Some of the delegates from the hills at the meeting. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi/Darjeeling, Sept. 8: The frank interaction at the first round of tripartite talks among the Centre, Bengal government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today seems to have set the ball rolling for further dialogues on the Gorkhaland demand with all three sides agreeing to sit for another meeting in November.
Roshan Giri, the Morcha general secretary who led the 20-member delegation comprising leaders from eight hill parties to the meeting at a hotel on Race Course Road in Delhi, said: The talks were positive and we believe that it is the beginning of further dialogues on Gorkhaland. The second round of talks will be held in November.
The discussions were not restricted to any particular agenda and the Morcha started off by presenting a 51-page document titled A Case History of Gorkhaland.
Issues like development projects and granting more powers under the Sixth Schedule did not figure in the talks at all. We had a very frank and good interaction following which the state government representatives assured (us) that the movement was neither unconstitutional nor could be branded undemocratic, said Giri.
Asked if his party would sit for talks with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Giri said it was a possibility. The delegation also made a power point presentation on the case history.
Apart from Union home secretary Madhukar Gupta, the others present were Bengal chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb, home secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti, administrator of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council B. L. Meena and eight other government officials.
The first round of talks was mostly at the hearing stage. The government was willing to hear us out but as expected they have not spelt out anything concrete right now. In fact, the Centre has asked us to get hold of more documents for the next round of dialogue, said Amar Lama, a central committee member of the Morcha.
Lama added that following the all-party submission, the chief secretary did make a remark stressing the need for the Darjeeling hills to stay with Bengal.
Morcha president Bimal Gurung in Darjeeling had earlier said the delegation would stage a walkout if the demand for Gorkhaland did not figure in the talks. The government had, however, not spelt out any agenda while inviting the Morcha for discussions.
The Bengal government has said the Morcha demand for a state is within the Constitution, but we should explore other alternatives. We call for a structured exercise in the next two months to set the modalities for the next rounds of talks in November, the Union home secretary told The Telegraph after the three-hour meeting.