GJM calls separate all-party meet as Bhattacharjee rules out Gorkhaland (Night Lead)

June 17th, 2008 - 7:56 am ICT by IANS  


Siliguri/Kolkata, June 16 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee Monday ruled out considering the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state, even as the hill areas of the state shut down in response to a call by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha(GJM). The demand for Gorkhaland may be raised at an all-party meeting on the Darjeeling issue scheduled Tuesday in Kolkata, but the government will not consider the demand, Bhattacharjee said Monday evening.

“We are open to all possible negotiations with other parties and the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) to restore peace and democratic atmosphere in Darjeeling district. If any party wants Gorkhaland, it can place the demand at the meeting Tuesday. But we will not consider it,” the chief minister told reporters after a sitting of the cabinet Core Committee at Writer’s Buildings - the seat of the state government - in Kolkata Monday.

“We are always ready to help GJM with other issues of the hills apart from Gorkhaland,” Bhattacharjee.

Countering the government’s decision to keep it away from the all-party meeting Tuesday in Kolkata, the GJM has convened a separate all-party meet in the hills Tuesday to discuss the Darjeeling situation.

GJM publicity secretary Benoy Tamang said after his party’s central committee meeting that West Bengal’s ruling Communist Pary of India-Marxist and the Gorkha National Liberation Front would not be invited for the all-party deliberations.

“The meeting will discuss the Darjeeling situation and get the views of the other parties on the Gorkhaland issue,” he said.

The parties invited include the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League, Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists, Gorkha National Liberation Front (c), the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The GJM, fighting for a separate Gorkhaland state to be carved out of the hill district, convened an indefinite shutdown Monday in the hills.

The GJM had last week Tuesday called for the indefinite shutdown in the hills, but given a 60-hour relaxation Wednesday to enable thousands of stranded tourists reach the plains. The party then deferred the agitation to Monday evening.

Chief Minister Bhattacharjee has separately invited the GJM for a dialogue on June 18. However, the hill party turned down his request and instead called for tripartite talks with the central and state governments.

With the Gorkhaland demand triggering violence in the Darjeeling Hills, Siliguri and the Dooars in the past few days, tea and tourism has been severely hit.

The GJM has been leading the movement in the hills for a separate state, besides opposing the Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling district that ensures greater autonomy to the district’s governing body Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.

Earlier in the day, people rushed to stock up on supplies and trucks snaked up the hills to carry essentials in readiness for the shutdown.

As long queues formed outside shops, the GJM, which Sunday renewed the call for an indefinite shutdown, also stepped up calls for the resignation of state Urban Development Minister Ashok Bhattacharya.

The GJM president called Bhattacharya the mastermind behind the attacks on pro-Gorkhaland activists June 8 at Siliguri and the Dooars and stepped up calls for his arrest.

“The CPI-M men beat up our supporters and ransacked their homes. And they also instigated some Bengali-speaking outfits to attack our workers. We called the shutdown not only to press for a separate Gorkhaland state, but also to force the administration to arrest Bhattacharya and others involved in such atrocities,” Gurung told IANS from Darjeeling.

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