Buddhadeb rejects separate Gorkhaland demand (With ‘Shutdown for Gorkhaland cripples life in Darjeeling’)

June 10th, 2008 - 7:08 pm ICT by IANS  


Kolkata, June 10 (IANS) Maintaining that Darjeeling was an integral part of West Bengal, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee Tuesday rejected the demand for carving the hill district out as a separate Gorkhaland state. He said the issue can be solved through talks if Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) activists stayed away from the shutdown in the hill district that began Tuesday morning.

“We can offer better financial assistance and administrative control to the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC). But we can’t accept their demand for a separate Gorkhaland state in the region,” Bhattacharjee told reporters here.

“It’s not at all desirable if the shutdown continues in the hills. The West Bengal government is ready to discuss the issue with the GJM supporters,” he added.

“Last time GJM representatives came to discuss the issue, I urged them to withdraw their demand. But they went back. I already had a dialogue with Delhi regarding the ongoing agitation there.”

He said that Darjeeling is an integral part of West Bengal and people, both from the hills and the plains, had an enriching experience of living together for several years.

Bhattacharjee said the government offices were closed and all administrative activities had come to a halt due to the shutdown in three sub-divisions - Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong.

“Tourists, including several foreigners, are facing a harrowing time there due to the indefinite shutdown. We are trying our best to send them back to their respective destinations,” he said.

Darjeeling was the summer capital of British India till 1911, when the capital was shifted to Delhi from Kolkata.

The verdant hills and the Himalayan toy train service are prime attraction for tourists across the world who flock to the region during summers.

The GJM called for an indefinite shutdown in Darjeeling from Tuesday demanding a separate Gorkhaland state.

The GJM, led by its president Bimal Gurung, has been spearheading a movement in the hills for a separate state and also opposing the Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling district.

The central government in 2005 conferred the Sixth Schedule status on the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF)-led DGHC that ensures greater autonomy to the governing body.

The DGHC was formed in 1988 through an agreement between the central and state governments and the GNLF after the hills witnessed violence for about two years.

“We demand a separate state to get a clear identity for the Darjeeling district. There is no development in the region. We have no university and medical college in Darjeeling and most of our youths are also unemployed here,” GJM general secretary Roshan Giri said.

Giri said the state government should respect the views of common people living in the hills.

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