Gurung claims GTA plea by Pranab Hill demands before President

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By RAJEEV RAVIDAS
  • Published 11.11.13
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Darjeeling, Nov. 10: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung today said President Pranab Mukherjee had requested him to return to head the GTA when the two met at Raj Bhavan this afternoon.

The request was reportedly made when Gurung presented a memorandum containing five demands of hill leaders, including the release of arrested GTA Sabha members and other Morcha activists, to Mukherjee at the 20-minute meeting.

The President was on a daylong visit to Darjeeling to attend the inaugural programme of St Joseph’s School North Point that is marking its 125 years.

“The President made a request to me to return as the chief executive of the GTA, but I did not give him any commitment. The meeting was very good,” Gurung said.

The Morcha chief resigned from the post of the GTA chief executive on July 30 as the Morcha renewed the agitation for Gorkhaland following the Congress’s nod to form Telangana.

Although Morcha assistant secretary Binay Tamang was elected as the chief executive, he couldn’t take the oath within the stipulated period of one month as he was lodged in jail. Later, GTA deputy chief executive Ramesh Allay was empowered to officiate as the chief executive.

Tamang is among 10 GTA members and hundreds of party workers who were arrested in the latest phase of the Gorkhaland agitation.

The release of the arrested from jail was among the five demands in a memorandum the Morcha chief submitted to Mukherjee.

The other four demands are the inclusion of the GTA in the North Eastern Council as the Darjeeling hills have geographical and cultural similarities with the Northeast, transfer of reserved forests to the GTA for their better protection and preservation, granting of Scheduled Tribe status to all members of the Gorkha community, except those belonging to the Scheduled Castes, and the setting up of a central university in the hills.

In the memorandum, the Morcha alleged that the leaders and supporters were being detained on concocted charges, although the party had heeded the state government’s request to run the GTA in a proper way. “The detention of the arrested (persons) and slapping of fresh charges on them, contrary to the promise made by the state to GJM, continues unabated,” read the memorandum.

The President arrived at the Lebong helipad, 8km from here, around 12.45pm. After his meetings with governor M.K. Narayanan and Gurung at Raj Bhavan, he drove down to the St Joseph’s School, North Point. Students, teachers and alumni had gathered at the school to listen to the President.

In his speech, Mukherjee laid stress on the importance of education in nation-building. “India’s tomorrows are shaped in the crucibles of great schools, in their classrooms, games fields as well as co-curricular activities,” he said.

Quoting India’s first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, he said: “If India is to be a great nation, it must begin in her classrooms.”

The President lauded the contribution of the school and the Jesuit fathers, in particular, in the field of education.

“Institutions like St Joseph’s School, North Point and others run by the Jesuit fathers like St Xavier’s, Kolkata, where Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore studied, St Xavier’s Mumbai, XLRI, Jamshedpur, and Loyola College, Chennai, have stood the test of time and contributed to the building of our nation,” he said.

St Joseph’s School, and St Xavier’s Calcutta and Mumbai were founded by Fr Henri Depelchin, a Jesuit father of Belgian origin.

The school felicitated four of its alumni for their contribution in the field of education. The President presented plaques to Robindra Subba, the director of Himali Boarding School, Kurseong, Dhiresh Thapa, director of Gyanoday Niketan, Darjeeling, Pintoo Lama, director Vidya Vikash Academy, Darjeeling and Manuel Coutino, school teacher of 51 years’ standing.

The nearly year-long anniversary celebrations of the school will conclude in end-April.