Darjeeling, Jan. 18: The Justice Shyamal Sen Committee today decided to ask the district magistrates of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri to prepare a map to see if the mouzas the Gorkha Janmutki Morcha wanted as part of the hill set-up were contiguous.
“This would be a first step,” said Shankar Adhikari, the Morcha’s convener of the Terai unit who is on the committee.
“Then would follow the more complex task of verifying whether they (the mouzas) are Gorkha dominated or not. Unless these areas are contiguous it would be difficult to include them in the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration. So we shall first study this aspect and then move forward. The district magistrates will be given 10 days to complete the map,” he added.
The committee’s decision comes a day after Morcha chief Bimal Gurung threatened to re-start the statehood agitation unless the GTA was implemented by March 27.
Sources in the state government doubted whether the committee could achieve the task of verifying if the mouzas were Gorkha-dominated before that. The government had initially given the committee a deadline of six months to submit its report. As the deadline will expire in February, the committee is expected to ask the government for more time.
“The verification (if the mouzas are Gorkha dominated) would be time-consuming process and we have not even started it yet. In fact, it is the verification process that is becoming one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the formation of the GTA,” another Morcha leader who is on the committee said. “What is good, however, is that a start has been made and we can only go forward from here.”
The Morcha has asked for the inclusion of 196 mouzas in the Dooars and an equal number in the Terai in the GTA. The hill party has maintained that it would not accept the new administrative arrangement unless the territorial status was firmed up.
The committee is headed by retired judge Shyamal Sen and consists of four Morcha representatives, the district magistrates of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri, a representative of the state home department, the director of census (representing the Centre) and the administrator of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.
Adhikari said the Morcha representatives argued today that it was not necessary to get the demographic profile of these mouzas as most of the adivasi leaders of the Dooars and the Terai had said they were willing to be part of the GTA.
“They have even signed a pact with the Morcha on this,” Adhikari said. “After this, getting a democratic profile of the mouzas is a futile exercise.”
Adhikari said after the committee was formed, the government had invited submissions from people to know if they wanted the areas to be brought under the GTA.
“Of the 719 public submissions made before the committee, 696 applications were in favour of being part of the GTA. Although the rest of the applications were against the merger of the mouzas with the GTA, eight of them were from various political parties,” said Adhikari.
Government sources said only 392 mouzas initially demanded by the Morcha would be considered and not the entire Dooars and the Terai that was subsequently demanded by the hill party.
The next meeting of the committee is likely to be held in February, though the date has not been fixed.