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Darjeeling: Stir continues but Mamata & Gorkha outfits agree to continue dialogue

Sulagna Sengupta | Updated on: 29 August 2017, 22:47 IST

The all party meeting that was held at in Kolkata on Tuesday failed to give any solution on the Gorkhaland issue. But it did pave the way for the initiation of dialogue with the Gorkha groups.

The hill parties haven’t yet agreed to withdraw their strike, saying that they will consult with their Central Committee members before taking a decision.

Representatives from Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, Gorkha Liberation Front and Jana Andolan Party attended the meeting, no one from Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL) and Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM) turned up.

After the meeting, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said "The meeting was very positive. We have clearly stated that we cannot accept the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland as it's not a state subject. This is our first meeting with the hill parties and we have urged them to withdraw their strike to restore normalcy in the hills”.

“Everyone has a right to raise their demands…we are hopeful that dialogue can resolve the impasse in the hills, as the tea industry, the tourism industry has come to a standstill,” she added.

The chief minister further said that another meeting with the hill parties has been called on 12 September at Uttar Kanya, the secretariat at Siliguri.

Senior officials of the state government said that though disagreements remain between the government and the hill parties, both sides have understood that dialogue is the only way out.

“Though the state government’s stand on Gorkhaland is very clear, we urged them to initiate a tripartite meeting with the Centre regarding our demand,” said JAP president Harkha Bahadur Chhetri.

"We have already urged the state government to pass a Bill in the Assembly on Reorganisation of West Bengal, but they are yet to respond positively to it. We also urged the state government to repeal a clause in the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) Act to do away with the two-tier Panchayat system that prevails,” he added.

Banerjee’s response was that any further bipartite dialogue on this can only take place if the hill parties withdrew their strike.

“We are not in a position to hold tripartite dialogue with the Centre as we don’t support the demand for a separate state,” she said, effectively putting the Gorkhaland ball in the Centre’s court.

According to GJMM leader Binoy Tamang GJMM leader, “We are meeting the chief again on minister on 12 September and we hope that we can resolve the deadlock situation in the hills through dialogue”.

“We have demanded a CBI or judicial enquiry into the deaths that took place in police action and that compensation should be paid to the victims. We also want an NIA probe into the blasts that took place at Kalimpong and Darjeeling a few days back and restoration of all essential goods and services in the hills,” Tamang added.

According to Opposition parties, the state government should have convened this meeting two months earlier and not now, only after violence intensified.

CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said “We were saying from the beginning that the state government should start dialogue with the hill parties. Even though it is late, we welcome that a dialogue process has started”.

Congress leader Abdul Mannan also welcomed the dialogue and added that the “government should handle the situation tactfully and prevent it from deteriorating”.

On Tuesday too when the meeting was going on a blast was reported at Kalimpong but fortunately there were no casualties. Preliminary investigation revealed that the blast was not of high intensity and bombs were hurled from a distance of 100 metres. It may be mentioned that twin grenade blast has occurred at Kalimpong few days back in which a civic volunteer was killed. An IED blast was also reported at Darjeeling as well.

However, differences have cropped up within the GJM – between the outfit’s chief Bimal Gurung and chief coordinator Binoy Tamang.

After the meeting Tamang said, "It would have been wiser if Gurung participated in the meeting instead of deciding to stay away”.

Sticking to his guns, Gurung said, “I do not know what happened at the meeting but I can say that our strike in the hills will continue”.

First published: 29 August 2017, 22:47 IST