Roshan Giri (right) and Prabha Chhetri, a central committee member of the Nari Morcha, in Siliguri on Wednesday. Picture by Kundan Yolmo
Siliguri, Jan. 16: Roshan Giri, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha general secretary, today announced that his party will begin its “antim ladai” (final battle) for a Gorkhaland state from January 20 because it had learnt from sources about Delhi’s inclination to carve out Telangana.
Giri, at a news conference in Siliguri this afternoon, said the Morcha would start a “relentless” movement that would continue till the time its demand is met.
“Yeh hamara antim ladai hoga (this will be our final battle). Our party president Bimal Gurung had submitted a memorandum to Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde on January 11, demanding that the Centre take steps to form Gorkhaland like Telangana. We have decided to resume our movement, which would be relentless and uninterrupted and will continue till the demand is achieved,” Giri said.
The statehood movement that the region had witnessed in the late 1980s and again between 2007 and 2011, will resume with a public meeting and a rally in Darjeeling on January 20, Giri said.
“On January 20, we will reiterate our demand and seek active participation from the people as our movement would resume in a democratic manner, like we have done so far. On January 27, there will be a similar public meeting and a rally in Kurseong,” he added.
Giri said the Centre should ponder over the fact that Darjeeling, Siliguri and the Terai and Dooars are located in geographically strategic areas that are important for the nation’s security.
“The central government had earlier said it was not contemplating about carving out new states. But over the past few weeks, there have been fresh developments and we have learnt from sources that the Centre is going ahead with the proposal to form Telangana. We want to make it clear that the demand of Gorkhaland is 107 years’ old and we would not accept anything less than that (statehood),” Giri said.
The Congress leadership in Delhi is now committed to take a decision on Telangana at the Jaipur chintan baithak as Shinde has publicly promised to resolve the issue either way within a month.
Congress sources revealed that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, finance minister P. Chidambaram and the Andhra Pradesh governor were opposed to the idea of bifurcation of the state fearing eruption of suppressed statehood demands in other parts of the country but political compulsions may force Sonia Gandhi to think of taking this risk.
Sources say the Congress leadership is vertically divided on this issue and some powerful leaders have suggested the creation of Telangana as dithering on this issue was causing irreparable political damage to the party in its traditional stronghold. But the final outcome will come only at Jaipur.
On January 29, chief minister Mamata Banerjee is scheduled to visit Darjeeling to attend the hill segment of the Uttarbanga Utsav.
Mamata is also supposed to inaugurate a bridge at Bijanbari and a tourist spot at Lamahata during the trip.
Giri said: “The GTA was formed for infrastructure development in the hills. The agreement says the GTA was formed without dropping the demand of Gorkhaland.”
The agreement signed between the Centre, state and the Morcha states that: “... Now therefore, the Government of India, the Government of West Bengal and the GJM, keeping on record the demand of the GJM for a separate State of Gorkhaland, agree as follows.…”
Asked if the Morcha leaders would step out of the autonomous hill body and the three MLAs of the party will resign from the Assembly, Giri said: “Only time will tell what will happen in the future. We want to make it clear that our principal demand and focus would be on Gorkhaland and we will go ahead with it. ”
The hill party has already joined hands with the JMM in the Dooars to contest the panchayat polls.
The Morcha has even approached Trinamul to form an alliance for the rural polls that are likely to be held in May.
Giri, however, did not speak on the panchayat elections. “We would prefer not to speak about the ensuing panchayat polls now,” he said.
Even as the Morcha is threatening to hit the streets, organise meetings, rallies, road blockades and strikes, the rival parties in the hills and the plains, are not ready to buy their revival theory.
“First of all, the Morcha representatives have to step down from the GTA. We are not ready to buy whatever they are saying now as they are saying it under pressure from the Opposition. Raising the demand for Gorkhaland and continuing in the GTA can not be together,” said Pratap Khati, the general secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League.
“We cannot trust these Morcha leaders, as so far they have done just the opposite of what they have committed to the people,” he said.
He added that the ABGL was also planning to launch an agitation in the hills demanding Gorkhaland.
In Siliguri, CPM leader and former minister Asok Bhattacharya said: “We believe that Mamata Banerjee was the key person to provoke the Morcha to launch the movement and create tension in the region. Although the Morcha leaders have spoken about reviving their agitation, we are yet to confirm if it is only a blank call. We have to wait for some time and see the consequent events in the coming days, particularly when the chief minister is coming to the hills on January 29.”
With the Morcha planning to renew its agitation, the tourism industry is fearing loses and hassles.
“We have incurred huge losses during the period of the statehood movement. The industry has somehow recovered in the past two years. If the movement resumes, it would shove us to a corner and make it tough for us to survive,” said Sadhan Roy, the general secretary of the Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators’ Association.
“We would like to urge the Morcha leaders to see to it that movement of tourists is not affected in the region (during the agitation). A message should be passed on so that political movements and the tourism industry are kept separated from each other in the region,” he added.