Aug. 12: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung today said Union home minister Rajnath Singh had invited the group for talks in New Delhi tomorrow, an announcement that was not corroborated on record by the Centre till past midnight.
A news release, signed by Gurung and issued late in the evening, said his party had received the invite today. "Today, the GJM received an intimation from the Union home minister requesting us to join for talks tomorrow at 4.30pm in New Delhi," the release said.
Union home ministry spokesperson K.S. Dhatwalia, reached over the phone for his comment tonight, asked that a text message be sent to him. But he did not respond to the text message sent by this newspaper asking for a confirmation of the invite.
A source in Rajnath's office, who requested anonymity, said he was not aware of any such meeting being scheduled for tomorrow. "They have been seeking time to submit a memorandum and may have got a call for that purpose," the source said.
Phone calls to the Bengal chief secretary and home secretary went unanswered. Senior Trinamul leaders who are part of the Mamata Banerjee government said they had no information about such a meeting.
A talks invite from Delhi would be a relief for the Morcha, giving it something to show a people tiring of the strike, enforced to press for a state of Gorkhaland and now in its 58th day.
But the Centre has so far not given any indication that it would be willing to bypass the state government and invite the hill parties for talks.
Since the strike call, the Morcha has repeatedly said it would sit for talks only with the Centre and that statehood would be the only topic on the agenda. The news release did not say whether the state would be part of the talks or what the agenda was.
"I thank the honourable home minister for the kind invite, and hope that the central government will do justice for the Gorkhas at the earliest," the release signed by Gurung said.
"I am hopeful that the hill parties leading the movement will attend this meeting and help find a possible road map to Gorkhaland statehood."
Sources in the hill parties said that Kalyan Dewan of the Morcha, who is the coordinator of the Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee, N.B. Chhetri of the GNLF and Arun Ghatani of the CPRM would attend the meeting along with other delegates.
But a veteran in hill politics said: "The Morcha was under immense pressure as there has been no response from the Centre, and the state has made it clear that it is ready for talks only if the strike is withdrawn and normality restored. We have to wait for the meeting to know whether the Morcha really has any reason to be happy."