New Delhi, Aug 13 (IANS) Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday appealed to Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and other parties demanding a separate Gorkhaland state to call off the two-months old bandh in Darjeeling and let normalcy return to the region.
"I appeal to GJM and all other stakeholders to call off the hunger strike, and also to withdraw the bandh call... 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 told the six-member delegation led by GJM leader Swaraj Thapa which called on him.
"I am concerned about the developments in Darjeeling and the loss of valuable lives and sufferings of people over the past 60 days. We all are aware of the strategic importance of the locality and the challenges that we face in the region," he said.
Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi and Union Minister and Darjeeling MP S.S. Ahluwalia were also present at the two-hour-long meet.
GJM chief Bimal Gurung and General Secretary Roshan Giri were expected to meet Rajnath Singh but did not turn up.
The GJM has called for an indefinite strike in Darjeeling hills since June 12, demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland.
Rajnath Singh also appealed to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to initiate a dialogue with GJM and other stakeholders and asked the state government to restore all civil supplies and internet services and cable TV.
Addressing media after the meeting, Thapa, a GJM Central Committee member, said that the Home Minister listened to the delegation's demands carefully.
However, he said that no compromise would be made on the Gorkhaland demand.
"We told the Home Minister that that there cannot be any other solution besides a separate state for the entire region. We urged him to initiate the process of creating a separate state...Our demand is very much within Constitution," he said.
He said that a decision with regard to calling off the agitation would be taken "in a few days after consulting our leadership and other parties".
He said that Rajnath Singh had invited the Gorkhaland leaders to discuss the issue.
"The Home Minister was kind enough to invite us for talks on the issue of Darjeeling that has been suffering for more than two months. He was kind enough to listen to all the various parties present in the meeting," he said.
The demand for a separate Gorkhaland resurfaced before the 2016 Assembly elections when West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced several "development boards" for different communities in Darjeeling district, such as the Lepchas and Tamangs.
The GJM has maintained that setting up separate boards outside of the functioning of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) was part of Banerjee's "divisive politics".
The demand picked up steam right after the Assembly election. While the GJM continued to retain all seats in the district, its vote share had fallen alarmingly by nearly 40 per cent and Banerjee's Trinamool had managed to make inroads in the region.
Singhmari and Patlebas areas in Darjeeling have witnessed several incidents of violence involving the GJM activists and police in the last couple of months.
Besides the GJM, various other hill parties and intellectuals marched on the streets of Darjeeling with black flags and placards demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland.