Decision in the wake of Jairam’s visit to Darjeeling

In a significant development on Monday, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leadership announced putting on hold its agitation in the Darjeeling hills for a separate State even though it would continue its campaign for Gorkhaland through peaceful protests and rallies.

This comes a day after Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh said in Darjeeling that it was time to keep politics aside for five to ten years and focus on the development of the region instead. “We have taken the decision in the wake of Mr. Ramesh’s visit and having realised that the attitude of the Centre is agreeable,” GJM general secretary Roshan Giri told The Hindu on the phone from Darjeeling.

The GJM had set the Centre the deadline of April 9 to take a call on the Gorkhaland demand failing which it would resume its agitation. A programme of agitations was put in abeyance in response to requests made separately by President Pranab Mukherjee and some Union Ministers when a delegation of the party led by its president Bimal Gurung visited them in New Delhi in early March.

‘Campaign will go on’

“Our campaign for a separate State that is our ultimate demand will, however, continue with torchlight rallies and holding of public meetings,” Mr. Giri said.

The decision to put on hold its agitation dispels some of the political uncertainty in the region precipitated by certain remarks of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during her visit to the Darjeeling hills in January.

Ms. Banerjee’s chastising a section of the audience for raising pro-Gorkhaland slogans at a public function in Darjeeling on January 29 and cautioning that she could be very “rough and tough” had raised the hackles of the GJM leadership. The party had also taken exception to her asserting at the event that the Darjeeling hills were an “inseparable” part of West Bengal. Relations between the GJM and her government had soured since then.