The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ghisingh ball in Centre court

Calcutta, May 3: Unable to soften up Subash Ghisingh, whose intransigence over defining the constitutional status of Darjeeling has been disturbing the region, the state government today lobbed the issue to the Centre's court.

Government officials confirmed that the latest position sprang out of changing circumstances resulting from Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) chairman Ghisingh's call for an 'extensive' campaign for an autonomous Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, of which he is now a caretaker.

At a meeting yesterday, Ghisingh told GNLF MLAs, councillors and leaders to launch a campaign for the inclusion of three subdivisions in the sixth Schedule of the Constitution that, he argued, would facilitate the bestowing of tribal status to the hill people.

To seed the grounds further, Ghisingh is reportedly planning to fly to Delhi this week to meet the home minister.

Over the past several weeks Ghisingh has resisted all state government efforts for a negotiated settlement, forcing Writers' Buildings to call for a central initiative towards a full discussion in Parliament and an all-party approach to the issue at the national level.

'Realising the gravity of the issue, we want the matter to be discussed in Parliament and at an all-party meeting at the national level,' said urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya, also the Left Front convener in Darjeeling.

His report on the political churning in the hills in the wake of Ghisingh's current stand is now with the chief minister. The CPM, too, is pressing Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to bring the Centre into the picture in a bigger way.

From Ghisingh's standpoint, the Darjeeling issue will stand resolved once Bhattacharjee's government and the CPM recognise what he calls 'ground realities' and accede to his suggestion for a constitutional status for the DGHC.

'Bestowing the constitutional status on the DGHC is not a matter to be solved in any bipartite or tripartite meeting,' a senior CPM functionary said, adding that the situation called for a central initiative.

Last week, the chief minister informed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that he favoured an amendment to Article 371 of the Constitution for the purpose of bestowing the special status.

On its part, the GNLF pressed for the inclusion of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong subdivisions in the sixth schedule of the Constitution.

During the last tripartite meeting in Delhi, in which home minister Shivraj Patil was also present, the Centre examined the options of amending the Article 371 and including the subdivisions in the sixth Schedule. None of the two will be possible minus Parliament's approval and a consensus among political parties.

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