Centre calls meet on hills
The Centre has convened a meeting “to discuss the issues related to Gorkhaland” on October 7 — incidentally the foundation day of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha — with the state government and the Bimal Gurung faction of the Morcha, a BJP ally.
This is the first time that the BJP-led Centre will convene an official meeting without ambiguity on Gorkhaland.
Since 2009, when the BJP first won the Darjeeling seat in the Lok Sabha polls, to 2014 and 2019, when it repeated the victories, it has always been cautious with the choice of words in its poll manifestos on Gorkhaland.
In the 2009 and 2014 manifestos, the BJP had said: “The BJP will sympathetically examine and appropriately consider the long pending demands of the Gorkhas, the Adivasis and other people of Darjeeling district and the Dooars region.”
The BJP’s 2019 manifesto was worded a bit differently: “We are committed to work towards finding a permanent political solution to the issue of Darjeeling Hills, Siliguri, Terai and Dooars region.”
The letter October 3, signed by Renu Sarin, director (Centre-State II), of the Union home ministry, however, has clearly stated that the meeting convened on October 7at Room No 119 of the North Block is “to discuss the issues related to Gorkhaland.”
This letter was made public in social media by Roshan Giri, general secretary of the Morcha (Bimal camp).
The Morcha is divided in two camps, one with Bimal Gurung, the other with Binay Tamang.
Earlier, the Centre had on July 27- which is observed as Gorkhaland Martyrs’ Day in the hills by all political parties, issued a letter convening a tripartite meeting on August 7 between Bengal government, GTA and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha to “review the issues related to Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA)” . But the “agenda” of the meeting was GTA and not the separate state of “Gorkhaland”. The Binay and Bimal camps had refused to attend that meeting and it was deferred.
This time, Binay Tamang camp has not yet received the Centre’s letter. The invitation has been extended to state home secretary, district magistrate of Darjeeling, principal secretary of GTA and president of Morcha whose address is Singamari, Darjeeling. Singamari happens to be the office of the Bimal camp, but the land belongs to the state government for technical reasons.
At present, Bimal Gurung is absconding.
Keshav Raj Pokhrel, spokesman of the Morcha (Binay camp), questioned the logic of invitations. “There are two DMs in GTA area, from Darjeeling and Kalimpong. Only the Darjeeling DM has been invited. Is Kalimpong not in Gorkhaland region? Also, why should a principal secretary of GTA be invited when you are discussing Gorkhaland?”
He added that the party “welcomes” the October 7 initiative, provided the BJP is “sincere.”
Ajoy Edwards, president, Darjeeling GNLF Branch committee, summed up the politics of Darjeeling.
“We welcome the meeting as the agenda is about Gorkhaland and this issues unites Darjeeling, even though we as an ally have not been invited and this is not important” said Edwards.
Edwards, however, issued a caveat.
“The development (the meeting) has raised hopes in the hills,” he said, and added that the hill people are now wise, “not like in 2007, 2013, 2017 (years when Gorkhaland agitations were revived)”. They will not be fooled again if the meeting has been called only to hoodwink the hills, he added.