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19 Aug 2017

Hill parties open to talks with state - " Willing to reconsider our stand and honour the Union home minister's appeal to start talks- Dewan

TT, Calcutta, Aug. 18: The Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee today said it was willing to initiate a dialogue with the state government if a formal invitation was extended, an about-turn from the GMCC's earlier position that there could only be tripartite talks involving the Centre.
Kalyan Dewan, the coordinator of the committee, a platform of 14 political and apolitical organisations in the Darjeeling hills, didn't stress that the agenda of the meeting should be only Gorkhaland.
Speaking to The Telegraph over the phone today, Dewan said: "If the Bengal government sends a formal invitation for talks with an open mind, we can think of sitting for the dialogue. They have to initiate the process for the dialogue and they must create a congenial atmosphere by stopping police raids in the hills."
At the last meeting of the GMCC held in Kalimpong on August 12, hill leaders had said they would not sit for any bipartite meeting with the state government. The next day, a GMCC delegation, including three Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leaders, had met the Union home minister, Rajnath Singh, in New Delhi.
An anti-Gorkhaland march organised by the Trinamul Congress at Salugara, on the outskirts of Siliguri, on Friday. Picture by Passang Yolmo
Asked about their "no-talks with Bengal" stand adopted at the meeting, Dewan said: "We are willing to reconsider our stand to honour the Union home minister's appeal to start talks (with the state)."
Dewan was echoing Morcha chief Bimal Gurung, who had also expressed willingness for a dialogue with the state to "honour" the Union home minister's request. But Gurung had stressed that the talks would be on the one-point agenda of Gorkhaland.
"The indefinite strike in the hills entered Day 65 today... The strike supporters may claim a lot of things, but one cannot deny that a shutdown fatigue is slowly setting in and hill leaders are trying to invent reasons to call it off," said a senior police officer.
According to him, the hill parties have realised after the meeting with Singh that they have to initiate talks with the Mamata Banerjee government, which till now hadn't blinked in front of arm-twisting by the agitators.
"The state's strategy seems to be working... And as the Centre hasn't sung a different tune, a dialogue with the Bengal government is the only option now," said a veteran in hill politics.
Sources in the state administration said the GMCC's willingness to talk might ease the relationship between Nabanna and the hill parties.
The only hitch, a source said, was the agenda for the talks. Unlike Gurung, who had stuck to his stand of only Gorkhaland as the topic of discussion, the GMCC showed signs of flexibility.
Asked about the GMCC's stand that the talks could be only on the statehood, Dewan today said: "From the DGHC to the GTA, the hill people have been cheated. Autonomy has not worked and the statehood is the final issue. If a dialogue is opened, we will tell the state government that the ultimate solution is a separate state."
Some hill leaders said they were expecting a formal invitation for the talks from the state government and it would allow them to call off the strike or at least relax it for a few days.
'Digital file'
The Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League on Friday questioned Mamata Banerjee's alleged refusal to hand over to the CBI a "digital file" which purportedly contains phone conversations of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leaders before and after Madan Tamang's murder.
The ABGL also said it would file a petition in the Supreme Court naming an IPS officer of the rank of inspector general of police, who is allegedly the custodian of the said "digital file."

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