The GJM today withdrew its indefinite bandh in the plains after parleys with the Centre’s interlocutor, but life in the hills was crippled for the fourth day of the agitation for separate Gorkhaland.
Centre’s interlocutor Vijay Madan held talks with GJM president Bimal Gurung and spoke to district magistrates and superintendents of police of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri for a brief on the law and order situation in both the Dooars region and the Darjeeling hills.
Without disclosing what transpired during the meeting held at Kumani, 85 km from Jaipaiguri, Mr. Madan told reporters that he would submit his report to the Centre before leaving Kumani.
GJM General Secretary Roshan Giri said after the meeting, that they had decided to withdraw the bandh in Dooars and the padayatra to the plains but the bandh would continue in Darjeeling till their demand for a statehood was met.
The bandh had not had much impact in the plains, police said.
“Our relay hunger strike and other forms of agitations in the Darjeeling hills in support of our demand for Gorkhaland and CBI enquiry into the February 8 police firing at Sipchu will continue,” Mr. Giri told PTI.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said the West Bengal government was ready to hold talks with the GJM leaders provided the outfit eschewed violence.
“The problem in Darjeeling can be sorted out through peaceful political talks and we are ready for that... We cannot compromise with violence,” he said at the annual combined parade of West Bengal and Kolkata Police Force in Kolkata.
GJM had announced an indefinite strike on February 9 demanding a CBI inquiry into the Sipchu police firing in which two party supporters were killed and another succumbed to injuries today.
Refusing to return to the negotiation table, if a separate Gorkhaland was not on the agenda, a belligerent Mr. Gurung, speaking over phone from Darjeeling last night threatened to intensify the agitation and dared the state government to arrest him.
“If police try to arrest me, the people of the hills will give them a fitting reply. They will virtually put the hills on fire and the State Government will be solely responsible for the consequences,” Mr. Gurung had said over phone.
Shops, markets and other establishments remained shut in the hills and vehicular traffic were off the road as simmering tension prevailed.
The government, however, asserted that it would not succumb to any pressure.
“The State government will not succumb to any pressure in dealing with violent mode of agitation,” State Home Secretary G D Gautama told reporters in Kolkata.
The Home Secretary also said that the State government was not considering restoration of security for Mr. Gurung and Mr. Giri.
An FIR was lodged with the Nagerkata police station in Jalpaiguri district against five GJM leaders, including Mr. Gurung, on February 9.
The charges against Mr. Gurung and four others include obstructing public servants from discharging their duty, illegal assembly in areas placed under prohibitory orders and encroaching forest areas for temporary shelters, police said.