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Gorkhaland: BJP leaders visit Darjeeling, claims credit for ending 104-day strike

LiveMint logoLiveMint 04-10-2017 Arkamoy Dutta Majumdar

Kolkata: Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claimed credit for ending the 104-day strike in Darjeeling, its leaders visiting the troubled district on Wednesday came under pressure to clarify their stand on the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland to be carved out of West Bengal.

On Wednesday, while visiting Darjeeling for the first time since agitation intensified in early June, BJP’s state president Dilip Ghosh and other local leaders claimed that the strike ended last week only because the union home minister Rajnath Singh committed to holding talks with Gorkha leaders.

Their job was to assess the ground situation ahead of the talks, but they faced protests from Gorkha leaders from various factions, who demanded clarity on whether the Centre was willing to discuss Gorkhaland—now the key demand of local leaders.

Ghosh has previously said several times that the BJP was opposed to carving up West Bengal.

In Kalimpong town, the visitors faced protests led by Harka Bahadur Chhetri, president of the Jan Andolan Party (JAP). “Where were they when Darjeeling was shut for 104 days?” asked Chhetri. “Did they say anything at all when Gorkhas laid down their lives in the fight for Gorkhaland?”

The union home minister had in his statement promising talks with the Gorkhas admitted that 11 persons were killed in the unrest since early June.

The Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) joined the JAP in slamming the BJP, saying S.S. Ahluwalia, the party’s MP from Darjeeling, had failed the people of his own constituency. “We have had enough of false promises,” said Niraj Zimba, a spokesperson for the GNLF. “We now want some clear answers.”

Binoy Tamang, the ousted leader of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), had in the run-up to Ghosh’s visit to Darjeeling said BJP leaders will face protests if they do not come clean on the demand for Gorkhaland. People of Darjeeling have given up on the BJP, GNLF’s Zimba said on Wednesday.

Only Bimal Gurung, the fugitive president of the GJM, welcomed the BJP delegation’s visit to Darjeeling. However, asked if he was to meet Gurung, BJP’s Ghosh said a meeting was unlikely because he was on the run.

Even Gurung has made it clear that the only solution to the problem in Darjeeling is the creation of a separate state.

Ghosh on Wednesday sidestepped questions on Gorkhaland, saying that the Gorkhas had a charter of 17 demands, which are to be discussed at the home ministry, and that a solution can emerge only through tripartite discussions involving the state and the Centre.

The Trinamool Congress joined the tirade against the BJP. Local leader and the state’s tourism minister Gautam Deb said Ghosh’s visit to Darjeeling will only foment more trouble. Let the BJP first clarify its stand on the hills, he added.

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