Talks between Gorkhaland activists, government a ’success’

February 12th, 2009 – 11:47 pm ICT by IANS

Kolkata, Feb 12 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee Thursday had a fresh round of discussions with the Gorkhaland activists as the two sides claimed the meeting was a success.
But the pro-Gorkhaland outfit, Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM), gave no commitment on withdrawing its fast-unto-death in Kalimpong.

Briefing newspersons after a 90-minute meeting, where he was present, state Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen said the parleys were “successful”.

GJM general secretary Roshan Giri, who led the delegation, conceded that the deliberations were held in a congenial atmosphere. “We had walked out of the meeting in the previous round. The chief minister seemed more adamant then. Today he was more flexible.”

GJM president Bimal Gurung, who did not attend the meeting, later said from Darjeeling that the “meeting had made great progress”.

Sen said the government would soon announce a compensation package for those in the Dooars of North Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district whose property had been damaged in the recent flare-up between the GJM and the anti-Gorkhaland Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Bikash Parishad (ABABP).

The government was reviewing the cases of the GJM activists arrested during the violence. “Some of the arrested have been released. We are taking steps to release the others also,” Sen said.

The government also briefed the GJM about the steps it had taken to reopen the 12 tea gardens in the Dooars and others in Darjeeling which are closed for quite some time.

“We have informed them of the various steps we have taken and propose to take. An additional secretary from the centre is also coming. We will do our best to open as many gardens as possible,” Sen said.

Bhattacharjee said the government would ensure the safety and security of GJM supporters in Dooars and the plains of Terai.

“We told them that we have requested New Delhi for an early round of tri-partite discussions,” the home secretary said.

However, the GJM’s demand that it be allowed to hold meetings in the Dooars remained a sore point, with the government putting its foot down on the plea that the Dooars situation was not yet conducive to holding meetings.

“There is still tension. So, we cannot give such permission from the point of safety and security.”

Sen expressed the hope that the GJM activists, who have been on a fast-unto-death since Jan 29 at Gorubathan in Kalimpong sub-division of Darjeeling district, would withdraw the agitation.

But Giri said: “Let the government translate the promises they made into practice. We will get back to our president Bimal Gurung. Our president and the party’s central committee will decide.”

Giri demanded that the tea gardens be run properly by forming workers’ cooperative.

Two people were killed and 20 injured in clashes between the GJM and ABABP over the former’s attempts to make inroads into the Dooars and the Terai with the demand that the areas be included in the proposed Gorkahland.

The GJM, led by Bimal Gurung, has been leading a movement in the hills for a separate Gorkhaland state, besides opposing special status to the hill governing body Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC).

The central government in 2005 conferred the Sixth Schedule status on the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF)-led Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), ensuring greater autonomy to the governing body.

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