Intensifying their efforts for statehood to Gorkhaland, leaders of Gorkha Janmmukti Morcha on Tuesday met Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil and urged him to take initiative for tripartite talks.
"We have submitted a map of Gorkhaland to the home minister and urged him to take the initiative for tripartite talks comprising the Centre, the West Bengal government and the GJM," Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri told reporters after meeting Patil.
Asked about the home minister's response, he said Patil was open to the suggestion for holding tripartite talks.
"We hope that the talks will be held soon," he said and added that GJM leaders would meet Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya in Kolkata on June 27.
The chief minister will be urged to facilitate tripartite talks in Delhi on GJM's demand for a separate state covering Darjeeling district and contiguous areas of Dooars, he said.
While dubbing the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council as a "farce", he said even providing some special powers under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution would not serve any purpose.
On whether the GJM would withdraw its agitation after talks with Patil, Giri said it was for GJM chief Bimal Gurung and the GJM central committee to decide. The indefinite bandh called by GJM began on June 16, but a 60-hour relaxation was given to the people from 1800 hours of June 22, which has been further extended till July 5.
Asked if GJM would allow smooth traffic on the national highway 31A, the arterial link to Sikkim, to ensure supply of essential commodities to the Himalayan state, Giri hoped the matter would be resolved amicably.
To a question whether the GJM's decision to meet the chief minister was a climbdown from its earlier stand, Giri said after two letters from the chief minister to the GJM chief, "We decided to show respect to him and have talks with him. It is not a climbdown."
In its three-page memorandum to Patil, the GJM said only full statehood could usher in lasting peace and fulfil the aspirations of the people of the region who have a different identity, culture and language and do not conform to the rest of Bengal.
The memorandum said that historically too the demand for a separate state was justified as the territory was ceded by Nepal in 1815 and was never a part of West Bengal prior to independence.
The GJM said the entire region has faced "abject neglect" for decades as there has not been a single major developmental project of consequence in the region since independence.
The leaders said the West Bengal government cannot adopt an ostrich-like posture vis-a-vis the demand for creation of Gorkhaland and asserted that it was not a separatist demand as dubbed by the state government.
Other members of the delegation included GJM vice president Pradeep Pradhan and GJM central committee member Harka Bahadur Chettri.