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Barla does U-turn on Morcha

- Dooars leader says decision to oppose hill movement because of rural polls
John Barla

Siliguri, Jan. 18: John Barla today said he would no longer support Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s demand for a separate state as the hill party had not shown any interest to form the Gorkhaland Adivasi Territorial Administration, including Darjeeling and the Dooars.

“We had forged ties with the Morcha for the interest of the people. The principal cause of our support was to form GATA with the Terai and the Dooars. But the Morcha leadership, particularly after the GTA was formed, took no initiative to expedite the formation of the GATA. They were silent for some time and now they have announced the Gorkhaland movement again,” Barla, who was thrown out of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad and formed the north Bengal unit of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, said today.

“We would sternly oppose any movement by the Morcha on Gorkhaland and from now on, we will work for the development of the tribals in the Terai and Dooars,” he said.

Barla was expelled from the Parishad in December 2011 for hobnobbing with the Morcha and supporting the hill party’s demand of including the Terai and Dooars in the proposed GATA. Barla, who is still the chairman of the Dooars Terai Joint Action Co-ordination Committee, a common forum of the Morcha, Barla faction and other outfits supporting the demand, was also felicitated by the Morcha. He was even identified by the party as the top leader of the alliance in the Dooars.

Barla made it clear that the U-turn was because of the panchayat polls. “We intend to contest the rural polls with the JMM symbol and secure maximum number of seats so that the panchayat machinery can be used for the well-being of the backward population in the foothills, most of who are tribals,” he said.

“Our demand for the GATA has not been met by the Morcha and at this juncture, we cannot afford to support them on the Gorkhaland issue. We are apprehensive that such a movement would jeopardise our plans for the rural polls.”

Raju Bara, convenor of the north Bengal committee of the JMM and a close aide to Barla, spoke in similar terms.

“Gorkhaland was never our (JMM) demand. We are more focused on the development of the tribals. We would oppose the resumption of the Gorkhaland movement in the Terai and Dooars as such movements would affect peace and development,” he said.

Observers feel that the compulsion to retain public support before the panchayat polls and the probability of forging an alliance with Trinamul has prompted the Barla faction to take the decision.

“Even the Gorkha population in the Dooars needs to be convinced to join the Gorkhaland movement as people are frustrated over Morcha’s decision to form the GTA without the Terai and Dooars. It has become evident to Barla that tribals would be disinterested if they are asked to join the Gorkhaland agitation. They would instead, actively participate in the panchayat polls and prefer to elect on the agenda of development,” said an observer.

“Opposing the Gorkhaland demand might lead to severance of ties with the Morcha but the JMM can get Trinamul on its side. In case Morcha starts its movement, differences between the party and Trinamul would increase.”

Last month during the chief minister’s visit to the Dooars, Barla was asked to assemble people in Nagrakata where Mamata Banerjee attended a government programme. She had even visited the house of Sukra Munda, a front line leader of the Barla faction.

Morcha leaders in the Dooars said they are awaiting instructions from the central leadership. “We are yet to receive anything in writing from Barla. Even today, he is the chairman of the joint action committee. In case they have any disagreement or dispute over any agenda, we are ready to sit and discuss to resolve it,” said Madhukar Thapa, a central committee member of the Morcha in the Dooars.

Yuva Morcha

The Gorkha Janmukti Yuva Morcha has decided to send a delegation to New Delhi to meet senior Congress and BJP leaders to demand the creation of a separate state of Gorkhaland if Telangana is formed. Priya Bardan Rai, the general secretary of the Yuva Morcha, said: “We will meet Rahul Gandhi, Sushma Swaraj, Nitin Gadkari and other leaders. Although the date has not been finalised, we will go to Delhi before the end of January.”