“I support Gorkhaland. And since we are all fighting for Gorkhaland now, what is the point of staying on any board that is detrimental to this cause?” asks Arun Rai, a member of the Rai Development Board in the Darjeeling Hills. Like many of his counterparts across the Hills, Rai resigned from the 28-member board on Monday.
As resignations, or assurances of resignations, started pouring in, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leaders on Monday declared that “all members of the 15 development boards’’ set up by the state government will be putting in their papers. “We have received letters from members of all 15 boards saying they wish to resign. All members will be resigning from these boards soon. However, we have not heard from the chairmen of these boards,” said GJM spokesperson Binoy Tamang, adding that “all of them have been holed up in Siliguri”. “They are all being kept in Siliguri in government accommodations so they can be controlled,” he claimed.
According to the GJM spokesperson, board members will be taking part in rallies in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong over the next couple of days. However, Chun Kuacha of the 32-member Bhutia Board said many members are still “undecided”. Around nine members of the Bhutia Board, including Kuacha, have decided to resign. “We have taken this decision today. We will be submitting our resignations to the chairman of the board soon. I can’t speak for the other members of the board. From what I know, they are still undecided,” he said.
The 15 development boards were set up by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee over the last couple of years, one of the earliest being the Lepcha Development Board, established in 2013, two years after Mamata came to power and a year after the signing of the tripartite agreement (between the Centre, the state and the GJM) to form the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).
These boards, one for each community, then received flak from the GJM, which called it a “political ploy” by the Trinamool Congress to divide the Gorkhas and further render the GTA redundant. After the tripartite agreement was signed, it was the GTA, an elected body, which was to be responsible for all administration, development and disbursal of funds received from the state government, in the Darjeeling Hills.
But the GJM has maintained that the 45 departments were handed over to it “only on paper”. Claiming that they were “never” allowed to function independently, they accused the chief minister of constantly “interfering in GTA matters’’ and “trying to control this administration”. The GTA has been a major bone of contention between the two administrations of West Bengal and the Gorkhas, a build-up of which has led to the violent Gorkhaland agitations witnessed all of last month, triggered by imposition of the Bengali language.