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Darjeeling talks: Separate Gorkhaland beyond our jurisdiction, says Mamata

Mamata Banerjee’s remarks indicate that the agitators can’t have much hope for Gorkhaland. Union home minister Rajnath Singh had earlier asked the agitators to approach the Bengal chief minister.

kolkata Updated: Aug 29, 2017 20:05 IST
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Protesters in Delhi shout slogans in support of their demand for a separate Gorkhaland. Protests have taken place in many cities across India.(Sushil Kumar/HT PHOTO)

An hour-long meeting on Tuesday between three most significant political parties of Darjeeling that are demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee failed to decide on a date for withdrawing the indefinite shutdown that has been continuing in the hills since June 15.

Though the parties raised their demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland, the chief minister said the government made it clear that it was beyond their jurisdiction.

“They raised the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland. Everyone has the democratic right to place a demand. But we made it clear that it was beyond our jurisdiction,” Mamata said after the meeting.

“Gorkhaland is their issue, and also their sentiment. But we also have our compulsions,” the chief minister said at a press conference.

In an audio statement issued from an undisclosed location, GJM president Bimal Gurung said, “The indefinite shutdown will continue. It will be lifted only after talks begin on the creation of the state of Gorkhaland. If anybody lifts the bandh, he will do so at his own risk.”

Gurung went into hiding after cases were filed against him under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Meanwhile, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) coordinator Binay Tamang said, “Gorkhaland is a century old issue that we raised. The state government has given its views. Now we will go back, discuss and decide the future course of action.”

In short, Mamata’s remarks indicate that the agitators can’t have much hope for Gorkhaland. On August 13, Union home minister Rajnath Singh told the agitators in Delhi that they should approach the Bengal chief minister for talks. The message was clear -- the Centre was not interested in carving out a separate state.

Tamang also said the issue of lifting the bandh will be a part of matters to be discussed among the hill parties.

The GJM, Gorkha National Liberation Front and Jan Andolan Party representatives were present at the meeting. The chief secretary, home secretary and ministers Partha Chatterjee, Aroop Biswas and Indranil Sen were also present.

“The meeting was positive and the atmosphere was cordial. The dialogue for restoring normalcy has begun. The next meeting will be held in Uttarkanya (in Siliguri) on September 12,” said the chief minister.

“All the parties agreed to restoring normalcy. Let them take time,” Mamata said.

So far, nine persons have lost their lives in the agitation that became violent intermittently since June 8 when violence began in Darjeeling in presence of the chief minister.

“We have requested the hill parties to lift the bandh. But they have to decide. We can only appeal to them,” the chief minister said.

First Published: Aug 29, 2017 18:52 IST