Hills feel let down over Centre’s meet agenda
A tripartite meeting the Centre has convened on August 7 involving the Bengal government, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration and the “Gorkha Janmukti Morcha” has stirred political controversy because the agenda and the list of participants have disappointed the hills.
Previous statements from the Bimal Gurung camp of the Morcha and Raju Bista, Darjeeling MP from the BJP, had created expectations that the Centre 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 issues had found mention in the BJP manifesto for the Lok Sabha polls.
But the July 27 notice for the meeting, sent by Renu Sarin, director (Centre-state division) of the Union home ministry, said the agenda was “to review the issues related to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration”.
“Hardly anybody is interested in a review of GTA issues,” a source in Darjeeling said.
The notice also said: “Meeting to review the issues related to GTA-reg.”
The recipients of the notice were the state home secretary, the principal secretary of the GTA, the Darjeeling district magistrate, the GTA chief executive and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
The notice prompted the GNLF to point fingers at allies BJP and the Morcha (Bimal).
“The GJM 1 (Bimal camp) has been hoodwinking the public from the beginning. They want to go back to the GTA. This is nothing but betrayal. The GJM 1 and the BJP must come clear on this,” said Ajoy Edwards, president, GNLF Darjeeling branch committee.
Edward’s livid response came hours after his party president, Mann Ghisingh, had arrived in Bagdogra after meeting state BJP leaders Dilip Ghosh and Kailash Vijayvargiya in Delhi.
There has been simmering tension between the Bimal camp and the GNLF ever since Morcha leaders Nima Tamang and Binu Sundas met Union home minister Amit Shah on June 21 and claimed a tripartite meeting between “the Centre, the state and the GJM” would be held within a fortnight.
Perhaps because of the pressure from the GNLF, Roshan Giri, general secretary of the Bimal faction, clarified on Thursday that his camp was not interested in a GTA review meeting and demanded a meeting on the two core issues. “We will not attend the (August 7) review meeting,” Giri said.
Edwards, however, said that Giri should write to the home ministry instead of issuing such media statements.
There has been some confusion over the invite as the post of GTA chief executive doesn’t exist -- it has been replaced by chairman, board of administrators.
Besides, the Morcha has two factions, one led by Bimal Gurung and the other by Binay Tamang. A court case is pending with both factions laying claim to the name Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
The Tamang camp too has castigated the Bimal camp, saying the “real intentions of the BJP and the Bimal Gurung camp” have been “exposed”.
Bista said in a written statement that he had informed Shah that the GTA had failed to fulfil the people’s aspirations and that “it is recommended to initiate political-level talks for permanent solution”.
“I request everyone to wait for more clarifications on the nature and purpose of the proposed meeting... to emerge,” Bista said.