Mamata hopes to end Darjeeling stand-off
Kolkata: An hour-long meeting on Tuesday between three most important political parties of Darjeeling that are demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee decided to take steps to withdraw the bandh that had been continuing for the past 78 days.
The decision on withdrawal of the strike will be taken in a meeting of the central committee after members of the political parties return to Darjeeling. But all the political parties from the Hills have unanimously agreed to restore peace in Darjeeling during the meeting headed by the Chief Minister at Nabanna on Tuesday.
Expressing her satisfaction over the hour-long "positive and cordial meeting" with leaders of major political parties including Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) and Jana Andolan Party (JAP), Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said: "The door for dialogue has opened and the dialogue will continue."
There will be a meeting again at 3 pm on September 12 in the state government's administrative headquarters in North Bengal — Uttar Kanya — with members of the political party on the issue.
She said: "GJM, GNLF and JAP have raised the issue of Gorkhaland as it is their prerogative and they have their right to raise their voice in a democracy. However, we have clearly stated that we will not discuss the issue of Gorkhaland and at the end everybody agreed to the point that we want to restore normalcy for which the process has started with today's (Tuesday) interaction. The dialogue and regular interaction will continue."
Stating that the state government has requested them to withdraw the bandh at the earliest as it is continuing for the past so many days and hampering development work, the Chief Minister said: "All in the meeting are in favour of restoration of peace in the Hills. But they have to speak to other members of their respective parties to take a decision on withdrawing the indefinite strike that has adversely affected the tea sector, education, transport and tourism sector. Withdrawal of the bandh is essential to give respite to the people of the Hills."
She further stated: "They have asked the state government to recommend the Centre to declare Gorkhaland. But the point was made quite clear earlier as well as today (Tuesday) that nothing as such is going to happen."
Banerjee said that her government didn't believe in "bulldozing or suppressing someone's voice" as it is one's fundamental right. "So let them take their time and discuss with other members of their party on the issue of withdrawing the bandh. It was their programme to call a bandh for an indefinite period. So we cannot bulldoze anyone but there is humble submission of ours to withdraw the bandh," the Chief Minister said.
In connection with the initiation of reconstruction work in Darjeeling, the Chief Minister said it would be done once the peace is restored and the bandh is withdrawn.
GJM leader Binay Tamang stated: "We will be returning to Darjeeling tomorrow (Wednesday) and a meeting of the central committee has been called in where the decision regarding withdrawal of bandh will be taken. But we agree to the point of immediate restoration of peace in the Hills."
He further said that the meeting was held in a very cordial atmosphere and they have given a memorandum to the Chief Minister mentioning all their chartered demands that include permanent solution to the Gorkhaland issue. Demanding strong action by the administration into the series of bomb blasts in Darjeeling, he condemned the incident.
Echoing Tamang's thoughts, JNLF leader Mahendra Chetri said they had sent a letter to the Chief Minister a few days ago considering that normalcy needs to be restored in the Hills and the dialogue would help in improving the prevailing situation.