(From left) Shinde, Gurung and Giri in New Delhi on Tuesday
Darjeeling, March 5: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leaders today said they had told Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde in Delhi that a decision to withdraw the statehood agitation would be taken only after a central committee meeting of the party.
The Morcha has called for closure of all central, state and GTA offices in the hills from March 9 to 27 and a two-phase 48-hour general strike on March 14-15 and march 21-22 demanding Gorkhaland.
“We met the Union home minister and discussed a number of issues, including Gorkhaland. The minister told us many statehood demands were being raised in other parts of the country and he gave us an impression that the Centre has not taken any decision on the creation of Telangana at the moment. The minister also requested our party president Bimal Gurung to withdraw the agitation,” Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the Morcha, said over the phone from Delhi today.
“Our party president told the minister that a decision about withdrawing the (Gorkhaland) agitation could be taken only after discussing the issue in the party’s central committee meeting,” Giri said.
The Morcha had decided to renew its statehood agitation earlier this year after it learnt from sources that the Centre was likely to form a separate state of Telangana.
The Morcha delegation, which comprised Gurung, Giri and Darjeeling MLA Trilok Dewan handed over a document titled “Why not Gorkhaland” to Shinde today.
Observers believe that since the Morcha renewed the Gorkhaland agitation only because of the development regarding Telangana, there is a distinct possibility that the hill party might withdraw its programme now that they have received signals that Telangana is not being formed immediately.
“It was under compulsion that the Morcha had launched the Gorkhaland agitation. Given the home minister’s stand, there are strong possibilities that the Morcha would go slow on its agitation,” said an observer.
The Morcha delegation that reached Delhi yesterday, sought the Centre’s intervention to stop the state government’s interference in the working of the GTA.
“We told the home minister that the state government is constantly interfering with the working of the GTA and that the Centre should step in as it is also a signatory to the memorandum of agreement,” Giri said.
The hill party also wants the Centre to ensure that the 382 cases slapped against Morcha activists during the four-year statehood agitation are withdrawn immediately.
The Centre and the state had agreed to withdraw the cases while signing the GTA agreement on July 18, 2011.
Clause 29 of the MoA reads: “A review will be done by the State Government of all the cases registered under various laws against persons involved in the GJM agitation. Steps will be taken in the light of the review, not to proceed with prosecution in all cases except those charged with murder. Release of persons in custody will follow the withdrawal of cases.”
Giri had earlier said: “During the last review meeting on the GTA held in Delhi on December 26, state home secretary Basudeb Banerjee had told the committee that 150 cases (filed by the state government) would be withdrawn within 10 days. The same has also been recorded in the minutes of the meeting, a copy of which is with us.” But no cases have been withdrawn yet.
Today, the Morcha also requested the Union home minister to ensure that Pintail Village near Salbari is vacated by the Indian Reserve Battalion. “We have requested the minister to ensure that the force vacates the property,” Giri said.
The other demands raised before the home minister included, granting of tribal status to Gorkhas, other than those belonging to the SC community and providing special incentives to tourism industry in the hills on the lines of the north-eastern states.
This morning, Gurung and the other hill leaders also met rural development minister Jairam Ramesh in Delhi.
“The minister has decided to visit Darjeeling on April 7 and 8 to assess the various rural development projects being implemented in the hills,” Giri said.
Yesterday evening, the Morcha team met railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal in the presence of Raiganj Congress MP Deepa Das Munshi.
The hill party demanded immediate restoration of the DHR lines at Tindharia and a new railway out agency (booking counter) at Gorubathan. The Morcha also demanded that Darjeeling Mail should originate from Sukna instead New Jalpaiguri, an NJP-Chennai express and an Anand Vihar express from Sukna to New Delhi.
The party also demanded laying of railway tracks between Siliguri and Darjeeling via-Mirik, renaming Gulma railway station as Darjeeling Road and upgrading the station to a model station. The hill leaders also demanded revival of the Darjeeling-Bijanbari rope-way.
“We have received a positive response from the railway minister,” said Giri.
High court PIL
The Calcutta High Court today admitted a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by the Darjeeling People’s Front challenging the legality of the Morcha in the hills.
A division bench of Chief Justice A.K Mishra and Justice Jaymalya Bagchi has fixed March 8 for a hearing.
“The Morcha announced that government establishments in the three subdivision of Darjeeling would not be allowed to open from March 9 to March 27. How can a political party give such a call?” the petitioner claimed.