On delicate ground

as talks between Naxalites and the Andhra Pradesh (ap) government focus on land reform, a roadblock is imminent. It is the Forest Conservation Act (fca) that prohibits settlements and even restricts collection of non-timber forest produce. This triggers local discontent that the armed Naxalite groups exploit to spread their influence.

Naxalite-affected states are vehemently demanding amendments to fca, which they say is a major reason for failure to curb the spread of these armed groups. Even the chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (upa), Sonia Gandhi, has attributed wider Naxalite influence partly to fca.

It is for the first time in 35 years that Naxalites are holding direct talks with the government. The talks began on October 15 in Hyderabad. But the previous day, the two major Naxal groups