Bimal Gurung seeks ‘safe passage’ for talks with Centre on Gorkhaland
Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung wants a safe passage to attend a meeting with the Centre, likely to be held in mid-October, over the Darjeeling impasse.
Gurung is on the run since last month after cases were lodged against him under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and a lookout notice was issued.
“We want the Centre to guarantee total security for top GJM leaders, including party president Bimal Gurung to attend the meeting to be held on October 16,” said wife Asha Gurung, who heads the women’s wing of the party, over the phone from an undisclosed location.
Darjeeling was on the edge for 104 days because of a GJM-sponsored strike over its demand for a separate Gorkhaland state to be carved out of West Bengal’s northern hill districts. The shutdown ended on Tuesday after Union home minister Rajnath Singh announced a meeting to discuss “all issues”.
The GJM is an ally of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). “The GJM will attend the meeting with the single-point agenda of Gorkhaland,” Asha Gurung said.
But her husband will decide on attending the meeting, likely to be held in New Delhi, only if “total security is ensued for the top brass of the party”.
“The hills will burn if Bimal Gurung is arrested and I will take to the streets. The Gorkahland agitation will take a violent turn,” warned Asha Gurung.
Asked if the GJM will accept a fully autonomous set-up instead of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) that the party dissolved after the statehood stir started in June, she said: “We want a positive response from the Centre as we will not be able to control the Gorkha people who already feel let down by the lifting of the bandh and are angry. We will not betray the people unlike Binay Tamang and Anit Thapa.”
Though home minister Singh has not specifically announced the possibility of a ‘tripartite’ meeting between the Centre, GJM and the West Bengal government, Bimal Gurung has been insisting that his party will talk if the Centre mediates in the dialogue.
The GJM is wary that the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government may project expelled GJM central committee leaders Binay Tamang and Anit Thapa, who were appointed chairman and vice-chairman of the board of administrators of the GTA, as the official representatives of the hills party.
“The Union home minister gave a face saver to Gurung,” said Thapa after Singh’s announcement. “Life was already returning to normal. The Union home minister has not promised tripartite talks. He has also not said whether the meeting would discuss the Gorkhaland issue ,” he said.
Gurung had earlier said the bandh would continue till the Centre calls a tripartite meeting to discuss the Gorkhaland issue.
West Bengal tourism minister Gautam Deb said the state government has not been intimated about any tripartite dialogue on the Darjeeling impasse.
“The Union home minister’s announcement (of a meeting to discuss issues relating to Darjeeling) could have come much earlier. It is just an escape route for Bimal Gurung, who has lost the popular support of the hill people,” Deb told HT over phone from Siliguri.