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61 days on, Gorkhaland agitators consider withdrawing stir after meeting Rajnath

Union home minister Rajnath Singh reportedly asked a GMCC delegation to explore peaceful ways to achieve statehood. Noting the widespread damage done to public property in the last two months, he also denounced attempts to resolve issues through violence.

kolkata Updated: Aug 14, 2017 15:02 IST
Pramod Giri
Pramod Giri
Hindustan Times, Darjeeling
Gorkhaland activists resist detention by police during a protest near Parliament recently. (AP photo)

The Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC) is likely to consider the Union government’s appeal to withdraw the ongoing agitation for statehood that has crippled life in the Darjeeling hills for the last 61 days.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh reportedly asked a GMCC delegation to explore peaceful ways to achieve their objective during a meeting on Sunday evening. Its members will now discuss the situation in telephonic consultation with Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) president Bimal Gurung on Monday afternoon, said GMCC chief coordinator Kalyan Dewan.

The delegation that met Singh comprised leaders from the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM) and Gorkhaland Rajya Nirman Morcha (GRNM) – besides the GJM. “The Union home minister appealed to us to withdraw the ongoing agitation. We will consider it in today’s meeting,” Dewan told HT.

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.

Though the GMCC leaders were not happy with the outcome of the meeting, sources said they were likely to “respect” Singh’s appeal by first withdrawing the fast-unto-death agitation launched by GJM youth wing members nearly two months ago. Twelve youngsters in Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong and Mirik had launched the indefinite hunger strike on July 21.

The GMCC has found itself in an awkward situation ever since the Centre washed its hands of the statehood issue, pushing it into the Mamata government’s court. The 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. 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 Saturday. 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.

First Published: Aug 14, 2017 15:01 IST