CM extends olive branch, hills boil

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Kolkata/Siliguri, Feb 24 (UNI) West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today appealed to the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) to stop their hunger strike and cooperate with the state government in finding a solution to the problem in the hills.

Talking to newspersons in Kolkata, the Chief Minister said, ''I appeal to the agitators to stop their hunger strike and cooperate with the government in resolving the conflict through peaceful means of holding dialogues.'' Meanwhile, the condition of 20 GJM activists, of the 110 on indefinite hunger strike, deteriorated today, even as the general strike in the hills entered the fifth day.

GJM activists had lifted the strike from 1100 hours to 1500 hours yesterday to enable people buy essentials.

However, GJM general secretary Prasoon Giri said, ''No more relaxation will be provided today and the hunger and general strike will continue till their demands were met.'' The GJM had called the strike at Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong to protest the Sixth Schedule status given to the Hills instead of statehood.

The activists were demanding resignation of Gorkha National Liberation Front chairman Subash Ghisingh, who had struck a deal with the Centre to provide the Sixth Schedule status.

''We will continue with our strike till the Sixth Schedule was cancelled and Mr Ghisingh removed from the post,'' Mr Gurung said.

He also alleged that the GNLF members attacked some of their activists.

The GNLF chief was in Kolkata to hold a meeting with Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on the issue.

Mr Ghisingh, who led the hills in the last 21 years, was denied entry into Darjeeling for striking the deal with the Centre and was kept confined at the Pintail village guest house here. He fled from there under tight security of the North Bengal police.

Meanwhile, GJM spokesperson Binoy Tamang described the GNLF supremo's fleeing to Kolkata as a ''great victory''.

''We are planning to go to Gorkha Bhawan in Kolkata, where Mr Ghising had put up and gherao it. He is like a poison in the hills,'' he said.

Mr Gurung said this bore an ample testimony to the fact that the government was not attaching any importance to their demand of Gorkhaland.

UNI XC DPM BA MSJ KN1438

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