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Tamang statehood term for Centre’s meeting

GJM leader calls govt's move, relating to the GTA, unnecessary as the hill body had been formed 'under the state act'
Binay Tamang

Vivek Chhetri   |   Darjeeling   |   Published 01.08.20, 02:17 AM

Binay Tamang, president of a Gorkha Janmukti Morcha faction, on Friday said his party would not attend the August 7 talks called by the Centre unless the government brought together all the stakeholders on the issue of forming a Gorkhaland state.

The Centre has called the tripartite meeting “to review the issues related to Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA)”.

Those invited are the Bengal government, GTA and the “Gorkha Janmukti Morcha”, whose other faction is led by BJP ally Bimal Gurung.

“We will attend the meeting only if the Centre calls it on the issue of Gorkhaland,” Tamang said at an online news conference.

Tamang’s faction is an ally of the Trinamul Congress that has always opposed the statehood demand.

Therefore, the demand from Tamang — whose faction has been nominated by the Bengal government to run the GTA — to start “an intellectual movement for Gorkhaland” is surprising, multiple sources in the hills told this correspondent.

Tamang’s political opponents argue that the GTA is a stumbling block to statehood and should thus be made dysfunctional.

Asked about his stance on GTA vs Gorkhaland, Tamang, however, referred to previous such bodies in the Darjeeling hills, such as the Hill Development Council and the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.

“Even in Ladakh, all these were not a stumbling block,” Tamang said, alluding to the recent grant of Union Territory status to Ladakh despite the existence of the Ladakh Autonomous Council.

During the nearly hour-and-a-half media interaction, Tamang emphasised statehood but sought to keep the issue out of his ties with the state government.

“We need to demand the right thing at the right place,” Tamang said, stressing that demands for development needed to be raised with the state while the statehood demand had to be directed at the Centre.

Tamang added that the Centre’s “review meeting” relating to the GTA was unnecessary as the hill body had been formed “under the state act”.

Political observers believe that Tamang is trying to kill two birds with one stone.

“He harped on Gorkhaland as this would put pressure on the BJP and its allies, but he did not commit himself to leading the proposed intellectual movement and instead suggested the need for all to come together,” an observer said.

Many believe that the BJP cannot utter the word “Gorkhaland” at a time it is looking to come to power in Bengal.

The BJP and its allies have promised “a permanent political solution” to the identity issue in the hills and tribal status to 11 hill communities.

Tamang, however, seemed to be trying to change this narrative by arguing that the “permanent political solution” must only be about “statehood”.

The other major claim he made was about receiving an invitation to the August 7 meeting directly from the Centre.

According to the July 27 notice for the meeting, the Darjeeling district magistrate was assigned the job of sending the invite to the “Gorkha Janmukti Morcha”.

“Since Gurung’s faction is with the BJP, Tamang’s claim that he received the letter directly is interesting,” an observer said.

Tamang said he had received the invitation letter by email on July 28.

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