Bandh till Centre calls tripartite meet on Gorkhaland: Bimal Gurung

The GJM chief says his party wants to attend the September 12 meeting convened by the Bengal government but will not suspend the bandh in the Darjeeling hills.

kolkata Updated: Sep 02, 2017 19:34 IST
Pramod Giri
Pramod Giri
Hindustan Times
Gorkhaland,Bimal Gurung,Mamata Banerjee
Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung (above) wants the Centre to convene a tripartite meeting on the Gorkhaland issue. (HT File Photo)

The indefinite shutdown in the Darjeeling hills will continue till the Centre calls a tripartite meeting to discuss the creation of a new state, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) president Bimal Gurung told HT on Saturday.

Gurung also said his party is ready to talk to the Mamata Banerjee government and take part in the meeting in Siliguri on September 12.

This marks a radical shift from Gurung’s position of “not going for any talks” with the state government, especially after the chief minister made it clear on August 29 that only Centre has the power to create a state.

Read: Sikkim Police slap murder charges against Kalimpong police super

“Our party leaders would attend the September 12 meeting to know what exactly the state government has to say about the demand for Gorkhaland,” Gurung told HT over telephone.

However, he also made it clear that the bandh in the Darjeeling hills will continue. “The bandh will continue till the Centre convenes a tripartite meeting,” Gurung said from his hideout which is suspected to be somewhere in Sikkim.

On June 20, Union home minister Rajnath Singh told a team of agitators that the Centre has nothing to do with the demand for a new state and the hill parties should speak to the state government. With the GJM president and the Centre both sticking to their respective stand, it is not clear how long the bandh might continue.

Gorkhaland agitators burning mobile phones in Darjeeling in protest against suspension of internet services in the hills by the state government. (HT File Photo)

Significantly, there has been a change in the political situation since the August 29 meeting between the agitators and the state. GJM chief coordinator Binay Tamang, who led a five-member Morcha team to the meeting, has been expelled by Gurung. Instead of suspending the shutdown - as announced by Tamang in Kurseong - GJM supporters have in fact intensified it.

With this shift in ground reality, the fate of the September 12 meeting has become rather uncertain, hill party leaders feel.

Read: Sikkim police prevent Bengal team from taking away arrested GJM members

Though he was confined in his house after GJM supporters took to the streets on August 1, Binay Tamang has already announced that he would attend the meeting to be held at Uttar Kanya (the state secretariat in north Bengal) on September 12.

Read: Instead of suspending bandh, Gorkhaland agitators step up Darjeeling shutdown

Gurung also wants the state government to invite Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC) for the talks. “The GMCC constituents are working without any vested interest and parties such as Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM) and All India Gorkha League (AIGL) should attend,” said Gurung.

The August 29 meeting was attended only by the GJM, Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) and Jan Andolan Party (JAP) in addition to the ruling Trinamool Congress. GMCC is the conglomeration of 14 pro Gorkhaland political parties and organisations.

Read: GJM headed for split as cracks appear over Darjeeling bandh for separate Gorkhaland state

But what exactly prompted the GJM to shift from its earlier stand and agree to have talks with the state?

Political leaders in the region feel that since the Centre has already stated that agitating parties should talk to the state, GJM has realised it would be futile to bank on the Centre’s support. Also, a section of GJM leaders feel that if they show eagerness to sit for the talks the state might relax the police crackdown.

On Friday, the police not only made several arrests in the hills, but also raided a place near Namchi in Sikkim to arrest Bimal Gurung and other GJM leaders.

JAP president Harka Bahadur Chettri told HT on Saturday that his party hadn’t decided whether it would attend the September 12 talks.

First Published: Sep 02, 2017 19:34 IST