A fresh spell of agitation in support of its demands for a separate Gorkhaland State and the immediate convening of a fifth round of the tripartite talks with the Centre and the West Bengal government to discuss the statehood issue began in the Darjeeling hills on Tuesday with a call by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leadership for a 48-hour relay hunger strike by volunteers from its youth organisations.

The GJM has threatened to intensify its statehood movement if the Centre does not announce a date for the next round of talks by Wednesday.

“We are waiting and expect a response from the Centre by tomorrow [Wednesday] on the date of the fifth round of talks which should be held at a political level,” GJM general-secretary Roshan Giri told The Hindu over telephone from Darjeeling.

“The hunger strike is being held at different hill sub-divisional towns, in the plains near Siliguri and some areas in the Dooars.”

Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram reportedly told senior Congress leaders, who met him here on the day, that the Centre is looking into GJM president Bimal Gurung’s request for “political level talks,” Manas Bhunia, leader of the Congress Legislative Party in the State, said.

A batch of seven volunteers are participating in the hunger strike programme at each of the protest venues — Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Pintail village near Siliguri — according to reports reaching here.

“Besides being held in support of the demand for the Gorkhaland State, the hunger-strike is in protest against the Centre’s silence over the holding of the fifth round of tripartite talks,” Mr. Giri said.