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Thursday, Aug 22, 2019

Mamata Banerjee meets Gorkhaland agitators today, future of GJM on the line?

The question before the Gorkhaland protesters and Mamata Banerjee -- when will the shutdown end?

kolkata Updated: Sep 12, 2017 11:10 IST
Pramod Giri
Pramod Giri
Hindustan Times
Protesters in Darjeeling demand a separate state of Gorkhaland.
Protesters in Darjeeling demand a separate state of Gorkhaland.(PTI)

Acrucial meeting between Mamata Banerjee and Gorkhaland agitators on Tuesday afternoon will be held under the shadow of two questions -- when will the shutdown end and with the demand for a tripartite meeting rising among all hill parties, what exactly could the two-party meetings yield.

While leaders of four parties met Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Friday in Delhi with the request to hold a tripartite meeting, even expelled Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leaders such as Binoy Tamang and Anit Thapa have publicly said that the bipartite meeting has to pave the way for a tripartite meeting, failing which, they would resort to hunger strike.

The other question, a more popular one, is about ending the 90-day shutdown .

Banerjee chairs Tuesday’s meeting in Siliguri to restore normalcy in Darjeeling hills. This would be the second meeting after the one in state secretariat on August 29.

Hill leaders who represented in the last meeting -- Gorkha National Liberation Front, Jan Andolan Party and two Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leaders who have subsequently been expelled from the party.

However, the biggest political party GJM, led by Bimal Gurung, has not yet been invited. The GJM chief told HT earlier that the bandh will continue till the Centre calls a tripartite meeting to discuss the creation of a separate state.

The bandh began on June 15. On June 19, the administration suspended Internet services in the hills. Following a meeting of the agitators with Rajnath Singh on August 13, GJM withdrew its fast unto death programme in the hills. But life continues to be paralysed for a record three months at a stretch.

Though none is saying it officially, hill leaders belonging to different parties told HT unless GJM is taken on board, it would be nearly impossible for the state government to usher in peace in the hills.

BJP Bengal president, Dilip Ghosh, has said any solution to the hill problem is not possible keeping Bimal Gurung out.

Attempts by former GJM leaders, Binay Tamang and Anit Thapa after the August 29 meeting to withdraw the bandh failed as the GJM expelled them from the party. Since then both Tamang and Thapa have mellowed down their stand on the ongoing bandh.

Though Trinamool Congress leaders, police and administration have been unsuccessfully trying to convince people to withdraw the shutdown, the fate of the bandh would largely depend on what Gurung and his followers would do.

Sensing the mood of the people, Tamang and Thapa have already announced that they would sit for fast unto death if tripartite meeting is not called after Tuesday’s bilateral meeting.

“The state government did not response to the letter I sent on September 8 to the chief minister requesting her to call GJM for Tuesday’s meeting. Three GJM’s MLAs on Saturday delivered a letter at the chief minister’s Kalighat office in Kolkata,” said Jyoti Kumar Rai, GJM assistant general secretary.

“We are yet to get any response,” said Amar Singh Rai, MLA from Darjeeling.

First Published: Sep 12, 2017 11:07 IST

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