The next peace meeting between government and Gorkha leaders will be held on September 12.
On the 77th day of the indefinite shutdown in Darjeeling, when West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met leaders of several hill parties, she refused to discuss the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state raised during an all-party meeting in Kolkata. The government urged them to withdraw the shutdown in the north Bengal hills.
"Talks were cordial and positive. Dialogue has started and it will continue," she said, but discouraged all talks regarding Gorkhaland claiming that the matter was not under the state government's jurisdiction.
"They (hill parties) raised the demand of Gorkhaland, but we did not agree with this issue. We said this is not in our hands and we cannot discuss this. You can raise your voice as it is your democratic right, but the state government has its own jurisdictions, some constitutional obligations and bindings," Ms Banerjee said after the meeting at the state secretariat, news agency IANS reported.
A bunch of major political parties in the hills including the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) had "hoped to find a solution to the Darjeeling crisis" in the meeting. While GJM chief Bimal Gurung, the man spearheading the demand for a separate state in the hills, wasn't present, his colleague Benoy Tamang led the party's five-member delegation.
"We requested them to withdraw the ongoing shutdown that has been continuing for so long and restore normalcy in the region keeping in mind the suffering of the locals. Everybody in the meeting agreed that peace and normacy should be restored. Let them take their own time," Ms Banerjee said.
The next peace meeting will be held in north Bengal on September 12.
The protests, spearheaded by the GJM, had begun on June 8 over fears that the state government was trying to impose Bengali language in the hills and snowballed into demand for a separate state. The GJM took out rallies in various parts of the hills, demanded immediate withdrawal of police forces from Darjeeling and raised slogans in support of Gorkhaland.(With inputs from IANS)