Pranab says no to Gorkhaland demand

June 14th, 2008 - 8:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, June 14 (IANS) Veteran Congress leader and Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee Saturday rejected the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha’s (GJM) demand for a separate Gorkhaland state in West Bengal’s Darjeeling hills. “We are not in favour of Gorkhaland in the region,” Mukherjee told reporters here on the sidelines of a Merchants’ Chamber of Commerce (MCC) function.

“We oppose any demand for a separate state in India,” he said.

Asked whether the central government would go for a tripartite dialogue, Mukherjee said the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is open to talks with the GJM.

The GJM Friday sought tripartite talks with the central government and the state government on the Gorkhaland issue after a shutdown in the hills this week to press their demand.

The GJM, led by its president Bimal Gurung, has been spearheading a movement in the hills for a separate state, besides opposing the ‘Sixth Schedule’ status for Darjeeling that ensures greater autonomy to the district’s governing body.

The central government in 2005 conferred the Sixth Schedule status on the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF)-led Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC).

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 have already sent a letter to Prime Minister Manmohon Singh seeking the central government’s intervention in the matter,” GJM general secretary Roshan Giri told IANS.

The state government also sent letters to all political parties in West Bengal to join an all-party meeting June 17, convened to arrive at a consensus on the Gorkhaland demand.

The GJM was not invited to the meeting and its leaders were asked to participate in a discussion with Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee separately on June 18. But the GJM leaders turned down the offer for talks with the state government.

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