Patkar suggests peace talks between GJM, tribals (Lead)

February 10th, 2009 - 10:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Siliguri (West Bengal), Feb 10 (IANS) Social activist Medha Patkar Tuesday met Gorkha Janamukti Morcha activists, who have been observing a fast protest in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district, and tribals in the area opposing the GJM, and suggested talks between the two sides to restore peace in the hills.

Patkar, leader of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), held separate meetings with the GJM at Kalimpong sub-division in Darjeeling and with the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Bikash Parishad (ABABP) of the tribals opposing GJM’s demand for the Dooars region’s inclusion in the Gorkhaland territory, at Jalpaiguri district.

“Patkar visited the GJM activists who are on the indefinite hunger strike at Gorubathan area in Kalimpong and said our demands are justified. She has asked us to stop clashes with our rivals and sit for a meeting with them to restore peace and harmony in the hills,” GJM general secretary Roshan Giri said.

“We are thinking over the suggestion and will let the media know as soon as we arrive at a decision,” Giri said.

However, the ABABP flatly rejected Patkar’s suggestion.

“Peace will be automatically restored in the Terrai and Dooars region if the GJM takes back its demands for including this region within the proposed Gorkhaland state and withdraw the movement. There is no need for a peace meeting. And if the GJM doesn’t agree to this, we won’t sit for any meeting with them,” ABABP vice-president Sukra Munda said.

At least 22 GJM supporters have been on fast for indefinite period since Jan 29 at Gorubathan to press demands like reopening the closed tea gardens in the hills, allowing them to hold public meetings in the Dooars region of Jalpaiguri district, and immediate arrest of those who assaulted GJM supporters in clashes in January.

According to district sources, the condition of the 22 fasting activists was critical.

The GJM, led by Bimal Gurung, has been leading a movement in the hills for a separate state, besides 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 Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), ensuring greater autonomy to the governing council.

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.

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