Political parties in the Darjeeling hills have begun preparing their respective delegations for talks with the state government over the demand for Gorkhaland on August 29, leading the Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC) to cancel a meet it had scheduled for Sunday to discuss the issue. Political observers saw the move as a breach of unity just before the meeting at the state secretariat in Kolkata. Following in the footsteps of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), which broke away from the GMCC fold and declared its intent to sit for talks on Saturday, the Gorkha National Liberation Front and Jan Andolan Party have decided to declare their teams on Monday.
“We will declare the names of our delegation on Monday. We sent our representative to the GMCC meeting but it got cancelled… I think it is time we announce the names. Each political party will be representing itself,” GNLF general secretary Mahendra Chetri told The Indian Express. The GJM had on Saturday also announced the names of its five-member delegation. GJM chief Bimal Gurung will not be part of the team, with political observers saying this is likely because he has been charged under the UAPA over twin blasts that occurred in Darjeeling and Kalimpong on August 19. However, in an audio message sent from his hideout, Gurung said some leaders may conspire against the demand for Gorkhaland.
“The agenda should only be Gorkhaland. If that does not happen, the hill leaders should walk out of the meeting,” he said in the message, adding: “If the Hill leaders do not discuss Gorkhaland in the meeting, they will not be allowed to return to the Hills.” On August 22, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced that a meeting would be held at 4 pm on August 29 at Nabanna, and invited all Hill parties that wanted “peace and normalcy” in the Hills to attend. The meeting was announced in response to a letter written by Mann Ghising, president of the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), seeking the CM’s intervention to resolve the Darjeeling impasse.
“There was a stalemate situation in the Hills, and the situation was getting worse. We first wrote a letter to the Centre, who directed us to write to the state government. Then we wrote a letter to Mamata Banerjee. There is no harm in each party separately sending their delegation,” said Chetri.
However, a GMCC leader who did not wish to be identified said some committee members are still awaiting a formal invitation from the state government. The GJM delegation will be led by party chief coordinator Binay Tamang, and consists of the president of the GJM Kalimpong district committee R B Bhujel, Kurseong unit general secretary Anit Thapa, party Terai convener Tshering Dahal and Rohit Thapa, GJM organising secretary in the party’s Dooars committee.