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GNLF chants Gorkhaland

Darjeeling, Dec. 7: The GNLF has decided to launch an agitation for a separate state if there are further delays in granting Sixth Schedule status to the Darjeeling hills.

Party leaders seem to have accepted the fact that it could take at least a month before the Standing Committee submitted its report to Parliament. The GNLF decision is being seen as a move to pressure the Centre and the Bengal government into speedy implementation of the Sixth Schedule bill.

The bill, for which a constitutional amendment is needed, was shelved after a section of Lok Sabha members demanded that it be referred to a parliamentary committee.

“The report will probably take a month to compile. However, if there is further delay and the bill is not passed in the budget session (starting February), we will demand Gorkhaland,” said Deepak Gurung, president, GNLF Darjeeling Branch Committee, which held an emergency meeting today. With the schedule always remaining tight in the budget session, the bill will probably be given a miss then too.

The delay could be prolonged as the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is trying to arrange for a public hearing on the bill. The newly floated party of Bimal Gurung, who fell out with GNLF chief Subash Ghisingh nearly two months ago on the Sixth Schedule status, has been asking people not to accept anything short of a separate state of Gorkhaland.

The shelving of the special status bill has already given a boost to the Morcha. The party has lined up a series of public meetings in the region and is expected to announce the next phase of the Gorkhaland agitation on January 1. The GNLF stand is being seen as a move to split the growing Morcha popularity.

Ghisingh’s party has argued that since the Centre and the state have both agreed in principle on the need for “an alternative” to the present council (as mentioned in the Memorandum of Settlement), the governments would be forced to accept Gorkhaland within the framework of the Constitution.

“They wanted an alternative administration through Article 371 (J). That was rejected by the people, who accepted Sixth Schedule status instead. But if there is further delay, we cannot wait. Our next demand will be Gorkhaland,” said Gurung.

The GNLF, too, is planning a series of meeting to counter the Morcha, the dates of which are yet to be announced.( See Page 8)

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