Special Correspondent

We are yet to receive a formal communication: Giri

‘Centre's representatives will hold talks with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leadership'

‘GJM called off relay hunger-strike by volunteers from student, women organisations'

KOLKATA: Though yet to receive a formal communication, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leadership has “welcomed” the Centre's reported decision to hold “political-level” talks with it to clear the uncertainty in the region arising from its statehood demand.

The GJM is spearheading a movement for a separate State to be carved out of the Darjeeling district and certain areas contiguous to it in north Bengal

“We are yet to receive any formal letter regarding the talks, but have learnt from reports that they are scheduled to be held on March 18. We welcome the move,” GJM general-secretary Roshan Giri told The Hindu over telephone from Darjeeling on Wednesday evening.

According to reports in a section of the media, the Centre's representatives will hold talks with the GJM leadership and officials of the West Bengal government will be present.“We expect an official communication any day now,” senior GJM leader and member of central committee Harka Bahadur Chettri said.

The GJM called off the relay hunger-strike by volunteers from among its student and women organisations, Dr. Chettri said.

“The students have been on relay hunger-strikes demanding the immediate scheduling of political-level talks with the Centre and the State on the statehood issue for over two months. The women volunteers have been on relay hunger-strike for the past 20 days.”

The GJM is also awaiting word on those who will be representing the Centre and the State government before it decides on its own representatives.

“A decision will be taken by our central committee once we get official word on the political-level talks from the Centre and who will be representing the Centre and the State government,” Mr. Giri said.

But questions have been raised within the GJM leadership about its participation if Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee do not attend the talks, as had been demanded earlier by GJM president Bimal Gurung.

The GJM leadership said it would insist that the talks revolve around “a single-point agenda of Gorkhaland State.” The “alternative arrangement,” which is being proposed by the GJM leadership till 2011 for the region, “can, however, be a secondary subject,” Dr. Chettri said.