President of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha Bimal Gurung and general secretary Roshan Giri met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi on Sunday, November 20, to ‘request him’ to consider the formation of a separate Gorkhaland. The two leaders met the Home Minister in New Delhi. Singh has told the leaders of the GJM that another meeting will be set up shortly to look in to the matter.
Speaking with The Indian Express Roshan Giri said,“Yes we met the Home Minister on Sunday. The main purpose of the meeting was to request him to set up a high level Committee to look in to the demand of a Gorkhaland, separate from West Bengal, afresh. The Home Minister told us that he will meet as again soon to look in to the matter.’’ The leaders have also invited Rajnath Singh to visit Darjeeling to inaugurate two projects – a model school and a car park. “Both these projects have been constructed with Central funds. The inauguration will take place when the Home Minister sets a date,’’added Giri.
The demand for a separate Gorkhaland resurfaced before the 2016 Assembly elections when Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee announced several Development Boards for different communities in Darjeeling district – such as the Lepcha development board and the Tamang development Board. The GJM has maintained that the setting up of these separate boards, outside of the functioning of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), is a part of bannerjee’s ‘divisive politics’.
The demand picked up steam however right after the Assembly election results were announced as while the GJM continued to retain all the seats in the district, its vote share had fallen alarmingly by nearly 40 per cent and Trinamool had managed to make inroads. Before and after the elections, a number of GJM leaders joined the Trinamool overtly and covertly. GJM spokesperson Harka Bahadur Chhetri formed a new Jap party with TMC as its ally. After the elections GJM vice president Pradeep Pradhan joined the TMC in an elaborate event at Kerseong.
The widening gap between the two leaders – Mamata Bannerjee and Bimal Gurung, came to a head when the GJM announced a general strike against the West Bengal government’s ‘continued interference’ in the functioning of the GTA in September this year which the TMC stiffly opposed. The TMC claimed the strike was unsuccessful while the GJM maintained that it had been successful and the party still enjoyed unrivalled popularity in the Bengal hills.
The meeting with Rajnath Singh comes at a significant time with three crucial elections slotted for early next year – the Darjeeling municipal elections to be held in February, the two tier panchayat elections also expected in the same month, and the elections for the GTA expected to be held in August next year.
Meanwhile, the Gorkhaland movement acquired another dimension with the launch of a small little known political party, earlier in October this year called the Gorkha Jan Kalyan Manch. The Manch has launched an agitation separate from the GJM for a Gorkhaland. It recently released a two page document detailing why a separate Gorkhaland needs to be formed. Since November 15, GJKM president Krishna Chhetri has been on an indefinite hunger strike for Gorkhaland at Limbu Basti in Prakash Nagar area of Siliguri.
The demand for Gorkhaland, which originally began in 1907, includes Darjeeling, Dooars and the Terai region of Bengal.