KOLKATA: Extending an olive branch, the West Bengal government today invited the GNLF for talks on August 29 on the Darjeeling stalemate, but snubbed agitation spearhead GJM.
"I received a letter from the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) last night and within 24 hours we have responded. Doors for a dialogue have to be always kept open," Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee told a press conference at the state secretariat after returning from a visit to flood-affected areas of north Bengal.
She said that the state government accepted the proposal of the GNLF, a constituent of the Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC), for a dialogue and fixed August 29 for the discussion at the state secretariat.
But Banerjee made no mention of agitation spearhead Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM).
Miffed with the West Bengal government for responding to GNLF's appeal for talks, GMCC convenor and GJM vice president Kalyan Dewan said a dialogue can only be successful if the main stake holders of the Gorkhaland movement are invited for talks.
"Responding to GNLF's appeal is nothing but an effort to undermine the GJM and GMCC," Dewan told PTI.
Describing the request of the GNLF to hold dialogue as a "good and constructive gesture", Banerjee said, "Major political parties and development boards, which have been involved in development work in the hills, will be invited for the meeting."
The chief minister said, "The state government is for development and always open to hold talks to restore peace in the hills."
Banerjee said only the GNLF till now had expressed its willingness for talks to end the indefinite shutdown in Darjeeling.
The agitation entered its 69th day today.
"A stalemate is continuing in the hills. Any other major political party apart from the GNLF, which is in favour of peace and willing to participate in talks, is welcome. My government is always ready for talks," she said.
Recalling that meetings were earlier held to initiate a dialogue, Banerjee said, "I had held a meeting with the chairmen of different (development) boards."
She said, later, state Chief Secretary Maloy Kumar Dey also held a meeting but not all representatives of various parties participated in it.
Banerjee said there would be discussion on the destruction and vandalism which affected normal life and tourism.
"The police and general public have shown restraint. A few people have lost their lives in the current unrest. Many government and private properties in the hills were destroyed during this period. There will be discussions on them also," she said
She said that normalcy was being restored slowly in different parts of Darjeeling and Mirik.
Dewan said, "The Gorkhaland movement is led by the GJM and it is the GJM which called the indefinite shutdown over two months back. The GJM is also the main stakeholder of the GMCC. If the state government wants the talks to be fruitful, it has to officially call the GJM and GMCC for talks."
"The GNLF may be a constituent of the GMCC but it is not the main stakeholder with whom talks can be held," he said.
Dewan said, "Responding to GNLF's appeal is nothing but an effort by the state government to undermine the GJM and GMCC."
Yesterday, GJM joint secretary Binay Tamang had requested both the state and central governments to initiate talks at the earliest to restore peace and normalcy in the hills.