Darjeeling, Nov. 16: Bimal Gurung has said he wants to hold meetings with rival parties and people in the hills twice every month to plan a development road map for the region.
The GTA chief, while he spoke to The Telegraph last week, said: “I propose to hold a meeting with intellectuals and social commentators in the hills. I want the meetings to be a bimonthly affair. I want the leaders of Opposition parties (in the hills) to join the interaction so that they can come up with suggestions on ways to develop the hills.”
Asked about the date for the first such meeting, he said: “I plan to call the meeting soon.” It is unlikely that Gurung would invite the GNLF, headed by his bete noire Subash Ghisingh.
Other anti-Morcha parties, the ABGL and the CPRM have said they don’t want to attend such meetings as their primary cause — statehood — would not be addressed by Gurung. Gurung has also not elaborated on what he means by “intellectuals and social commentators”.
Pratap Khati, the general secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL), who spoke over the phone from Kalimpong, said: “They (Morcha leaders) are counter leaders produced by the state government to subvert the demand for the separate state of Gorkhaland. Moreover, it seems pretty clear that they have a hand in the killing of our leader Madan Tamang. The question of sharing a meeting dais with them under the given circumstances does not arise. We cannot open a dialogue with dalals (brokers).”
The Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM), made a similar point. Govind Chhetri, its spokesman, said: “The Morcha has a political motive in calling such meetings. They want us to sit with them for a meeting on development so that they can later say that even the CPRM is for development, not statehood. Development is something the government has to work on as they collect taxes from the people here.”
The CPRM leader said: “We have nothing to do with development. We are only concerned about achieving the separate state of Gorkhaland. If they call a meeting on ways to achieve Gorkhaland, we can attend that. We cannot spare our time for development issues.”
The CPRM said that instead of calling a meeting on development issues, the Morcha should publicly justify its compulsion to accept the GTA.
The Morcha has repeatedly said it has not dropped the demand for statehood and that the GTA was a stepping stone towards a Gorkhaland state.
A member of a social organisation said: “Even if a meeting is called, we have to be made aware of the agenda and discuss among ourselves if we are in a position to provide suggestions. But it is good to seek the opinions of the public.”
Observers believe that Gurung was trying to achieve a consensus on various issues so that every move by him does not raise a controversy. “His decision to hold such a meeting comes after there was resentment in various quarters over the removal of a Gorkha soldier’s statue atop Gorkha Rangamanch Bhavan,” said an observer.