Siliguri, Oct. 2: GNLF chief Subash Ghisingh today said the demand for Gorkhaland was a “different issue” that has to be pursued through a separate channel.
It is a demand that can be raised by anyone, he added, apparently not giving much importance to rebel leader Bimal Gurung’s stand. Gurung, who addressed a crowd of more than 1,000 people in Tindharia today, reiterated that the people of the hills should accept nothing short of Gorkhaland.
On Friday, too, Gurung had delivered a similar statement in Kurseong followed by a call yesterday to hill youths to join his “bloodless agitation” for statehood.
Gurung’s announcement comes at a time when the Union cabinet has approved the bill on the Sixth schedule status for the hills.
Speaking on his return from a 12-day “study trip” to Indonesia, Ghisingh today said his party would “stick to what we have agreed on”. He said he would speak to Gurung on his return to Darjeeling “and sort it out”. Gurung on the other hand has said he is ready to quit the party if Ghisingh did not take up the statehood demand.
“But are the governments in Bengal and Delhi ready to give (in to the demand)' I was the first to raise the Gorkhaland issue in 1980 and then followed an eight-year-long bloody struggle in which around 12,000 people died before we got the DGHC. And now, we have the Sixth Schedule,” said Ghisingh. After a huge reception at Bagdogra airport, Ghisingh was in a relaxed mood at Pintail Village on the outskirts of Siliguri.
“We will always be grateful to the Bengal chief minister, the state and Delhi for agreeing to this status, by which the region under the new Gorkha Hill Council Darjeeling will be deemed a tribal area and where all will benefit, not just the tribal residents.” But Gorkhaland will remain a political demand, he added.
Asked about the election process, the GNLF chief said that would be decided upon only after amendments to the Constitution were made and a governor appointed to the new council. “It may be that the (Bengal) governor will have dual charge… For the moment, we are happy that meter gauge has become broad gauge,” Ghisingh said.
Apparently giving less importance to the popular verdict that made Prashant Tamang Indian Idol 3, Ghisingh said: “We are going sentimental over him. We should remember he is a sarkari aadmi and will be looked after by the government.” He, of course, congratulated the Darjeeling boy and said the street riot in Siliguri on Friday were not communal. “It was more of a galti (mistake) that should not have happened in the civilised world.”
With the Pujas a few days away, Ghisingh confessed that he respected all gods. “But to honour the Sixth Schedule status, I can’t pursue idol worship openly. However, non-tribals in the council area are permitted to worship idols. Why say you are a tribal and then do something else.”
Speaking on his Indonesia experience, Ghisingh said he had gone there to study why foreigners and dollars prefer to go there. “We have to take some guidelines from that country, where aboriginal culture is a big draw for tourists from the West.”