Second round of bipartite talk fails to break the Hill bandh ice
Siliguri, September 12, 2017: Amidst West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee stressing on the need to work out a permanent solution to the Darjeeling impasse other than separation from Bengal and the Gorkha agitators requesting the CM to initiate tripartite talks for Gorkhaland, the ongoing unrest in the Hills including the bandh is all set to continue.
The second round of bipartite talks between the State Government and political parties of the Hills saw the State agreeing to certain demands put forward by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM.) The meeting held at Uttarkanya, the mini Secretariat near Siliguri, was dubbed "positive" by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
"The Hills have their sentiment. In a democracy people can voice their opinion, ventilate their angers and raise issues that they want. However every now and then we cannot have unrest. We have to look for a permanent solution to the problem. We have to remember that the Hills are an integral part of West Bengal. We have been living together for ages and will continue doing so. We will work out a solution to the impasse and the Hill parties should also come up with suggestions. The process of dialogue is continuous. We will have the next round of talks on October 16 at Nabannya. Normality and peace will have to be restored in the Hills" stated the CM.
Meanwhile GJM President Bimal Gurung stated that till tripartite talks are not initiated for Gorkhaland, the bandh will not be lifted.
In the audio clip sent to media person from an undisclosed location, Gurung stated "Gorkhaland was not discussed in the meeting at Uttarkanya on Tuesday. I will appeal to the public to lift the bandh only when tripartite talks begin for Gorkhaland will He further stated that the ongoing indefinite bandh was not called by him.
"The bandh was called by Binay Tamang. People have been harassed. Students have not attended school and tea gardens have been closed for the past three months. Binay Tamang will have to come out in public and clarify his status" demanded Gurung.
Gurung alleged that Tamang and Anit Thapa are working on the behest of the State Government. "We have public representatives including Civic Board Chairmen but they were not allowed to attend the talks." stated Gurung. Rebel GJM leaders Binay Tamang, Anit Thapa and 4 others were present in the talks representing the GJM. The MLAs of Darjeeling and Kalimpong were also present.
The GJM submitted a memorandum featuring 17 demands. Ministers including Moloy Ghatak, Jyotipriyo Mullick, Gautam Deb will sit in a meeting on Thursday to discuss the implementation of minimum wages for tea garden workers. The Tea Associations will also be called for discussing bonus issue of the Hill gardens. High level inquiry will be conducted in the ongoing spate of IED blasts in the Hills along with. Along with this there will be an inquiry into the alleged killing of Gorkhaland agitators in police firing.
The State will provide compensation to the next of kin of the dead and injured in the unrest.
Special provisions will be made for admission of Hill students who faced problems because of the unrest. Registration for students of different boards will be facilitated.
Government employees who join service by September 15 will be given one month advance salary for the festivals. Winter allowance will be given to teachers during the winter months. PDS will be restored in the Hills soon." stated the CM.
Incidentally all these issues were featured in the GJM memorandum. "The meeting has been very fruitful. We request the State Government to initiate tripartite talks for Gorkhaland. The CM has assured the house that she will look into the legal modalities for holding tripartite talks" stated Tamang.
Other hill parties namely the Gorkha National Liberation Front, Jan Andolan Party, All India Gorkha League attended the talks.
The Hill parties stressed on the need for immediate tripartite talks. "Both the administrative bodies- the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council and later the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration were utter failures. The DGHC Act and the GTA Act should be repealed. The aspiration of the people is Gorkhaland. As the CM has categorically stated that the issue is not within the purview of the State, she should initiate steps for tripartite talks with the Union Government" stated Harka Bahadur Chettri, President, Jan Andolan Party.
Chettri stated that more Hill parties should participate in talks henceforth. "In that way all present will share equal responsibility for whatever conclusion emerges in the meetings"
Amar Rai, the GJM MLA from Darjeeling stated "Only tripartite talks can resolve the deep rooted problem of the Hills. People in the Hills have suffered and are still suffering; economy is in shambles along with education. Peace and normality has to be restored but it is a two way process. The District Administration and Government should give serious thoughts to confidence building."
When questioned on the fate of the bandh, Rai stated "We will go back to Darjeeling and discuss this issue." The ongoing indefinite bandh hit the 90 day mark on Tuesday.