Gurung doubts no-statehood-in-talks claim – Atmosphere in hills okay: Morcha chief

The Telegraph

Siliguri, Dec. 17: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung does not believe that Bengal home secretary Ardhendu Sen has said Gorkhaland is “not exactly” on the agenda of the December 21 tripartite talks.

Following Sen’s remarks in Delhi yesterday, the Morcha had reacted strongly. The party’s central committee member, Amar Lama, said last night that the state had “no right to set the agenda”, as it was only one of the three parties to the discussions.

Gurung, who reached Dagapur on the outskirts of Siliguri this afternoon where Morcha supporters are on an indefinite hunger strike, said: “The home secretary never made any such comment. We had clarified earlier and want to iterate that we will attend the tripartite talks to discuss only Gorkhaland.”

“Over several years, discussions have been held on development of the hills and we don’t think the tripartite talks have been convened to discuss the same issues again,” the Morcha president said.

At Writers’ Buildings today, Sen said: “The tripartite meeting scheduled on December 21 will be held in Darjeeling. There will be no written agenda. We will discuss whatever they (Morcha) raise. Of course, it does not mean we will agree with all of them.” Along with Sen and chief secretary Ashok Mohan Chakrabarti, director general of police Bhupinder Singh and the Darjeeling district magistrate will participate in the meeting.

Gurung countered the chief secretary’s allegation yesterday that the situation in Darjeeling was “spoiling” the atmosphere ahead of the talks. “What is wrong with the environment?” the Morcha president asked. “Everything is fine in Darjeeling and the officials who will attend the talks will be welcomed with garlands and bouquets.”

He, however, reacted when reminded that the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad was against the inclusion of the Terai and the Dooars in the separate state demanded by the Morcha. The Parishad which has been spearheading the movement against the inclusions, said it had no problem as long as “Gorkhaland” was limited to the three hill subdivisions.

“We have told Buddhababu (chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee) and Mamatadi (Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee) that no one is giving us Gorkhaland from their pockets. We want to repeat the same when it comes to the Terai and Dooars,” Gurung said. “If an indefinite hunger strike by one person can lead to the achievement of Telangana, why should the Centre and state not pay any heed to the contribution of several people on hunger strike at five locations for the past seven days,” he asked.

Gurung was referring to Union home minister P. Chidambaram’s announcement last week for the formation of Telangana, aimed at persuading statehood spearhead K. Chadrasekhar Rao to lift his 11-day fast.

The Morcha chief said the hunger strike and closure of government offices would continue. “If nothing positive comes out of the talks on Monday, we will sit and decide our future course of action,” he added.

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