The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sabres rattle over Gorkhaland
- Ghisingh draws Basu into separate state row

Siliguri/Calcutta, Feb. 16: Subash Ghisingh today tried to leverage his bargaining power before another round of tripartite talks in Delhi by claiming that Jyoti Basu had told him he could revive the 'Gorkhaland slogan' if the provisions of the hill accord were not met.

Talks are being held between Delhi, Bengal and the Gorkha National Liberation Front chief to end the stand-off over elections to the autonomous Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.

'It's more than a decade that the DGHC is being run on a trial-and-error method. It's high time such experiments stopped. New Delhi should understand the political implication of a new Gorkhaland movement in the hills as such an eventuality could put the country's security at stake,' Ghisingh said this morning at Pintail village near Siliguri.

But the GNLF leader, who had drawn a parallel between the situation in the Darjeeling hills and Nepal, stopped short of saying a separate state was on his agenda before leaving for Delhi.

In Calcutta, Basu, who had presided over the peace accord, reacted sharply. 'This is a blatant lie. I never told Ghisingh that he could raise the demand for Gorkhaland. I advocated peace when thousands of party supporters were being killed during the Gorkhaland agitation,' he said.

'In fact, Ghisingh talks rubbish these days as he is feeling scared about the impending polls to the DGHC. The trouble within his party has been worrying him the most,' the former chief minister added.

The state government is firm on elections to the hill council before March 25 as constitutionally the term of the current board cannot be extended any further.

Municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya said this afternoon Ghisingh had agreed to 'drop the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland', according to the 1988 Memorandum of Settlement.

'In the overall national interest and in response to the Prime Minister's call, the GNLF agrees to drop the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland for the social, economic, educational and cultural advancement of the people residing in the hill areas of Darjeeling district. It was agreed to have an autonomous hill council to be set up under a state act,' says the accord.

Bhattacharya regretted that Ghisingh has been raising new demands though several of his wishes have been fulfilled.

'The chief minister has said elections must be held because it strengthens democracy' but Ghisingh is saying different things at different times. Perhaps it has something to do with his astrologer telling him that if elections are held in 2005, it will not be good for him...,' the minister said.

He added that he was not happy with the performance of the council, which Ghisingh has been running like an autocrat.

In Siliguri, Ghisingh reiterated that elections 'are secondary in the hills and can be decided on only after the success of tomorrow's meeting (in Delhi)'.

'Our demands will again be discussed tomorrow. The crucial issue of securing a constitutional guarantee for the council would be discussed,' Ghisingh said.

The state government recently shot down five of his demands while accepting some.

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