KOLKATA: The West Bengal government and the pro-Gorkhaland parties began talks at state secretariat Nabanna here on the 78th day of the indefinite strike on Tuesday for the first time since the hills erupted in a protest demanding statehood on June 8.
Speaking to the media after meeting with representatives of pro-Gorkhaland parties Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) and Jan Andolan Party (JAP), West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said dialogue with the hill parties has begun and assured that the state would allow them to take their time restoring peace in the hills.
“The meeting was cordial, a dialogue has started and the process will continue. We will next meet at Uttar Kanya (West Bengal’s second secretariat in north Bengal) in Siliguri on September 12. The hill parties wanted to speak on the agenda of Gorkhaland. Though we do not agree with them on the Gorkhaland issue and informed them it is beyond our jurisdiction, we agreed that peace should be restored. Though we want the indefinite bandh to end, let the parties take their own time. They have the democratic right to raise their demand. The statehood issue is a very sensitive and emotional issue for the hill residents,” she said.
On the other hand, GJM assistant general secretary Binay Tamang condemned the recent bomb blasts in the hills and demanded a National Investigation Agency inquiry into the blasts and a CBI inquiry into the deaths of eight activists since the beginning of the agitation.
“The past experiments of autonomous councils by the previous state governments have failed. Hence, we demand a long-lasting political solution to Gorkhaland,” he said.
Meanwhile, JAP chief Harka Bahadur Chhetri reiterated that his party is clearly against the bandh.
“The position of my party is that we are against all kinds of bandhs. There were no talks on the losses due to the agitation. We were very clear that controversial issues would not be brought to the fore now,” he said.