The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha buys peace in the hills

Siliguri/Darjeeling, Jan. 21: The government has made peace with Subash Ghisingh, at least for now.

At a watershed meeting held between Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Ghisingh at the Forest Rest House in Sukna, 12 km from Siliguri, the chief minister agreed to attend the tripartite meeting, fixed for January 28 in New Delhi. All issues concerning the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), including when its long-pending elections will be held, would be taken up then.

Bhattacharjee also acceded to a major demand of the GNLF. Four years after the attempt on the life of Ghisingh, the government agreed to hand over the inquiry to the CBI. The bureau will also investigate the murder of three senior DGHC councillors.

Ghisingh, the council chairman, wrote to the chief minister, the Prime Minister and the Union home minister last October, listing his demands ' including that of a tripartite meeting ' and warned that no election could be held till the issues were resolved. The contents of the letter were made public on January 10.

Union home minister Shivraj Patil spoke to the GNLF chief earlier in the week and agreed on the tripartite meeting, last held in February 2001.

Ghisingh's hard stand had put the state government in a spot as it did not want to disturb the peace in the hills.

'I requested Ghisingh to come down and meet me while I was here for the district party conference,' Bhattacharjee said after the one-to-one that lasted around 45 minutes.

'Two points were decided on. We are anxious about the law and order situation in north Bengal. I also share Ghisingh's belief that the ISI is very active in the region and the hills. Though the police are already conducting inquiries (into the political murders), I have decided to hand over all these cases to the CBI. I shall instruct the home secretary accordingly on my return to Calcutta.'

Other than the attempt on Ghisingh at Saat Ghoomti near Pankhabari on February 10, 2001, the GNLF had demanded a central investigation into the murder of Rudra Pradhan (its Darjeeling unit president) in March 1999, C.K. Pradhan (former GNLF Kalimpong unit president) in October 2002 and Prakash Theeng (DGHC councillor from Bijonbari) in May 2003.

Bhattacharjee also agreed to attend the tripartite talks involving the Centre, the state government and the GNLF on issues concerning the DGHC.

'I shall attend the January 28 meeting at which the functioning, laws and regulations, including some aspects of the DGHC act, and other matters concerning the hill council will be discussed,' the chief minister said.

But what set the cat among the pigeons was the statement that followed. 'The next course of action on the hill elections and other decisions will be taken on or after January 28,' he said before leaving the venue. Ghisingh saw him off to his car, bowing in a namaste as the chief minister left.

'Happy' Of course I am happy, all the people in the Darjeeling hills will be happy,' the GNLF chief said when asked if he was glad the way the talks went.

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