The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s request to the state government seeking withdrawal of 2017 Gorkhaland agitation cases has come at a time the party is publicly reviving the Gorkhaland statehood demand, which has raised questions on the sincerity of its call in some circles.
The Trinamul-led state government is opposed to any further division of Bengal.
Roshan Giri, the Morcha general secretary, called on Bengal law minister Moloy Ghatak in Siliguri on Tuesday. “I basically requested for withdrawal of cases. Of the 400-odd cases slapped against our party workers (during the 2017 Gorkhaland agitation), around 100-odd cases are yet to be withdrawn,” said Giri.
A Trinamul source said the Morcha leader was trying to meet Trinamul national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee.
Giri, however, insisted that talks with the minister were confined to court cases. Giri meeting Bengal minister at a time Morcha is trying to cobble up an alliance to revive the statehood agitation has raised brows.
“They want to start an agitation, which basically means confronting the state government which is against division. But on the other hand, they are literally begging the government to withdraw cases. We will definitely expose the double standard of this party,” said a leader of the Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha, archrivals of the Morcha and an ally of Trinamul in the hills.
The Morcha is working closely with Hamro Party, hill leaders like Binay Tamang and apolitical organisations to revive the statehood demand. It recently was instrumental in forming a “national committee” after three seminars in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Delhi to take forward the demand.
Moloy Ghatak. File picture
“It needs to be seen how those working with the Morcha will view this development. Many are not impressed,” said a hill source.
Giri’s statement also underlines the state government’s control of hill affairs.
It was largely accepted that most of the cases filed against Morcha activists during the statehood agitation would be withdrawn after the Morcha joined hands with Trinamul in 2020, ditching its 11-year-old ally the BJP.
“It is, however, clear that the keys are still with the state government,” said an observer.
In 2012 too, the state government agreed to withdraw cases filed against Morcha activists during their statehood movement from 2007 to 2011.
The memorandum of agreement for the formation of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) between the Centre, the state and the Morcha had a specific clause in this regard.
Clause 29 of the MoA signed on July 18, 2011, reads: “A review will be done by the State Government of all the cases registered under various laws against persons involved in the GJM agitation. Steps will be taken in the light of the review, not to proceed with prosecution in all cases except those charged with murder. Release of persons in custody will follow the withdrawal of cases.”
Giri, however, said: “Even those cases were not withdrawn.”
Administrative sources said that around 382 cases had been filed during the 2007-11Gorkhaland agitation.
An administrative officer explained: “There are two categories of cases. The first category has cases filed by the government against the agitators. The second category has cases filed by individuals and Opposition leaders against the Morcha activists. The government can only withdraw the cases it has filed but would have no say in the cases filed by the individuals.”