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Centre opts to defer Hill talks

Call for Gorkhaland getting stronger with 'permanent political solution' as one of the agendas of the meeting
Binay Tamang
Binay Tamang

Vivek Chhetri   |   Darjeeling   |   Published 02.08.20, 03:37 AM

The Centre has postponed the August 7 talks with the Bengal government, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration and the “Gorkha Janmukti Morcha” at a time parties in the Darjeeling hills have resented the agenda. 

The Union home ministry did not cite any reason while issuing a notice on Saturday mentioning that the “meeting stands postponed”. The hill parties, however, have been vocal in their opposition to the meeting’s agenda — “review the issues related to Gorkhaland Territorial Administration” — announced on July 27 by the home ministry. 


“It seems the reaction of the hills has forced the Centre to postpone the meeting,” a source said.

While the Binay Tamang camp of the Morcha, which is an ally of the Trinamul Congress, had said it would not attend the meeting and demanded talks on a separate Gorkhaland state, the Bimal Gurung faction of the Morcha and the GNLF, which back the BJP, too had expressed unwillingness to join a discussion on issues related to the GTA. 

Observers said the Centre might have erred in deciding the memo. The fact that the agenda had caused discomfort even within the state unit of the BJP became clear when Darjeeling MP Raju Bista issued a statement saying he had told home minister Amit Shah that the GTA had failed to fulfil the people’s aspirations and that “it is recommended to initiate political level talks for a permanent solution”.

There had been indications that the meeting would try to resolve the two key issues |in the hills. One, a “permanent political solution” to the question of identity and two, the grant of tribal status to 11 hill communities.Both matters had found mention in the BJP’s election manifestos.

On Saturday, Tamang said his demand that statehood be made the meeting’s agenda had led to the postponement. “We are demanding a change in the meeting’s agenda, not a change in the meeting’s date,” he said.

Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the Bimal camp of the Morcha, claimed that the meeting had been pushed back after its delegation met BJP national general secretary Bhupendra Yadav in Delhi on Friday.

Bista attacked Tamang. “A few unelected individuals are spreading lies as if the meeting was postponed on their request,” he said, referring to the GTA board of administrators, who have been handpicked by the Mamata Banerjee government. 

Amid allegations and counterallegations, some political observers felt that the developments of the past three days suggested that it would not be smooth sailing for the BJP and its allies in the hills.

“Those involved (in drawing up the meeting’s agenda) have been made to rethink. This is a victory for all (the hill people),” said MunishTamang, working president of the apolitical Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh.

Munish said his organisation’s understanding was that the “permanent political solution” was Gorkhaland. 

“The call for Gorkhaland is once again getting stronger and it will not be easy for the BJP,” said an observer.

A strong indication of this narrative could be seen in a media release issued by Giri on Saturday. Instead of describing his faction as the Bimal camp of the Morcha, as has been the practice, Giri chose to describe it as Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (Gorkhaland).

Bista iterated that his party was “committed to fulfilling” the two demands — political solution and tribal status. “I am persistently working with utmost sincerity to fulfill the… commitments,” he said.

GNLF leader Ajoy Edwards, who had been among the first to criticise the home ministry’s meting agenda, thanked it for the postponement. “This GTA meeting should be scrapped altogether and a political level meeting on a permanent solution should be initiated immediately,” he said.

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