Kolkata: Fugitive Gorkha leader Bimal Gurung on Thursday said he hadn’t given up on the demand for a separate state for the Nepali-speaking Gorkha people of Darjeeling, in a possible first baby step to revive the movement.

Dismissing speculation that he was looking to settle for greater autonomy in administration as a compromise, Gurung said in a statement that attempts with autonomous bodies such as Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) and the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) had failed.

In 1986, led by the late Subhash Ghising, his political mentor, the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) gave up on the demand for Gorkhaland, Gurung said. “In good faith, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) agreed to experiment with GTA in 2011," he said, adding that both experiments “failed miserably to live up to the expectations of our people".

Last year, ending a 104-day strike, Binoy Tamang, another GJM leader, took control of the GTA, which he himself described as an “interim arrangement" to keep funds flowing for Darjeeling’s development. Without taking names, Gurung said some Gorkha leaders had accepted “frivolous posts and funds" and that they are “pushing forward" the state’s agenda.

Gurung and Tamang have fallen out. Tamang and his close aide Anit Thapa have been ousted from the GJM by Gurung loyalists, but they have disputed it, saying it was unlawful. Both Gurung and Tamang now claim to control the GJM, and have been making statements using official stationery of the party.

Tamang, too, maintains that he hasn’t given up on the demand for Gorkhaland, and that attempts with autonomous bodies had failed.

“We will continue our struggle for Gorkhaland state using democratic means," Gurung said. He is believed to be in Delhi currently, where earlier this month he held a press conference. He had said he was willing to talk to the state government.

In his statement, Gurung rejected the idea of greater autonomy under the sixth schedule of the constitution, saying that it was the government of West Bengal, which has for long offered it as a solution.

Darjeeling district officials see Gurung’s statement as a move to reach out to his support base. Though the police have driven Gurung from his home, he still continues to have substantial support within the Gorkha community, two officials said, asking not to be named. Gurung, wanted in several criminal cases, fled Darjeeling at the peak of the agitation last year.

Gurung appears to be concerned about Tamang gaining ground in his absence, and is looking to revive the movement with his loyalists who are currently lying low, the officials said.

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