Bimal Gurung calls tourists to visit Darjeeling

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Darjeeling, Oct 24 (UNI) A day after suspending the "cultural" agitation to pave way for peaceful talks on "statehood" demand, the GJM today called upon vacationers to visit Darjeeling.

''Tourists will not be harmed as Darjeeling's economy depended on them,'' Gorkha Janmukti Morcha's president Bimal Gurung said.

''Tourists will be informed in advance whenever we take a political move or any other mode of protest for our statehood demand,'' Gurung told a private TV channel.

An average of 5.5 to six lakh travellers visit Darjeeling every year, of whom 80 per cent are Bengali tourists.

Feeling the pinch of protracted agitation for statehood and subsequent worldwide economic slowdown, the GJM,relenting to pressure from hoteliers, transporters and travel agents, suspended the agitation till further orders.

''Visitors are welcome to Darjeeling and their safe passage is assured,'' Gurung averred.

Darjeeling's mall, a common meeting point for vacationers and overlooking the majestic Kanchunjunga, wore a desolate look.

Soon after meeting West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi at his summer house here on Wednesday evening, Gurung suspended the agitation of replacement of number plates of vehicles and defacing hoardings and sign boards in the hills.

The GJM calls these a move to rouse pride among the Gorkhas and their identity and hence named it a "cultural move" to secure their rightful place in India.

Gurung clarified that there may not be any agitation in the near future but talks would continue with the government on "disputed issues" related to Darjeeling.

The second phase of the tri-partite talks among the Union government, the Government of West Bengal and GJM, is expected to be held by second week of November in New Delhi as a follow up of the first such talks held in September.

''There may be 15 or 20 rounds of talks in future and we will move accordingly,'' he added.

Every year this time the hills are alive with tourists but the agitation on statehood and opposition to it in the plains spelled a gloomy economy for the locals.

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