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Featured Image: A burned window pane of the GJM office at Chowk Bazar in Darjeeling.

By A Newsman

Siliguri, 10 August: HAVING kept Darjeeling Hills shut for 57 days now, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) today showed the first sign of retreat by indirectly asking the state government for a formal communication for parleys.

This is a departure from GJM’s earlier public grandstanding that it was only open to talks with the Centre on the one-point agenda of Gorkhaland statehood, and would not enter into any dialogue with the state come what may.

The signal came on a day GJM’s town committee office at Chowk Bazar in Darjeeling town was torched by unknown miscreants in the wee hours. The miscreants broke down a window of the wooden office building and then set fire to the furnishings. The interior of the office has been reduced into ashes but the main structure remains intact.

While several government and private buildings / vehicles have been torched in the Hills over the past two months, this is the first time that an office of GJM has been set on fire. Observers believe that it was a manifestation of the growing resentment within GJM and the Hills populace at the way the party leadership are handling the agitation.

A few hours since the arson came to light, GJM general secretary Roshan Giri issued a three-page Press release but with no reference to the incident.

Rather the operative part of the release is the party’s concern over the fast-unto-death by 12 of its youth wing activists that has entered 20th day today. Three youths each are on fast at Darjeeling, Kurseong, Mirik, and Kalimpong since 21 July demanding Gorkhaland.

But the more significant part of the Press release is that GJM has accused Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of giving only media statements as regards the offer of dialogue to resolve the Hills impasse.

“Mamata Banerjee’s occasional appearances only in the Press and media offering talks to resolve the impasse is also a matter of surprise as no formal communication has reached GJM so far…It shows that Mamata Banerjee is not sincere and honest to find out an amicable solution…,” the release issued by Giri reads.

The Chief Minister has on multiple occasions offered a dialogue but the offer was open to all political parties in Darjeeling and not the GJM in specific, which plays boss in the Hills politics. Late in June, an all-party meet convened by the state administration in Siliguri had failed as none of the parties from Darjeeling attended it.

In a related development, suspected GJM cadres vandalised a school van (WB-71A-5739) at Bagrakote in the Dooars that was going to pick students back home from the Army Public School located nearby under the jurisdiction of Kalimpong district.