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Second round of Bengal hill parties' talks fails to end Darjeeling shutdown

Banerjee agreed to implement minimum wages for workers in tea gardens

Avishek Rakshit  |  Kolkata 

Darjeeling:  GJM supporters burn an effigy of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at Kakjhora during their indefinite bandh in Darjeeling. File photo: PTI
GJM supporters burn an effigy of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at Kakjhora during their indefinite bandh in Darjeeling. File photo: PTI

Although West Bengal Chief Minister termed her meeting with the major hill parties as "a success" after consenting to three major demands of these parties, pushing for separate statehood and no consensus to end the shutdown was reached upon to end the self-imposed blockade in the hills.

The state government, headed by Banerjee met major hill parties in Siliguri on Tuesday to restore peace in the hills as the shutdown entered its 90th day.

Banerjee accepted to implement minimum wages for the workers in the tea gardens and consented to a "high-level enquiry" in cases related to alleged police firing and blasts in Kalimpong and hills.

"We have also decided to provide compensation to the families of those who died," the state's chief minister, said at a press conference after the meeting.

However, the state government didn't consent to withdraw criminal charges pressed against leaders of the agitation which earlier the hill parties proposed.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), which is spearheading the movement for a separate statehood in north West Bengal had pressed for these demands in its earlier meeting with Banerjee in Kolkata.

Although Banerjee said that normalcy needs to be restored in the Hills, she said people have a democratic right to stage agitations but didn't endorse the shutdown. The Calcutta High Court in June had ruled the shutdown as illegal.

The next round of talks to restore peace in the region has been scheduled on October 16 at the state secretariat in Kolkata.

Although no official invitation was sent to GJM, two of its leaders, who are also members of the Assembly, attended the meet, against the diktat of GJM chief, Bimal Gurung.

Other political parties comprising the Gorkha Liberation Front, Jan Andolan Party and Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League and others attended the meeting.

Meanwhile, in the Kurseong and Mirik regions, some shops opened and transport services resumed defying GJM's decree to continue with the shutdown. Binay Tamang, former spokesperson of the GJM was expelled after he voiced his opinion to end the shutdown. However, the Darjeeling-Kalimpong belt, which is a GJM stronghold, continued to remain shut.

Tamang, who is asking people in the region to end the shutdown and open shutters, will be asking other political parties as well to end the shutdown and restore normalcy in the region.

First Published: Tue, September 12 2017. 21:19 IST
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