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Since 1st March, 1999
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Morcha sets statehood rider for talks
- Gurung threatens boycott if delhi bypasses gorkhaland

Darjeeling, Aug. 18: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has threatened to walk out of the proposed tripartite meeting if the demand for Gorkhaland is not included in the talks agenda.

Earlier, the Morcha was keen to attend the discussions, although the Centre or the state government did not spell out the agenda. It had also promised to take an all-party delegation consisting of representatives from the hill outfits to Delhi.

However, indications are that this round of talks will focus more on persuading the Morcha to give up its

statehood demand and settle for greater autonomy instead. Issues like replacing “WB” with “GL” in the number plates of vehicles are also likely to come up for discussion. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, too, had repeatedly said the situation in the hills would be discussed at the meeting in Delhi. He had said nothing about Gorkhaland.

Today, Morcha president Bimal Gurung said: “Our demand is Gorkhaland and we will discuss only that. If other issues are brought before us, we will stage a walk out.”

With the Morcha refusing to attend further bipartite meetings — there have already been two rounds with the chief minister — the Centre agreed to convene tripartite discussions. A letter indicating the central government’s willingness was sent by Union home secretary Madhukar Gupta to Bengal chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb and the Morcha. No dates had been announced, though it is likely to be held this month.

With the Morcha making its stand clear before the meeting, the three-way round of talks seems to be in jeopardy. However, the chief minister told reporters in Siliguri yesterday that there would be “several rounds of meetings”.

All such discussions would have to be held at the tripartite level as the Morcha has made it clear that it is no longer interested in bipartite meetings even if is convened after this round in Delhi.

A group of about 600 Morcha supporters from the plains today met the party president requesting him not to leave out the Siliguri area from the territory marked by the party as Gorkhaland. The supporters had started on foot from Siliguri on August 16 and reached Darjeeling late last evening.

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