Jaswant bats for Gorkhaland

NEW DELHI/SILIGURI: Darjeeling’s BJP MP Jaswant Singh has said the Centre should realise the strategic importance of Gorkhaland.

“The demand is for a small state within the country. It is very important to remember that it is the only district in the country which actually adjoins three international borders and is very close to the fourth,” Singh said while releasing a book, Why Gorkhaland? in New Delhi on Thursday. He added that BJP had always favoured small states.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), meanwhile, has decided to allow educational institutions, tea gardens and the Cinchona plantation to function normally from July 20 onwards. The decision was taken at an emergency meeting of its central committee on Friday.

Apparently, GJM’s decision was influenced by requests from the Union government and its ally, BJP. A letter was again sent on Thursday by the Union government, inviting GJM for talks. But it asserted that the atmosphere should be made conducive first, including the opening of National Highway 31A. Even Jaswant Singh and BJP’ national spokesperson, Rajiv Pratap Rudi, had requested GJM to exercise restraint in the run-up to the talks scheduled for August 24 in Delhi.

NH-31A, Sikkim’s lifeline, to open for five days from Saturday. However, it has issued a rider that only those vehicles with Sikkim number plates will be allowed to operate and not the West Bengal ones. “We have blood relations with Sikkim and they have also supported our agitation. Therefore, we have decided to open NH-31A for five days,” said Benoy Tamang, the GJM assistant secretary. However, shops, markets and petrol pumps on NH-31A, which fall under Darjeeling, will not be allowed to open.

GJM’s indefinite strike, which started on Tuesday, entered its fifth day on Friday and no untoward incident was reported.

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