Siliguri, Mar 2: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has appealed for peace in Darjeeling that is roiled by an agitation for separate statehood.
"We want peace to be restored in Darjeeling. We want economic development of Siliguri and Darjeeling. I have discussed with all," Bhattacharjee told a convention of the Centre for Trade Unions. Meanwhile, life is slowly limping back to normal following the suspension of an indefinite shutdown called by the Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha (GJMM). The GJMM sponsored shutdown and hunger strike was withdrawn on Friday following Bhattacharjee's intervention.
The GJMM had launched an economic blockade and started a fast-unto-death programme in the Hills on February 20, demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland to be carved out of the Darjeeling Hills comprising the Dooars region of Jalpaiguri District and certain areas contiguous to it. The shutdown was also called to protest the alleged imposition of the Sixth Schedule status on the Hills and to remove Subash Ghising as the sole administrator of the DGHC.
Articles 244(II) and 275(I) of the Indian Constitution have made a provision for a Sixth Schedule status. The Articles states that if various indigenous groups live in a district or area, then they can be granted Sixth Schedule status and autonomy thereafter.
The GNLF first launched an agitation for a separate state in 1980, but dropped the demand for Sixth Schedule status after New Delhi agreed to confer partial autonomy in 1988 for Nepalese-speaking people.
An agreement was signed between the Central Government, the West Bengal Government and the GNLF, paving the way for an Autonomous Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (ADGHC) in 1988.