Hill talks shifted to May end

The Telegraph

Darjeeling, April 29: The next round of political-level talks between the Centre, state and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has been postponed to the end of May because of “important issues” presently under discussion in Parliament.

If the Union home ministry had stuck to the earlier deadline of May 14 — that had been set for the second round of political talks — there would have been no time for official-level discussion necessary as a precursor to the tripartite talks.

The last tripartite talks was held in Delhi on March 18.

Lt Gen. (retd) Vijay Madan, the interlocutor appointed by the Centre, in an interaction with The Telegraph, said over the phone from Delhi: “One more round of official-level talks is needed to sort out some contentious issues. Since Parliament is in session till May 7, the official-level talks will be held soon after on a mutually agreed date.”

Madan admitted that the political-level talks would in that case be pushed back by a few days. It could take place on May 25 but the date has not yet been fixed.

“Some very important issues are being discussed in Parliament… But we do not want to undermine the Gorkhaland issue. It is of much importance and the home ministry wants to fully focus on it and this can be done only after the session is over in Parliament,” said Madan.

After the March 18 tripartite talks, the Morcha participated in two more rounds of dialogue, one at the bureaucratic-level on March 29. The last meeting was with home minister P. Chidambaram on April 9. However, with the Morcha sticking to its stand to include the Nepali-dominated areas of the Dooars and the Terai in the proposed interim set-up and the state and the Centre opposed to the idea, the talks had not progressed much.

Morcha president Bimal Gurung has been currently addressing a series of meetings across the Darjeeling hills to spread the message that the party will not accept a set-up without the territories (read Dooars, Terai) it wants. Gurung had also conveyed the same message to Madan during their meeting at Dudhia in Kalimpong last week. Asked about the stalemate, Madan said: “My job is only to listen to the views of all parties concerned. If I have any view I can only express it before the home ministry. Various views are being attributed to me by the media but I have only once spoken on record recently.”

By “on record” Madan was referring to his conversation with The Telegraph where he had said the tripartite meetings would only involve the representatives of the Morcha, state and the central government. “The clarification was needed as it was getting crowded (with demands to be included in the talks),” he said.

The reference was to the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad that had demanded that the next round of tripartite talks should include the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes so that the views of the tribals living in the Dooars and Terai could be aired at the meeting.

During the first round of political talks, the Centre was represented by the minister of state for home affairs Ajay Maken and the Trinamul Congress minister of state for health Dinesh Trivedi. Siliguri MLA and municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya and health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra had represented the state.

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www.kalimpong.info

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