The Telegraph

Darjeeling, Feb. 18: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has announced a four-day strike relaxation starting tomorrow, purportedly to wait for the Bengal government to give its opinion on the formation of a joint verification committee (JVC) to oversee the territory issue.

Harka Bahadur Chhetri, spokesperson for the Morcha, said: “We have decided to provide a four-day relaxation from February 19 as the state home secretary today conveyed to the Centre that the government would give its opinion on the joint verification committee on territory by February 22.” The Morcha strike had started from February 9, a day after the police firing in Sibchu killed three party supporters.

A three-member Morcha team led by party general secretary Roshan Giri today met B. Bhamathi, the additional secretary (Centre-state relations) in the Union home ministry, and Bengal home secretary G.D. Gautama in New Delhi.

“We raised the issue of territory and demanded that Gorkhaland must be formed with the Gorkha-dominated areas of the Terai and the Dooars. The issue of forming a JVC also cropped up. The Bengal home secretary maintained that he would have to refer it (JVC) to the chief minister and the opinion on its formation would be conveyed to the Centre by February 22,” said Chhetri.

“If the response is not in our favour, we might resume our strike. A final call on the agitation will be taken on February 22,” he added.

Going by the indication, the Morcha might not be averse to accepting the interim set-up for two years if the state agrees to form a JVC.

But many believe it would be difficult for the state government to agree to a JVC just before the elections.

“Although forming a JVC would not mean that parts of the Dooars and the Terai will be transferred, the CPM would be on the back foot. The Opposition would use it as a poll plank, telling the people the CPM was bowing to Morcha pressure. It would also be difficult to convince the Adivasi community,” said an observer.

For the Morcha, the state’s move to buy time to decide on the JVC has provided it with a window to announce the bandh relaxation. “Even though the general public has supported the Morcha’s strike, stocks had started running low and the board examination is also scheduled from Monday. The state’s decision has given the party the right opportunity to announce a relaxation,” said the observer.