The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) on Tuesday withdrew its indefinite shutdown for a separate Gorkhaland state in the Darjeeling hills following an appeal by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
In an audio message from an undisclosed location, GJM chief Bimal Gurung announced his party’s decision to withdraw the bandh from 6 am on Wednesday, after 104 days of shutdown.
Earlier in the day, Home Minister Singh appealed to the GJM to withdraw the strike. In a statement, Singh said that in a democracy, dialogue is the only way to resolve any problem and solutions can be found through restraint and mutual dialogue within the legal ambit.
“I appeal to the GJM and its leader Bimal Gurung to withdraw the ongoing bandh and to help create a conducive atmosphere for allowing normalcy to return to the area, particularly in view of the festival season,” he said.
Singh said he had asked Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba to convene an official-level meeting with all stakeholders, including the state government, within a fortnight to discuss related issues.
“Eleven precious lives have been lost so far, seven have been injured and the people of Darjeeling hills have suffered a lot since the strike. I am pained immensely by what has happened in the Darjeeling hills,” he said.
Following Gurung’s announcement to withdraw the strike, state Tourism Minister Goutam Deb said the situation in the hills had become normal. Earlier in the day, the state administration lifted restrictions on Internet services in Darjeeling and Kalimpong.
“Under the leadership of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the situation had turned normal in the hills. All important services were resumed. Today, the Home Minister helped GJM leaders save their faces.. The BJP and central government had a tactical adjustment with Gurung and company and today’s development is proof of that. However, no meeting should take place without the state government,” Deb said.
Earlier this month, rebel GJM leader Binay Tamang had announced that the strike had been suspended. On September 20, the state announced constitution of a nine-member board of administrators with the same powers as Gorkhaland Territorial Administration. Tamang and another rebel GJM leader, Anit Thapa, were made the chairman and vice-chairman of the board, respectively.