KOLKATA: Amid the ongoing unrest in Darjeeling, the Calcutta High Court today wondered if the Centre does not think the agitation for a separate Gorkhaland needed to be quelled quickly, given the geopolitical importance of the area.
The court posed the query even as a Union home ministry official said the Centre is keen to hold tripartite talks with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), which is spearheading the agitation for a separate Gorkhaland, and the West Bengal government for return of normalcy in Darjeeling.
The high court's poser and the Centre's stand come a day after all the hill parties decided to continue with the indefinite shutdown, as rallies and protest marches were taken out in various parts of Darjeeling.
The situation in Darjeeling remained tense but incidentfree today, the 23rd day of the indefinite shutdown which has crippled normal life in Darjeeling hills and its neighbouring areas.
"Given the geopolitical area in which it lies, doesn't the Centre think this agitation be quelled immediately?,"
asked acting Chief Justice Nishita Mhatre while hearing a plea for restoration of normalcy in the Darjeeling hills.
The query also comes amid a India-China standoff in Sikkim which is not too far from Darjeeling.
The division bench of acting Chief Justice Mhatre and Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty directed the West Bengal government officials to sit with the Ministry of Home Affairs to sort out the requirements for para-military forces on the basis of ground conditions.
Expressing displeasure at the state and the Centre sparring over requirement of Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) in the restive Darjeeling hills, the bench observed, "The situation can improve only if both of you sit together and sort out the issues."
The court asked the Centre and the state government to reach a meaningful understanding over CAPF requirement before July 11, when the matter would be heard next.
Normal life has been affected severely in Darjeeling and Kalimpong due to the ongoing indefinite shutdown enforced by the GJM and some other hill parties since June 15 over a separate statehood demand.
"We want to hold dialogue with the agitating organisations so that peace returns to Darjeeling. In the talks, the West Bengal government's presence is necessary as law and order is a state subject," a union home ministry official said in New Delhi.
The GJM on Monday had asked the Centre to initiate a dialogue on the demand for a separate Gorkhaland, saying it was not a mere law and order problem.
Activists of the political parties, dressed in traditional Nepali attire, took out the rallies. They were heard shouting slogans in support of Gorkhaland.
With food supply severely hit due to the ongoing shutdown, GJM activists and NGOs of the hills were seen distributing food items among the people.
Except medicine shops, all the shops, schools and colleges remained closed.