Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday claimed that “peace has returned to Darjeeling Hills with some people rejoining work”, even as indefinite bandh for a separate state of Gorkhaland entering its fourth month.“Peace has returned to Darjeeling Hills. Some people have also rejoined work from today,” Mamata told mediapersons in Kolkata. “There are still some incidents, but this will hopefully become normal with time. Some people have been pelting stones, but I hope that in time, better sense will prevail,” she added. The statement comes amid pro-Gorkhaland rallies being taken out across the Hills every day. Tension prevailed in Kalimpong district on Saturday, with police and CRPF personnel taking over the local GJM office.
With the Bimal Gurung faction of the GJM having been sidelined at the September 12 bipartite meeting between the state government and Hill parties, GJM — still the strongest force in Darjeeling — has continued with its indefinite strike. Gurung, on Wednesday, had asked partymen to intensify the bandh and said the shutdown will continue till a tripartite meeting was convened by the Centre.
“After the meeting on August 29, the CM had said that protests are a part of democracy. But there have been police crackdowns and lathicharges on our rallies. How is this democratic? She decided to engage with Binay Tamang (expelled GJM leader) and called him for the meeting despite we communicating that he no longer represents GJM… We had made it clear that she will have to deal with us…,” said GJM joint assistant general secretary Jyoti Kumar Rai.
“We had informed the government that we had restructured our delegation for the September 12 meeting — which included our three MLAs and three other GJM leaders — but we received no response. They sidelined us. GJM has called the strike, so, only the GJM can lift it. Till the time our party is called, there can be no dialogue, no resolution,” added Rai, who has taken over Tamang’s role in the party. He said Morcha leaders were awaiting a response from the central government before announcing their next move.
“The indefinite strike has become a bone of contention between the Gurung and Tamang factions. As people are becoming more fatigued, they are blaming each other for calling the strike. The strike wasn’t even called for Gorkhaland. It was called immediately after the home and office of Bimal Gurung were raided. So, it is obvious who is behind this,” said a political observer. When contacted, GNLF spokesperson Neeraj Zimba said that the strike can only be called off after “concrete results” are achieved.
“The concessions made by the state government at the last (bipartite) meeting — of compensating the families of those killed in police firing in the Hills, release of salaries and bonuses – were inconsequential. The families have never asked for compensation. Now, they only want Gorkhaland,” he said. imba added that the primary issue discussed at the September 12 meeting was that of tripartite dialogue, involving the Centre. “All parties raised this issue. It was the main point of discussion. The chief minister has told us that there are some constitutional and legal complications and that she will consult legal experts and then get back to us on October 16 (third bipartite meeting). Till then, the strike will continue, unless the Centre intervenes,” he said.