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GJM calls off 104-day Darjeeling strike after Rajnath calls meet on Gorkhaland

The Darjeeling hills in north Bengal will start limping back to normalcy, after the indefinite strike called by Bimal Gurung seeking separate Gorkhaland state, was called off.

india Updated: Sep 27, 2017 10:52 IST
Pramod Giri
Pramod Giri
Hindustan Times, Siliguri
Rajnath Singh,Darjeeling,Gorkha Janmukti Morcha
Union home minister Rajnath Singh (extreme Left) meeting Darjeeling BJP MP S S Ahluwalia and Gorkha leaders at his New Delhi residence earlier this month. (HT File Photo)

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) late Tuesday evening announced it was calling off the indefinite strike in the Darjeeling hills to push for a separate Gorkhaland state after an appeal by Union home minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi.

Singh had issued a statement earlier in the evening asking the Union home secretary to convene an official level meeting to discuss all related issues for a separate Gorkhaland state while appealing to the GJM withdraw the indefinite strike in Darjeeling hills.

“The home minister had said a meeting would be held within a fortnight so we are calling off the bandh from 6 am tomorrow (Wednesday). Normal life will return to Darjeeling from 6 am on Wednesday,” GJM chief Bimal Gurung who is on the run, told HT from an undisclosed location.

Read: Mamata criticises Rajnath’s meet with GJM leader, BJP hits back

The hills of north Bengal have remained crippled under the indefinite bandh that started on June 15 after police raided an office of the GJM and Gurung’s residence.

“I have asked the home secretary to convene an official level meeting in the home ministry within a fortnight to discuss all related issues. I also appeal to the GJM and its leader Bimal Gurung to withdraw the ongoing bandh and to help create a conducive atmosphere for allowing normalcy to return to the area, particularly in view of the festive season,” said Singh in a statement Tuesday evening.

For over 100 days now, everything in the hills from markets to schools, business establishments to entertainment zones have remained closed causing untold misery to the people.

A vehicle in flames after it was set on fire by protesters in Darjeeling in June this year. ( PTI Photo )

Various hill parties have been demanding a tripartite meeting and urged chief minister Mamata Banerjee to work towards one. Gorkhaland supporters have been demanding that the Centre should immediately start discussions.

The home minister’s statement did not mention whether the meeting would be a tripartite one.

“In a democracy, dialogue is the only way out to resolve any problem,” Singh’s statement said.

A team of Gorkhaland supporters had met Singh thrice in Delhi. The last one was on September 19.

Read: GJM team meets Rajnath Singh, demands tripartite talks on Gorkhaland

In an earlier meeting on August 13, Singh had told the agitators to speak to Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee who has vowed not to allow another partition of Bengal.

GJM, the largest political party in the hills that is also an ally of the NDA, viewed it as a betrayal of the Gorkha cause.

GJM chief Bimal Gurung and a few senior leaders of the party are on the run after they were charged under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in a few cases of explosions in Darjeeling.

Read: Hills on the edge: Police excesses have reopened Darjeeling’s old wounds

The criminal investigations department (CID) of Bengal Police arrested three GJM leaders D K Pradhan, PT Ola and Trilokchand Roka from Gurgaon on September 22. The three were a part of the delegation that met Rajnath Singh.

There have been a couple of unsuccessful bilateral meetings between the agitators and Mamata Banerjee where she had assured the agitators that the government would explore whether it was possible to call a tripartite meeting to discuss the impasse.

The state administration Monday night decided to lift the restrictions on use of internet services in Darjeeling and Kalimpong, which were imposed on June 18.

First Published: Sep 26, 2017 19:58 IST