Blow hot & cold policy after talks ‘victory’ – Morcha lifts liquor ban for Christmas

The Telegraph

Darjeeling, Dec. 22: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today upped the ante and declared that the Centre had to “agree in principle” that the demand for Gorkhaland was genuine for the talks to move forward “smoothly”.

At the same time, buoyed by the fact that it managed to bring Gorkhaland to the negotiating table for the first time, the Morcha felt that it was time to cheer and decided to lift its ban on sale of liquor during the festive season. All liquor shops will remain open till December 25.

Sale of liquor, other than local brew, had been banned in the hills to deprive the state government of excise revenue earnings.

But Morcha leaders said today that in the coming months — at least till the next round of talks which they want at the “political level” — the party would follow a policy of blow-hot and-cold.

Party leaders said it would grant occasional concessions to the government — like the one announced today on keeping liquor shops open temporarily — but at the same time keep up the pressure through its agitation, which would be renewed from December 26.

All government offices, both state and central, which reopened today, would also be forced shut from the day after Christmas.

Asked about the duration of the fresh phase of movement, Morcha spokesperson Harka Bahadur Chhetri said: “In an agitation, sometimes unseen circumstances determine the course it takes. So, it will be premature to say when the announced agitation will end.”

Chhetri said the Morcha wants to send a message to the Centre through this agitation.

“The Centre must be serious about our demand,” Chhetri said. “We might relax the agitation and the talks can move forward smoothly if they come up with a declaration stating that they agree, in principle, to the demand for Gorkhaland. Our demand is not about development, as is the case with Telangana, but about our identity. The Centre must agree that our 102-year-old demand is genuine,” said Chhetri.

When told it may be difficult for the Centre to agree to such a demand, given that all major parties in Bengal are opposed to it, Chhetri said: “The reasons given by Bengal against creation of Gorkhaland are based on sentiments. They have no other reason to oppose our demand.”

On their return from Darjeeling after participating in the tripartite meeting, state chief secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti and home secretary Ardhendu Sen said the issues that had come up during the talks would be discussed with the Centre.

“We have conveyed to the chief minister the contents of our discussion,” Chakrabarti said. “We may further discuss this issue with the Centre.”

“The Gorkhaland issue was discussed,” Sen said. “It will be discussed not only at the Centre and state levels, but also at political level, the level of minister. The outcome will be conveyed to the Morcha.”

For the Morcha, agitation still remains the “surest way” of keeping up the pressure ahead of the next round of talks.

Party general secretary Roshan Giri said: “We believe that the agitation will expedite the process for the formation of Gorkhaland.”

Even Madan Tamang, the president of the ABGL and a Morcha bete noire, described yesterday’s talks as “a victory of the people”.


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