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11 Aug 2017

Talks hint in Morcha statement

Charred furniture inside the Morcha office in Darjeeling on Thursday. Picture by Passang Yolmo
AVIJIT SINHA, TT, Siliguri, Aug. 10: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today issued a statement saying that the Mamata Banerjee government had not made any "formal communication" to the party to sit for talks to resolve the impasse in the hills.
The statement, issued by Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri, is being construed as a hint that the party is no longer averse to the dialogue route with the state government, at a time its efforts to elicit a response from the Centre over the issue have drawn a blank.
"Mamata Banerjee's occasional appearances only in the press and media and offering talks to resolve the impasse is a matter of surprise as no formal communication has reached the GJM so far," read the statement issued by Giri.
Political observers said the statement could be construed as Morcha's willingness to consider talks if approached directly.
The statement assumes significance also because it is the first time that the party has mentioned that the "long pending demands of Gorkhas should be attended without further delay by both the state and central governments".
Sources said the Morcha's statement could also be the result of "extreme pressure" the party is facing to prove to the hill residents that the agitation it is spearheading would not fizzle out like it did in 2013.
"This indicates the extreme pressure that the Morcha leaders are facing these days. Earlier, they had repeatedly said they would sit for talks only with the Centre and that too, on the sole agenda of Gorkhaland," an observer said.
Weeks after the Morcha announced the statehood movement, the state government had convened an all-party meeting on June 22 for restoration of normality in the hills.
The Morcha and several other hill parties had given the meeting the miss.
A political analyst, told about the statement, said the Morcha was exploring options to "come out of the situation".
First, he pointed out, there has been no response from the Centre over the impasse despite the BJP being ally of the Morcha. "Union ministers have mentioned in Parliament that the Centre did not even consider a proposal to form a committee to look into their demands," the analyst said.
Second, other hill parties supporting the call for statehood have started organising standalone programmes in the absence of any concrete measure from the Morcha and the residents, too, have started questioning the parties' ability to spearhead the movement any further.
"In such a situation, the Morcha is exploring options and trying to open up new communication channels. On one hand, the party is sending a team to Delhi while on the other, they are obliquely expressing interest in opening up a route to the state government that they had closed down during the movement," the analyst said.
In the three-page statement, the Morcha general secretary has also criticised the state for its alleged atrocities.
"The West Bengal Police has strategically confined Mr (Bimal) Gurung so that he may not reach out to the party functionaries," reads the statement.
It also refers to the "fast-unto-death" agitation that has been launched by the Yuva Morcha since July 21, saying "the state government is too indifferent and has given no heed to break the deadlock as if the 12 youths are some form of cattle at the mercy of the West Bengal government".
A Trinamul minister, when told about Morcha's move, said: "The chief minister has made it clear that they will have to shun violence and withdraw the strike for us to come to the talks table. But one thing is very clear: the state will never accept the demand for a separate state."
Morcha office attack
An office of the Morcha was torched early today in the heart of Darjeeling town, the first such attack on any property of the hill party in the current phase of the agitation.
Morcha leaders blamed "government elements" behind the incident, which took place just 100 metres from the Darjeeling Sadar police station at Chowk Bazaar.
"We suspect that the incident could be the handiwork of government elements," said Binay Tamang, the assistant general secretary of Morcha.

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