Home Minister Rajnath Singh today appealed to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to initiate dialogue with all stakeholders to end the over two- month-long statehood agitation in Darjeeling, and to restore civil supplies and Internet facilities in the hills.
According to a home ministry statement, Singh also requested the leaders of the Gorkhaland statehood movement to call off the indefinite strike, which entered its 60th day today, and end their hunger strike. During a two-hour meeting chaired by Singh here this evening, the leaders of the Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC), an umbrella organisation of all the hill parties, submitted a memorandum to the Centre detailing their demands.
The GMCC, led by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), said it had urged the home minister to start the process for creating a separate state.
"I also appeal to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to initiate a dialogue with the GJM and other stakeholders of Darjeeling, who are on a strike for last 60 days. In the meantime, the state government should restore all civil supplies and also restore Internet services, Cable TV and local channels," the statement said.
The home minister said he was concerned about the developments in Darjeeling and the loss of valuable lives and sufferings of the people in the last two months.
"Violence can never be a solution to any problem. In a democracy, solutions are always found through restraint, mutual dialogue and within the legal ambit," he said.
Singh said every one is aware of the strategic importance of the locality and the challenges the region face. He said a solution should be found, "keeping in mind the national interest, as well as in the interest of our Gorkha brothers and sisters, who are brave and large hearted people and have contributed immensely to nation building".
Singh appealed to the people of Darjeeling to display sensitivity, and also keep in mind their civic responsibilities. "No grievances and problems can be resolved without any dialogue," he said.
The BJP's Darjeeling MP S S Ahluwalia also attended the meeting.
Swaraj Thapa, a leader of the GJM, said the home minister had told them that he was mindful of the sufferings of the people in Darjeeling.
"We urged him to start the process for (creation of) a separate state. The state is suppressing our democratic movement," Thapa said.
"We will soon decide the future course of action," he said.
The GMCC had sought the central government's intervention to break the logjam.
Two top leaders of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which has been ruling the autonomous hill council, Bimal Gurung and Roshan Giri, did not attend today's meeting.
Supplies of food and essentials were drying up due to the strike. Internet services have also been snapped in the hills since June 18, when the agitation started in protest against the West Bengal government's decision to introduce Bengali as one of the subjects in schools in the hills.
Except medicine shops, all business establishments, schools and colleges remained closed in the hills.
Police and security forces patrolled the streets in the hills and kept a vigil on the entry and exit routes.