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Mamata Banerjee rejects demand for separate Gorkhaland state

LiveMint logoLiveMint 29-08-2017 Arkamoy Dutta Majumdar

Kolkata: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday rejected the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland, saying the matter was not within her jurisdiction, but Gorkha leaders said after holding talks with her that they were hopeful of a solution.

In a memorandum submitted to the state government, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), the dominant party in the Hills, said experiments with autonomous bodies had failed to fulfil the expectations of the Nepali-speaking community of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts, and that creation of Gorkhaland was the only “lasting and permanent” solution.

It appealed to the chief minister to “rationally” consider interim demands such as withdrawal of criminal cases against key leaders so that the political dialogue could continue and a consensus built on a “plausible permanent solution”.

Banerjee said the next round of discussions will be held in Siliguri on 12 September.

The state appealed to the Gorkha leaders to withdraw their indefinite strike which is approaching 80 days and restore normalcy, the chief minister said. They said a decision is to be taken after consultation with all stakeholders in Darjeeling on Wednesday. But they are under pressure to end the blockade, which has taken a toll on the local people.

“It is irrational to wind down the agitation programme when the demand for Gorkhaland was not even discussed,” said Kalyan Dewan, a GJM leader and convener of the co-ordination committee helming the movement.

GJM president Bimal Gurung was more dismissive of the proposal, saying that there was no question of withdrawing the strike immediately.

Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the founder of Jan Andolan Party, said the chances of reviving the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA), an autonomous body, were “slim”. The GTA was dissolved this month after a term of five years. The dialogue must continue and the impasse resolved through other means, he said, emerging from the meeting with the chief minister and other key lawmakers and officials.

Condemning violence, GJM urged the state government to order an independent probe by the National Investigation Agency into attacks on police personnel and bomb blasts. “It is surprising that incidents (of violence) have been directly linked to the GJM and some of our leaders without proper investigation,” the memorandum said.

The chief minister didn’t take kindly to the proposal seeking probe by a central agency, said two officials in Kolkata, who asked not to be named.

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