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More autonomy for India's ethnic Gorkhas (updated)

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July 18, 2011, 9:25 a.m. | World — by Associated Press
NEW DELHI (AP) — The government of the Indian state of West Bengal plans to sign an agreement Monday offering greater autonomy to the Gorkha ethnic group in hopes of ending their often violent agitations for a homeland in the Himalayan foothills. The agreement was negotiated by the newly elected government in West Bengal with the main Gorkha organization, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, or Gorkha Peoples' Freedom Front.

However, it did not appear to go far enough for some activists who want a separate state carved out of West Bengal and have called a 48-hour strike in the area to protest the deal.

Gorkha nationalist leader Roshan Giri has said they have not abandoned the demand for a separate homeland but would wait for recommendations from a committee set up under the new accord.

India's Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram would be the third signatory to Monday's landmark accord to be initialed in the hill town of Sukna, about 300 miles (480 kilometers) north of Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal.

In the 1980s, the Gorkhas led a violent insurgency leading to the deaths of some 1,200 people.

They adopted more peaceful means in later decades. Experts say the agreement could bring development to the Darjeeling region famed for its tea gardens.

India's Gorkha community is from the same ethnic group as the Gurkha in Nepal, best known for the regiment in the Indian and British armies.
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