Rejecting the demand for a Gorkhaland State by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said on Friday that the State government would consider greater autonomy and more funds to the region, if the agitators gave up violence and agreed to talk.
Addressing a Left Front rally at Siliguri, the administrative headquarters of Darjeeling district, Mr. Bhattacharjee said: “We have repeatedly asked the agitators to sit for discussions on anything but separate statehood. Even during the tripartite meeting among the Centre, State and the agitators, emphasis was laid on that. We have no problem granting them greater autonomy and sanctioning additional funds.”
He, however, said the pre-condition of maintaining peace in the hills as well as in the plains prior to discussions would have to be honoured.
Pointing out that the agitators are now seeking a halfway solution after realising that their prolonged agitation would not achieve anything substantial, Mr. Bhattacharjee cautioned the pro-Gorkhaland leaders against seeking inclusion of Siliguri town, the Dooars and Terai regions to Gorkhaland.
“Do not even mention the name of Siliguri or Dooars and Terai regions as the people there do not want to be a part of Gorkhaland. If you want an interim arrangement, it will be done with the Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong sub-divisions only – do not over-step even an inch,” he warned.
He said he had discussed the issue with Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram during the latter’s recent visit here.
Mr. Chidambaram gave an assurance to hold talks with the agitators in New Delhi soon.
Mr. Bhattacharjee expressed concern over the growing violence both in the hills and plains, saying that it was hindering both tourism and business.
Criticising the Centre’s handling of the Telangana issue, he said it had encouraged the Gorkhaland supporters to step up their agitation.
“The State government has always believed in greater autonomy for the hills and therefore formed the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council in the 1980s…but the grievances of under-development under its administration for all these years can be addressed only by its chairman Subash Ghising,” he said.