`Time not ripe for tri-partite talks on Gorkhaland’

June 27th, 2008 - 11:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, June 27 (IANS) The West Bengal government Friday told the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM), which is seeking a separate Gorkhaland state, that time was not yet ripe for tri-partite talks with the central government, and favoured more powers for the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC). Briefing reporters after an hour-long meeting with GJM leaders at the state secretariat, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee urged the hill organisation to withdraw the demand for Gorkhaland and suggested more rounds of bi-partite talks to prepare the ground for tri-partite parleys.

Amar Lama, GJM central committee member and leader of the four member delegation rejected the chief minister’s proposal for granting more powers to the DGHC. But he expressed happiness at the chief minister agreeing in principle to tri-partite talks.

Bhattacharjee told the delegation: “We can live together in West Bengal. There is no need to separate.”

However, he admitted steps were needed for economic and social development of Darjeeling, and suggested more powers for the DGHC.

“We can have several rounds of talks on providing more powers to the hills within the framework of the constitution. We need a political solution,” he said.

Bhattacharjee said he had no objection to tri-partite talks, but felt no fruitful results would be achieved by holding such discussions immediately.

“I feel we should first arrive at some common ground, and on that basis we can go to Delhi and talk. Then the discussions can be successful.

“If we go to Delhi now without preparing the ground, then I have reservations about the success of such talks,” he said.

Lama told IANS: “Our main agenda was to set the ball rolling for a tri-partite meeting. We told the chief minister about that. He requested us to accept his proposals of granting more autonomy to the DGHC and more financial support for the hills. But we told him that was not our agenda.”

Asked whether any date for the tri-partite talk has been fixed, Lama said: “That has not been confirmed so far. But the meeting will take place very soon.”

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 DGHC.

The GJM called an indefinite shutdown in the hills earlier this month but has now kept it in abeyance till July 5.

With the Gorkhaland demand triggering turmoil in the Darjeeling Hills, Siliguri and the Dooars in the past few days, tea and tourism - the bread and butter of the region - have been severely hit.

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