Kolkata: With the West Bengal government offering to hold talks with Maoists and the ultras responding, the real problem confronting the mediators is setting up contact with their top echelons to carry forward the peace process in the state's Jangalmahal area.

"Though we are receiving communication through different channels that the Maoists are ready for talks, we are yet to get in touch with their top leaders," said a member of the committee of mediators formed by the state government on condition of anonymity.

"Some of them -- Somen, Kanchan and Patitpaban Halder -- are behind bars who have very little touch with the outside world and the others are elusive. Unless we can get in touch with them it is impossible to give the initiative of the state government final shape," the member said.

Social activist Swami Agnivesh said the Naxals were reluctant to establish communication with the authorities fearing that it might be used as a trap to arrest or annihilate them.

"I tried to communicate with Maoists and they were very positive, but the security and intelligence agencies entered the communication network and killed Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad. This was a big blow in the talks process," said Agnivesh.

Another interlocutor Dandapani Mohanti said, "The Orissa government accepted all demands of Maoists for the release of District Collector of Orissa's Malkangiri district Vineet Krishna, but after the release they did not fulfil any of the demands."

To instill confidence among the Maoists that the government was serious about talks, the intermediators are holding meetings with the People's Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA) and the Durniti Agrason o Samrajyobad Birodhi Mancha, besides the local people in Junglemahal.

The mediators are also meeting jailed Maoists to evolve a way to contact their top rung leaders.

"We are meeting Maoist leaders in jail and consulting them so that we can work out a plan to establish contact withntheir top brass," the mediator said.

"Another problem is that though the West Bengal government is trying to initiate talks, it is tough to create confidence among Maoists unless the Centre and other state governments are also involved," he said.

(Agencies)