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Barla faction joins JMM for statehood

June 14: The John Barla-led adivasis today joined hands with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and formed the north Bengal branch of Shibu Soren’s party, asserting that they would strive for a separate state — Darjeeling Terai Dooars Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh — if the government failed to bring more plains mouzas under the hill set-up.

The dissident faction of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad led by Barla today met the JMM chief at Mongpong, 30km from Siliguri.

“At the meeting, it was decided that we will form the Uttar Bangal Jharkand Mukti Morcha or the north Bengal regional unit of JMM. A 21-member committee, with Gautam Toppo as president and Raju Bara as general secretary, has been formed,” the deputy chief minister of Jharkhand Hemant Soren said after the meeting. “The committee will protect the interests of the tribals and their rights, including their demand for a separate state.”

The decision to float the regional unit of the JMM has given a boost to Barla and his followers, who were ousted from the Parishad after they joined hands with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.

“Ever since they were ousted from the Parishad, Barla and his followers lacked an official platform. They have been since desperately scouting for a platform. They got that today in the JMM,” an observer said.

The JMM, on the other hand, had earlier tried to work out an agreement with the Parishad. But the alliance did not mature as the Parishad was opposed to the idea of plains territory being made part of the hill set-up and preferred to tie up with like-minded forces like the KPP. This went against the JMM agenda of separate state for tribals.

“We are very clear in our intentions and will fight for the rights of tribals. Our decision is to wait till the June 16 meeting between the Morcha leaders and Mamata Banerjee. If the state government refuses to include more mouzas in the GTA, we will launch a movement for the separate state of Darjeeling Terai Dooars Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh under the banner of JMM,” said Raju Bara, a dissident Parishad leader and general secretary of the JMM’s NB unit.

He added that Soren would meet Morcha president Bimal Gurung in Darjeeling tomorrow.JMM central organisational secretary Supriyo Bhattacharya, who was also accompanying Soren, said the party was exploring the possibility of its expansion in north Bengal with its strong tribal presence.

“We have already some support base in north Bengal. Through this tour, we are exploring how to strengthen the support base and expand our party,” Bhattacharya told The Telegraph. The JMM had contested nine seats in the Dooars the Assembly elections and ended second in three constituencies — Kalchini, Kumargram and Madarihat.

Parishad leaders, however, refused to give much importance to the development. “It is not the political party but its agenda which matters,” said Parishad leader Rajesh Lakra. “People here are against the inclusion of their area in the GTA or creation of a separate state. The party that stands by this agenda will be welcomed by people, others would be rejected.”