Gorkha group withdraws protest fast

February 14th, 2009 - 1:02 am ICT by IANS  

Siliguri (West Bengal), Feb 13 (IANS) The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM), fighting for a separate Gorkhaland state in north Bengal, withdrew its protest fast in Kalimpong Friday night following assurances from the West Bengal government that its demands would be looked into.
The GJM decided to withdraw the agitation after receiving a letter from state Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen assuring the hill-based party of the steps the government proposed to take on its demands. The party had held a meeting with West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee Thursday.

“The chief minister has promised to fulfil all our demands. The government has said three of the 12 closed tea gardens in Dooars (in North Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district) would be opened within three months and the rest within a year. So we have decided to withdraw the fast unto death,” said GJM press and publicity secretary Benoy Tamang.

Earlier, GJM general secretary Roshan Giri and Tamang - who were part of the delegation that met the chief minister - apprised party president Bimal Gurung of Thursday’s discussions in Kolkata.

Responding to the GJM’s demands, the government has said it would soon announce a compensation package for those in the Dooars whose property had been damaged in the recent flare-up between the GJM and the anti-Gorkhaland Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Bikash Parishad (ABABP).

The government also said it was reviewing the cases of the GJM activists arrested during the violence. “Some of the arrested have been released. We are taking steps to release the others also,” Sen said.

However, the GJM’s demand that it be allowed to hold meetings in the Dooars remains a sore point, with the government putting its foot down on the plea that the Dooars situation was not yet conducive to holding meetings.

Two people were killed and 20 injured in clashes between the GJM and ABABP over the former’s attempts to make inroads into the Dooars and the Terai with the demand that the areas be included in the proposed Gorkhaland.

The GJM, led by Bimal Gurung, has been leading a movement in the hills for a separate Gorkhaland state, besides opposing special status to the hill governing body Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC).

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 body.

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