Barely 12 hours after beginning its four-day shutdown in Darjeeling and Dooars, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha withdrew it at 6 pm on Monday.
The decision follows, according to GJM leaders, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s assurance of putting the GJM’s statehood demand on fast track.
But a Home Ministry source said on condition of anonymity that Chidambaram advised the GJM to withdraw the shutdown and only promised to expedite the resolution of its demand.
Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), that has been supporting the Gorkhaland demand, also contradicted what the GJM leaders said on Monday.
GJM general secretary Roshan Giri, camping in Delhi, said, “L.K. Advani (leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha) told us it was not mandatory to get a nod from the West Bengal assembly for a separate state. The Centre can create a new state without consulting the state.”
The tripartite talks between the state, the Centre and the GJM are scheduled in Darjeeling on December 21.
But Advani and senior party leader Sushma Swaraj reportedly asked GJM leaders to call off their agitation, as they wanted normalcy restored before the talks.
GJM supremo Bimal Gurung, reiterating his old stand of getting Gorkhaland “by 10 March, 2010, 11.19 am”, said in Darjeeling, “We are lifting the shutdown, but the hunger strike will continue.”
GJM leaders announced that the fast-unto-death programme by 105 activists would not only continue, but would also be intensified if the tripartite talks failed.
The reason for even the BJP advising caution is that it is wary of numerous demands for separate statehood in the wake of the Centre’s response to the Telangana stir.
Asked if the BJP was giving up support to Gorkhaland, Swaraj, however, said, “We stand by what we said in our manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections.”
The BJP’s predicament over Gorkhaland is the result of the ouster of Jaswant Singh – who was elected from Darjeeling with GJM’s support – from the party for praising Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah in his book.
On the demands for new states, Swaraj said, “We are in favour of Vidarbha, but our ally in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena, is opposed to it. As for Telangana, we were in favour, but TDP, which was our ally then, was opposed to it.”
Both the Congress and the BJP are treading softly on the statehood demands at the moment.