Buddha-Gurung meeting fails, GJM to go ahead with Saturday shutdown (Roundup)February 5th, 2009 - 12:23 am ICT by IANS
Kolkata, Feb 4 (IANS) A meeting between West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) president Bimal Gurung to find a solution to the impasse in the Dooars area failed Wednesday as both sides stuck to their respective stands. While the GJM delegation held firm on its decision to organise a 24-hour shutdown in Darjeeling district and Dooars in Jalpaiguri district Saturday, the government did not budge from its stand of not allowing the party to hold meetings and processions in the sensitive Dooars area.
“The chief minister had earlier categorically ruled out letting the GJM and the rival tribal body Akhil Bharatiya Adibasi Bikash Parishad (ABABP) to hold processions or meetings for preventing unnecessary tension. He repeated it today (Wednesday), and said normalcy should be restored first,” state Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty told mediapersons.
“The chief minister feels that riots might break out if such permission is given now as the area has a multi-linguistic and multi-ethnic population,” he said.
Bhattacharjee also appealed to the GJM to withdraw the shutdown and the fast-unto-death agitation being held by 17 activists of the hill party at Gorubathan in Kalimpong sub-division, but the GJM rejected it.
“The shutdown is in protest against the atrocities on the tribals in Lalgarh of the state’s West Midnapore district and in support of our six-point demand. The fast will continue,” GJM general secretary Roshan Giri told reporters.
The GJM representatives submitted a charter of demands to the chief minister. “Basically it contained the demands the GJM had placed earlier,” Chakraborty said.
The charter included the state government allow the GJM to hold meetings and processions in the Dooars, ensure that the life and property of its supporters in the Dooars are secure, as also payment of compensation to the party’s workers whose houses have been damaged and their cars set afire during the clashes with the ABABP activists recently.
The GJM has also demanded that the “false cases” against its leaders and workers be withdrawn and the closed tea gardens in the Dooars be opened.
Chakraborty said the state government, along with the central government, has taken several steps on reopening the tea gardens, and seven of them have restarted operations.
“We are also giving health allowance and other benefits to the workers of the closed gardens,” he said.
The state government has also spoken to the central government and officer-level meetings were also on.
“But it’s true that some of the gardens are not open as they have sunk deep in the red. Their net worth has eroded. The chief minister also asked the GJM leadership to give proposals for reopening the gardens,” he said.
Asked whether they were satisfied with the discussions, Giri shot back: “Where is the question of satisfaction? We don’t want to sit with this government.”
Earlier, the GJM threatened to launch a bigger agitation if its demands were not met. “I would like to make it very clear that we will not budge from our Gorkhaland demand,” Giri said.
He said his party, leading the movement for creating a separate state of Gorkhaland out of Darjeeling district and Dooars area in Jalpaiguri district in northern West Bengal, would continue with its “democratic agitation” to achieve the aim.
He denied that his party was facing resistance from the tribals in its bid to make inroads in the Dooars area. “We have absolutely no difference with the tribals. They are with us,” he said, pointing to some tribal leaders present at the media meet.
The GJM and the tribals’ ABABP indulged in violent clashes recently in the Dooars that left several people injured and property damaged.
The ABABP has strongly opposed the GJM’s efforts to include the plains and Dooars areas in their agitation for a separate Gorkhaland state.
Meanwhile, reacting to the state’s ruling Left Front chairman Biman Bose’s condemnation of the GJM’s decision that only the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would be allowed to hold political meetings and rallies in the Darjeeling hills, Giri said: “Bose’s claim is completely baseless and it’s nothing but an allegation. The GJM has never declared any such thing in Darjeeling hills. It’s absolutely wrong.”