The West Bengal government is unlikely to invite Bimal Gurung, the hardline president of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), to Tuesday’s second round of talks aimed at ending the impasse in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts over the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.
On Monday, the state had not invited Gurung to attend the talks to be held in Siliguri, even though it sent an invite to Binoy Tamang, who was ousted as chief coordinator of GJM for unilaterally announcing suspension of the indefinite strike following the first round of talks in Kolkata on 29 August.
The state had not been told officially that Tamang no longer leads GJM as its chief coordinator, a Darjeeling district official said asking not to be named.
Kalyan Dewan, a GJM leader and convener of the Gorkhaland Movement Co-ordination Committee, said the state administration is in “complete denial" of GJM leadership and that it was communicating only with Tamang, even after he had been “ousted" from the party.
Tamang has disputed Gurung’s decision to dismiss him, saying that the latter did not have the support of the majority of the party’s decision-making central committee.
“We have not received any invitation to attend Tuesday’s talks, so there is no question of attending it," Dewan said in a phone interview.
Amar Singh Rai, a legislator from GJM, had on Sunday paid a visit to chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s home in Kolkata, to personally seek an invitation to the talks for the faction led by Gurung but later admitted that his effort went in vain. It is a major embarrassment for the hardliners, said a moderate leader within the GJM, who asked not to be identified. It is a sign that the state government will continue to negotiate with Tamang in its bid to end the three-month-old indefinite strike, this person added.
There have been clashes between the two groups, and the two districts remain largely shut following Gurung’s diktat that the indefinite strike is not to be withdrawn, but cracks are beginning to appear in people’s resolve, according to the unidentified Gorkha leader.
Anit Thapa, another moderate leader backing Tamang, said on Sunday that violence was weakening the movement for Gorkhaland. Throwing stones at security personnel only undermines the true purpose of the movement, which is to secure a separate state for the Nepali-speaking community of the hills, Thapa told a rally at Kurseong town.
At least two other Gorkha parties—the Jan Andolan Party (JAP) and the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF)—have said they will attend Tuesday’s discussions. In a statement, the GNLF said nine leaders of the party led by its president Maan Ghisingh will attend the talks, while Amar Lama, a spokesperson for JAP, said his party’s leaders had already reached Siliguri.