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GJM calls off shutdown in Darjeeling hills after Rajnath’s appeal

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) on Tuesday announced the withdrawal of its indefinite shutdown in the northern West Bengal hills, and that the situation would return to normalcy from 6 a.m. on Wednesday.

The announcement came hours after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh appealed to them to call off the over three month-long strike and invited them for talks to find an amicable solution to the issue.

GJM Assistant General Secretary Jyoti Rai said: “After Rajnath Singh’s appeal, we had a discussion with senior leaders, including GJM chief Bimal Gurung, and decided to withdraw the shutdown from 6 a.m. tomorrow (Wednesday).”

In an audio clip from an undisclosed location, Gurung urged hill residents to resume transport services, reopen shops and schools and colleges. He also extended greetings for the festive season.

The GJM had called the shutdown, which is in its 104th day on Tuesday, demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland.

State Tourism Minister Gautam Deb said the Union Home Minister’s appeal helped the GJM leaders “save their faces”.

Reiterating that the situation in Darjeeling hills had returned to normalcy under State Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s leadership, he stressed that any meeting would need to involve the state government as well.

Banerjee on September 20 had announced the formation of a nine-member board of administrators, headed by ousted Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leader Binay Tamang, to run the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).

The Bengal government on Monday decided to lift the ban on internet services across the Darjeeling hills.

Rajnath Singh said in his appeal: “In a democracy, dialogue is the only way out to resolve any problem. Solution can be found through restraint, mutual dialogue and within the legal ambit.”

The Home Minister also asked union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba to convene an official level meeting within a fortnight to discuss all related issues.

“I have been pained immensely by what has happened in Darjeeling Hills. I appeal to the GJM and its leader Bimal Gurung to withdraw the ongoing bandh and to help create a conducive atmosphere for allowing normalcy to return to the area, particularly in view of the festive season,” he said.

The GJM, which has called for an indefinite strike has been demanding a separate state and has asked the Central government for a “tripartite dialogue” to resolve the long-pending demands of the Gorkhas. It had remain defiant over withdrawing the agitation till tripartite talks between the Central and state governments and other stakeholders are organised.

Eleven people have lost their lives so far while several have been injured and the entire people of the area put to a lot of hardship due to the strike.