The West Bengal government on Thursday said it is open to discussion to restore normalcy in the restive Darjeeling hills, but did not give any commitment on withdrawal of security forces, a demand made by the GJM. State Home Secretary Malay De, who chaired an all-party meeting here on the prevailing situation in the scenic hills, said the doors of the government “are open for talks to restore normalcy in there”.
The meeting was not attended by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), spearheading the indefinite shutdown, or any political party in the hills. The Congress, the CPI(M) and the BJP also stayed away from it. The home secretary said three political parties, including the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC), and two development boards of the hills participated in the meeting. The other parties were not named by him.
Asked about the absence of major parties at the all-party meet, he said, “We had invited all the parties without any condition. Had they given their advice on how to bring back peace and normalcy, it would have been better.” De said, “The process will be on. We hope that they will participate in the future. Everybody wants peace. But peace will not return if one adopts a confrontationist attitude.”
On the statement of the GJM and other parties that the indefinite bandh will be carried on till the security forces are withdrawn, the home secretary said, “It will depend on our assessment of the situation there.” He said, “It is the constitutional duty of the state government to maintain peace and public order and we will take steps accordingly.”
Normalcy should be restored as people are suffering, he said. The TMC secretary-general and state minister, Partha Chatterjee, who was present at the meeting, said, “They (GJM) are putting the people to trouble. Why are they doing this? They can come to the discussion table and say it.”
On the withdrawal of the security forces, he said, “I would like to ask when will they stop violence?” He said the process undertaken by the state government for the development of the hills will be on and that the development work will suffer if normalcy is not restored.
On the suspension of Internet services there, he said, “You all know why it was done. The people should not be provoked.”