Second all-party meeting on Darjeeling issue on Tuesday

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Kolkata/Darjeeling, Sep 11 (IANS) Amid infighting within the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) over temporary withdrawal of indefinite shutdown, the second round of all-party meeting on the Darjeeling issue will be held on Tuesday.

West Bengal Tourism Minister Goutam Deb on Monday said: “We are hopeful of resolving the deadlock. People of Darjeeling do not want strike.”

The meeting will be held in the north Bengal branch of state Secretariat, Uttarkanya.

“Life is slowly getting back to normal and after the meeting I expect things to fall in place,” said Deb, a Trinamool Congress leader from north Bengal.

The north Bengal hills have been on the boil for about three months after the GJM revived its demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.

Normal life has been paralysed since June 12 due to the indefinite shutdown, called by the GJM, severely impacting the region’s economy based on tea, tourism and timbre.

However, the situation is limping back to normalcy in some areas of the hills — mainly in Kurseong and Kalimpong — as schools and many branches of public sector banks opened. Local transport services have also started.

Leaders of the GJM, which is spearheading the agitation, had said they would attend the meeting but did not divulge the details of the participants. They also said the party would press on its demand for a separate state.

However, confusion over the GJM’s participants in the meeting remains as the West Bengal Police has been in search of party’s chief Bimal Gurung and other key leaders for their alleged role in creating disturbances in the hills.

Meanwhile, in yet another blow to GJM leadership, a district court in West Bengal last week issued an arrest warrant against eight GJM leaders including Gurung.

Ousted leader Binay Tamang, who recently said he and his friends would hold a fast unto death after the September 12 all-party meeting to press the government for ending suffering of people in the hills, on Monday claimed they would attend the meeting.

“We will attend the meeting as representative of GJM because state government extended the invitation to us,” he said.

After the first leg of meeting in Kolkata, the principal party in the hills became a “divided house” as a faction of the GJM leadership including Tamang and Anit Thapa had announced withdrawal of shutdown for 12 days.

The top brass of the party rejected the decision, saying the shutdown would continue.

Subsequently, the party leadership expelled Morcha’s Joint Secretary Tamang and Thapa, accusing them of conspiring to derail the Gorkhaland movement.

Another key hill party, Gorkhaland National Liberation Front, on Monday said a nine-member delegation led by Maan Ghishing would attend the meeting which will be presided and chaired by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

–IANS

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