Bharatiya Janata Party General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya on Tuesday said that while the BJP wants to “protect the identity and culture of the Gorkhas”, they cannot support their demand for a separate Gorkhaland state. Vijayvargiya’s statement comes a week after the saffron party’s president, Amit Shah, had said its leaders would soon take a stand on the matter, The Indian Express reported.

“But we want to address their developmental concerns. The state government should take the initiative,” Vijayvargiya told reporters. In its manifestos, released before the 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had promised to “sympathetically examine and appropriately consider the long pending demands of the Gorkhas”. The party is willing to consider Assam’s ‘Karbi-Anglong autonomy model’, News18 reported.

The BJP general secretary accused Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of failing to empower the Gorkhaland Tribunal Administration and held her responsible for the unrest in the region. Meanwhile, the Trinamool Congress government re-created a separate police range for Darjeeling and extended the internet ban in the Hills on Tuesday, The Times of India reported.

On June 27, thousands of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha activists had held demonstrations in the Darjeeling hills and burnt copies of the Gorkha Territorial Administration accord.

On June 24, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha MLA Amar Singh Rai had told his party knows that the BJP will never support their demand for a separate state. “This is because the BJP has today become a major factor in West Bengal politics while earlier it was non-existent. The BJP knows that if it supports a separate state of Gorkhaland, it will become a non-entity in Bengal.”

The Darjeeling unrest began after Banerjee had announced her decision to make Bengali compulsory in state-run schools. Though she had said that hill districts will be exempted from the rule, the GJM began an agitation that soon turned into a revival of the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.