Government rules out talks on statehood demand

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Kolkata, Jun 26 (UNI) A day ahead of the crucial dialogues with the agitating Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha(GJM), the West Bengal government today ruled out holding talks on the statehood demand saying "anything short of statehood will be discussed".

"The government will go for talks with an open mind.We are willing to talk any issue short of Gorkhaland," Chief Secretary Amit Kiran Deb told reporters.

He said the government would make its point in favour of an alternative administrative arrangement within the existing framework of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) with a thrust on according greater power to the people in the hills.

"We will have to see how development in the hills can be ensured and how we can take forward the concept of regional autonomy," Mr.Deb said.

However, maintaining his stand, GJM chief Bimal Gurung said in Darjeeling that he would not accept anything short of a Gorkhaland.

"There is no question of accepting any alternative to a separate state. However, our delegation will not seek a discussion on the statehood issue, but it would stress on a tripartite meeting involving the Centre," he said.

"I have instructed the GJM delegation to stick to a one-point agenda to urge Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to take the initiative for tripartite talks," he said.

A four-member GJM delegation, led by Raju Pradhan, would meet Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at the Writers' Buildings to discuss issues relating to Darjeeling.

The delegation was camping in Kolkata since June 25 in response to the Chief Minister's June 18 invitation calling the GJM leadership to come down to the state capital and start negotiation to end the impasse.

The GJM has been demanding a separate state comprising three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong in the hills and Dooars and Siliguri in the foothills.

However, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee as well as the Centre had already ruled out the possibility of conceding the demand.

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