Crisis in Darjeeling hills: GTA ‘scrapped’, agitation to continue

Gorkha leaders said that they will form a core committee and send a delegation to meet the Prime Minister, the Union Home Minister, and the President to apprise them of the situation.

Written by Ravik Bhattacharya | Darjeeling | Published:June 21, 2017 2:28 am
Darjeeling unrest, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, Gorkhaland, Gorkha community Vehicles wait for police escort in Darjeeling Tuesday. (Express Photo/Partha Paul)

Twelve Gorkha outfits and political parties took a resolution on Tuesday to scrap the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), whose term ends in August, even as pro-Gorkhaland leaders said that the ongoing indefinite strike will continue in the north Bengal hills and put the onus on the state government to withdraw forces first.

Outfits such as Jan Andolan Party, Akhil Bhartiya Gorkha League and United Gorkha Revolutionary Front, among others, took part in Tuesday’s all-party meeting for the first time. Leaders of BJP’s hill district committee also participated.

Gorkha leaders said that they will form a core committee and send a delegation to meet the Prime Minister, the Union Home Minister, and the President to apprise them of the situation. Gorkha outfits — including GJM, which is leading the current agitation, and GNLF — have announced that they will boycott the all-party meeting that the state government has called on Thursday.

The Left Front will also not take part in the meeting “since the chief minister is out of the country”, Vivek Sarkar, Left Front’s convener for Darjeeling Hills, said.

People from the Gorkha community began protesting earlier this month against the West Bengal government’s decision to make Bengali a compulsory subject in schools. They subsequently revived the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.

The state government has announced that Internet services in Darjeeling Hills will remain blocked until June 26; there is also a blackout of local cable TV channels — the government asserts that this is done to stop spreading of misinformation and provocative messages. The state government Tuesday also sent a report to the Union Home Ministry and demanded eight additional companies of central forces for the hills.

Making clear that the Mamata Banerjee-led state government should “reconsider its rigid stand on the Bengali language policy”, P Arjun, member of Gorkhaland Study Forum, a GJM think-tank, said, “Our movement for Gorkhaland will continue. We have unitedly decided to scrap GTA — we will form an all-India coordination committee for Gorkhaland to take the movement forward.”

The GTA agreement was signed in 2012 between West Bengal, the Centre and the GJM. The GJM won all 45 seats in the elections that followed, and GJM’s Bimal Gurung became the GTA chief.

The state government and Trinamool Congress leaders maintain that the GJM is fanning trouble in the Hills since the GTA elections are approaching and the GJM is wary of the rising influence of TMC — it recently became the first party from the ‘plains’ to get a toehold in the Hills, winning Mirik municipality.

Monish Tamang, working president of Bhartiya Gorkha Parisangh, which claims to be a non-political organisation, asserted that Banerjee has escalated tension in the Hills. “Our bandh will continue. The onus is on the state government to de-escalate tension. She should withdraw forces first and let normalcy return.”

He said another all-party meeting will be held in Darjeeling on June 24. “We will also hold a press conference in Delhi the same day, which will have representatives from organisations fighting for statehood, including Vidarbha (Maharashtra) and Bodoland (Assam),” Tamang said.

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