Hill parties await official communication for talks following CM's announcement
Darjeeling, August 22, 2017: In response to a letter by the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) to open up a dialogue to resolve the ongoing Darjeeling impasse, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has called for a meeting of Hill parties in Kolkata on August 29 at 4pm.The response comes within 24 hours of GNLF's appeal.
Talking to media persons Mamata Banerjee stated "GNLF had requested for a meeting. The Government is always positive and constructive. We want peace and normalcy to return. Thus we have responded within 24 hours of receipt of the letter. A meeting will be held at Nabanya, the State Secretariat in Howrah on August 29 at 4pm. All positive and constructive parties can attend.
We will call all major political parties including representative of development boards, all those who want to restore peace to attend talks."
The Hills are on an agitation path since June in demand of Gorkhaland. An indefinite bandh has been clamped in the Hills since June 15. The CM claimed that there were many who wanted normalcy to return to the Hills. "Some shops are opening up. Some tea garden workers even want to join work" claimed the CM.
She stated that the Government wants peace. "Despite the heavy losses incurred by the State owing to the agitation and repeated attacks on the police force, security forces have maintained maximum restraint" stated Banerjee.
Earlier the State had called for an meeting of all hill parties on June 22 in Siliguri aimed at resolving the Darjeeling crisis. However none of the pro Gorkhaland parties had attended the meeting. The agitators had declared that there would be no negotiations with the State. The agitators would sit in talks with the Centre only.
The stand of the agitators suffered a major blow when Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in a meeting with pro-Gorkhaland outfits in Delhi on August 12 made it clear that honouring the Federal structure of governance and Home being a State subject, the West Bengal Government would have to open dialogues.
Following this the agitators started showing keen interest to sit in a dialogue with the State Government to resolve the ongoing impasse.
"It is clear that Delhi will not entertain talks on Gorkhaland unless we sit in talks with the State Government. Someone needed to break the ice. The question was who would bell the cat? The GJM and the State Government are poles apart. There are different opinions in the Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee. Hence the GNLF took the initiative to open up dialogue despite the fear of being discredited by the public for this step. However we have kept public interest before the well being of our party" claimed Neeraj Zimba, GNLF Spokesperson.
However the GNLF has decided that they will only attend if there is an official communication from the Government. "We will attend along with all pro Gorkhaland parties. The GNLF will not attend the meeting as a lone party" clarified Zimba.
The letter to the Chief Minister by Mann Ghising, President, GNLF states that "The said indefinite shutdown has reached 66 days, which has totally paralyzed the normal life of the people of the Hill areas of Darjeeling in all respect and also caused extensive damage and has stalled all development work, therefore, I would like to request you for a high level intervention with the view to end the present crisis of the Hill areas of Darjeeling.
My party is deeply concerned about the day by day deteriorating condition of the people of Hill areas of Darjeeling and if this situation is allowed to be continued the system may collapse. I also apprehend that the situation of the Hill areas of Darjeeling will go beyond control if the present crisis is left unattended.
I, therefore humbly request you to kindly open a dialogue immediately to bring back normalcy and restore peace and tranquility in the Hill areas of Darjeeling and oblige."
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha stated that decision would only be taken only after receipt of an official letter of invitation for talks. "We have received no such intimation for talks. Only after we receive the same will we sit in a meeting and decide" stated Binay Tamang, Assistant Secretary, GJM.
The Jan Andolan Party (JAP) stated that they too have not received any official communication regarding the talks. "We feel that all parties should attend the talks and voice their opinion in front of the CM instead of voicing their opinions in inconsequential places like the Chowk Bazar in Darjeeling and Dambar Chowk in Kalimpong. A GMCC meeting should be called immediately where we should decide on our strategy and speak in one voice rather than speaking in different voices in the meeting" stated Dr. Harka Bahadur Chettri, President JAP.
The Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC- a conglomeration of 14 pro Gorkhaland outfits) has stated that official invitation should be sent either to the GJM or the GMCC. "The invitation should come to the appropriate forum. Though GNLF is also a constituent party of the GMCC, the GJM is leading the GMCC and spearheading the ongoing movement. If the Government is sincere about resolving the ongoing crisis then they should invite the actual stakeholders" stated Kalyan Dewan, Convenor GMCC who is also a central committee member of the GJM.
However when asked on the GMCC's stand regarding the GNLF's letter that had prompted the CM to call for talks (the GMCC has also been demanding that the State initiate dialogue) Dewan stated "I do not want to comment. It is their party's stand."
Speculations are rife that the Nabannya meeting will at least end the strike. With the festive season round the corner and time for annual bonus in the tea gardens, the agitators are also eager to lift the bandh.