GJM rejects Buddhadeb’s condition

“Our demand for a separate state should be the sole issue in future discussions”
Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said here on Tuesday that talks could be held with the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) leadership only if it dropped its demand for a separate state.
The GJM was demanding a state of Gorkhaland to be carved out of the Darjeeling hills and certain areas contiguous to it.
An indefinite bandh in the region called by the party to highlight the demand brought normal life to a virtual standstill in the hills resulting in an exodus of tourists from there. There were also reports of stray incidents of violence in some parts of the Dooars where the bandh was observed.
“We are prepared for discussions — whether they be tripartite or bipartite — but only if they drop the demand for a separate state and I repeat my appeal to the GJM leaders to do so,” Mr. Bhattacharjee said.Bandh to continue
The GJM leadership rejected the condition and said the bandh that had first been called for a day on Monday but subsequently extended indefinitely would continue.
“Our demand for a separate state should be the sole issue in future discussions with the Centre and the State Government,” Roshan Giri, GJM general secretary, told The Hindu over telephone from the Darjeeling hills.
The demand was “unacceptable” and could not be entertained, Biman Bose, chairman of the Left Front committee and Secretary of the West Bengal Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said.
The Chief Minister expressed concern over developments in the hills in the wake of the bandh call. “What is happening there at this moment should not go on…Besides government offices becoming non-functional, tourists — both domestic and foreign — are being greatly inconvenienced and we are doing our utmost to bring them down from the hills,” he said.
The GJM leadership had on Monday asked all tourists in the hills to leave within two days following the bandh call.Tea gardens
Mr. Bhattacharjee regretted that there were threats of closing down tea gardens. “Work in the tea gardens could be affected at a time when the season for plucking of leaves takes place,” he said.
The State government had also contacted the Centre and informed it of the developments in the hills after receiving a message from the Sikkim Government urging for action as the roads leading to that State were closed to traffic by bandh supporters. These roads pass through the Darjeeling hills.
Mr. Bhattacharjee said that at a previous meeting with GJM leaders he had assured them that his government was willing to grant greater administrative and financial powers to the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC). It was also pointed out to them then that their plans to include Siliguri, Terai and the Dooars within the ambit of their agitation could not be supported as that went against the wishes of a majority of people in these areas.
“The GJM leaders were told that there is no reason why the people of the hills and the plains should not co-exist as they have been doing so all along for the sake of peace and development in the region,” the Chief Minister said. (The Hindu)

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