Decision after a meeting with Chidambaram

Two days after the meeting between its representatives and Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram in New Delhi, the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) leadership that had earlier threatened a 15-day bandh in Darjeeling district from January 29, decided on Thursday to suspend its programme till February 7.

“We have suspended the third phase of the bandh that was to have been resumed [as part of its call for a 26-day bandh] on Saturday, but will continue with our plans for a padayatra to the Dooars”, GJM central committee leader Harka Bahadur Chettri told The Hindu over telephone from Kumani in the Kalimpong sub-division of Darjeeling district.

While the GJM leaders had, following their meeting with Mr. Chidambaram on January 25, expressed their satisfaction with the outcome of the talks, the decision to suspend and not withdraw its bandh call is being construed as a ploy to put pressure on the Centre to come up by the first week of February with a draft for the proposal of an interim arrangement to replace the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.

Dr. Chettri, who was in the GJM delegation that met the Union Home Minister, had said shortly after, that his colleagues were hopeful that the draft of the proposal for the interim set-up would be ready for perusal by the first week of February. They had also been reportedly assured that it would not compromise their demand for a separate Gorkhaland State.

Future of stir discussed

The future of the GJM's agitation to put pressure on the Centre to clarify its position on the separate State issue was discussed at a meeting at Kumani of the party's central committee in the presence of GJM president Bimal Gurung. A report on the talks with Mr. Chidambaram was also placed at the meeting.

While the GJM leadership awaits the draft proposal for the interim arrangement, it chose to go ahead with its padayatra to Jaigaon in the Dooars, even if that means breaking through barricades set up by the police.

The Jalpaiguri district authorities had imposed prohibitory orders in certain areas of the Dooars to prevent the GJM leaders from walking into the region in view of the tense situation prevailing there following clashes in Jaigaon on January 16 between supporters of the GJM and those of regional outfits opposed to the Statehood demand.

Volunteers of the GJM will be going on a relay hunger-strike at places across Darjeeling district and parts of the Dooars during the days the bandh remains suspended, to maintain pressure on the Centre for a clarification of its stand on the Gorkhaland demand.