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After 2 months, Gorkha leaders ready for talks with West Bengal govt

LiveMint logoLiveMint 20-08-2017 Arkamoy Dutta Majumdar

Kolkata: For the first time in over two months, Gorkha leaders in Darjeeling are exploring ways to wind down their agitation. After spurning offers for talks with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, even hardliners such as the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) president Bimal Gurung are now willing to hold talks with the state government.

Last Sunday, Gorkha leaders got an audience with Union home minister Rajnath Singh, following which it became clear that the centre will not intervene and a solution to the standoff could emerge only through discussions with Banerjee, said key Gorkha leaders in Darjeeling.

“To honour the home minister’s appeal, we are ready to hold talks with the state government,” said Kalyan Dewan, a leader of the GJM and the convener of the co-ordination committee helming the movement. Dewan clarified that he was speaking both as the leader of the movement and as a spokesperson for Gurung.

However, the Gorkhas remain firm in their demand for Gorkhaland. Banerjee, however, has ruled out carving out a separate state for the Nepali-speaking community of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts.

Goutam Deb, state minister for tourism, said violence must stop, referring to explosions on Friday and Saturday nights in which one civic police volunteer in Kalimpong died.

The state government was always willing to hold talks with the Gorkha leaders to resolve the impasse peacefully, but it is impossible to start a constructive dialogue unless violence abated, said Deb, indicating that the state was in no hurry to start the process.

Key government officials in Darjeeling said the indefinite strike has taken a huge toll on the local people, whose confidence in its outcome is now shaken. The Gorkha leaders had expected that because of their support to the Bharatiya Janata Party, the centre would be sympathetic towards their demands, they said, asking not to be named.

The stand taken by the centre is a major setback for the Gorkha leadership, said the government officials cited above, referring to the U-turn over talking to the state government. “They are now looking for an honourable exit,” one of them said.

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