Gorkhaland activists end hunger strike after Rajnath appeals, but Darjeeling bandh to continue
On Sunday, Rajnath Singh met members of the Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC) in Delhi and told them to end the strike and sit for talks.india Updated: Aug 14, 2017 20:27 IST
Youth activists of the Gorka Janmukti Morcha (GJM) ended their hunger strike on Monday, the eve of the nation’s Independence Day, after Union home minister Rajnath Singh appealed to them.
However, the indefinite bandh in Darjeeling, which entered its 61st day, would continue, GJM assistant secretary Binay Tamang said, ruling out picketing on August 15.
Twelve Gorkha Janmukti Yuva Morcha members had started the fast-unto-death agitation in Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong and Mirik on July 21, as part of the stir demanding separate Gorkhaland state.
On Sunday, Rajnath Singh met members of the Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC) in Delhi and told them to end the strike and sit for talks.
The GMCC, which represents 14 political parties and organisations spearheading the Gorkhaland movement, decided to end the hunger strike after a meeting in Delhi.
GJM president Bimal Gurung said, “The fast-unto-death was lifted from 4.30 pm to honour the request the Union home minister made.”
The delegation that met Rajnath Singh comprised leaders of Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM) and Gorkhaland Rajya Nirman Morcha (GRNM), besides the GJM.
The Union home minister also asked West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee to initiate a dialogue with the GJM and other stakeholders in the Darjeeling hills.
Internet services in the region have been snapped since June 19. Eight people have been killed in alleged police firings since June 17.
Miffed BJP Puts Ball in Mamata’s Court
With the agitation leading nowhere in real terms, the GMCC has found itself in an awkward situation ever since the Centre washed its hands of the statehood issue, and put the ball in the Mamata government’s court.
Agitators had been maintaining that they won’t negotiate with West Bengal because statehood was a central subject.
Sources said the BJP government at the Centre is not in a mood to antagonise Banerjee and risk losing votes in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in Bengal. Senior BJP members are also miffed with the GJM leadership over the manner in which it announced the indefinite bandh without taking them into confidence.
Though the GJM and the BJP have been alliance partners since the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, leaders of the saffron party were unhappy with the way in which the protest unfolded in the region.
The Centre, for its part, has taken note of the widespread damage to public property in the last two months.
“Violence can never be a solution to any problem. In a democracy, solutions are always found through restraint, mutual dialogue and legal means,” the Union home minister told GMCC leaders on Sunday.
A Press Information Bureau release quoted Singh as saying that the government was aware of the strategic importance of the region and the challenges it faced.
“The decisions to call the indefinite bandh and indefinite hunger strike should have been taken at a much later stage of the agitation,” a senior member of the GMCC delegation told HT.
However, he described the meeting with Singh, which happened two months after the start of the pro-Gorkhaland agitation, as a welcome development.
Though no one from the GMCC said anything about the possibility of withdrawing indefinite bandh, sources said they will also consider Singh’s appeal after the GMCC meeting after Independence Day.
First Published: Aug 14, 2017 20:27 IST