Sharma to read a written statement. People could see and feel that there was not even an iota of pressure at the time Sharma was presented to the press. If there was any kind of pressure he could have stated it at that time. Therefore it is difficult to believe that he was under great pressure to make that statement. People watching television could easily guess that he was under no pressure at all. Sharma is lying, that is my conclusion.
The government's mistake lies in making the Maoists sign documents. That is wrong. Time and again I used to tell home ministry officials, "Do not trust a Maoist who agrees to sign documents. Even if a Congressman says that he will stand surety, do not believe him and do not release him. Partly believe a Maoist who says that he is going to join the Jana Morcha, because that is their point of origin. After that if he says that he is going to join the CPN-ML, believe him to a certain extent. Then if he says he is going to join the RPP (Chand) believe him a bit more. After this if he says he is going to join the UML or the RPP, then you have to believe him completely. If he says that he is going to the Congress do not believe him at all and do not release him." Maoists should not be made to sign documents. They will sign anything. This has been my experience. If you want proof of this, put Bhakta Bahadur Shrestha behind bars for 24 hours, and say that you will only release him after he signs a document. Without even looking at the document, he will sign it. People who do not realise this cannot understand the present situation.
Ram Chandra Poudel himself stayed in prison for a long time and refused to sign any documents while he was there. Therefore the fact that he made someone sign papers under pressure is a statement that I do not trust and I doubt if anyone in this country believes it too. Someone is playing games and he got caught in that game. The realisation that the government was going to make public the names of all the arrested Maoists and that the Maoists were coming in for a dialogue scared a lot of people and it is these people who started playing these games. It might be that while the government was thinking of releasing Sharma, someone might have told the deputy prime minister that Sharma had stated that he was ready to leave the Maoists. He must have been doubly pleased; here he was ready to release a Maoist and he was ready to quit his party. Nothing could have been better. He might have said yes. Herein lies the fault. If the DPM analyses this, he will realise where he went wrong.
There are people who accept their mistakes. The Panchayat system is now the talk of the town. There were many who did not sign the papers during the Panchayat system and rotted in prison. Some signed under tremendous pressure, while some others signed of their own will and later denounced it. Then, too, different parties had different policies. Some were prepared to do anything and some hoped they would be freed without signing any documents. But you cannot compare those times and the situation now. If someone says that he has now forsaken violence, there is no reason to lock him up. If Baburam and Prachanda forsake violence, then the home ministry cannot lock them up. The difference in this case was that the DPM and Sharma could not meet. I have heard that they met only after the press conference. Who took this proposal to the DPM? A conspiracy took place there but he should not have believed it. This is where the trouble surfaced. Does Sharma have a hand in this or not? Why would he sacrifice his ego and prestige to surrender? The Maoists declare that the environment for a dialogue has been destroyed and that they will not negotiate with Koirala's government. Then, after all the drama, they point fingers and say that the government is not sticking to its word. This is dishonesty.
If the DPM still uses Padma Ratna to talk to the Maoists, it will not cause any harm. I know him very well. He took part in a meeting in Calcutta at which the Maoists were present too. He gave a speech and a photograph of that is at the police headquarters. After the DPM read that speech of his, he might have thought this person would be able to get the Maoists to the negotiating table, not as a Maoist but as a human rights activist. He is active in many ways and therefore can be called a Maoist, a human rights activist, a person close to the Maoists, but it is best to call him a Maoist.
(The author is a former home minister.)