WHILE STRESSING that Sikkim will never meddle in the affairs of West Bengal and Darjeeling Hills, Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling on Tuesday said that both states have decided to bury the past and usher in a new beginning.
Chamling on Tuesday met Gorkhaland Territorial Admini-stration (GTA) Chairman Binay Tamang at Mintokgang in Sikkim, days after he met Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata, where the two leaders announced that the two neighbours would work together for mutual development.
The meeting of the CMs had marked an end to a breach of relations after Chamling openly declared his support for a separate state of Gorkhaland last year.
Speaking to mediapersons after the meeting on Tuesday, Chamling said: “Following my meeting with Mamata Banerjee, we decided to bury the past and give a new beginning to our relationship by giving full support and cooperation to each other for the progress and prosperity of Sikkim and Darjeeling Hills. As immediate neighbours with similar customs, traditions and language among others, it is imperative that we live in harmony with each other. We decided to work collectively on various matters for the welfare of the people…”
Tamang, meanwhile, said the aim is to ensure that there are no more political disturbances in Sikkim and Darjeeling Hills. “Darjeeling and Kalimpong will not give shelter to any anti-social element from Sikkim and Sikkim should not give any shelter to any anti-social and anti-national element from Darjeeling region… People from Darjeeling and Kalimpong, who are working in Sikkim, will be protected as long as they don’t cause political disturbance and law and order problems,” Tamang added.
Welcoming Tamang’s statement, Chamling said: “There will be no more political disturbance in the Hills. I have suggested that they should bring in the revolution of development, instead of resorting to violence and bandhs, which will only result in destruction. I have also reiterated our stand that the government of Sikkim will never meddle in the affairs of West Bengal and Darjeeling Hills.”
At the meeting, Chamling urged that National Highway 10 — the highway that connects Sikkim to Bengal and the rest of the country — be kept unencumbered. The highway had faced a near shutdown during the over 100-day bandh for a Gorkhaland state last year. Tourism in Sikkim, especially, was hit hard by the agitation.
Tamang said that he has assured the Sikkim leadership that NH-10 will be kept “free from encumbrances in future.” “I have also suggested that a helpline be set up for any problems on NH-10,” he added.
Further, the two leaders decided to jointly take up certain issues with the Centre, including tribal status for 11 communities belonging to both Sikkim and Darjeeling. “Overhead stations for upcoming railway lines and construction of towers for hydel projects, without taking the consent of neither the state government nor the GTA, will also be raised,” said Chamling.
Other issues discussed in the meeting included reciprocal transport arrangement (plying of taxis) through secretary-level dialogue and the creation of a tourist circuit comprising Sikkim and Darjeeling Hills. “Surveillance on both sides is to be strengthened… Special attention should be given to border areas like Sombaria, Daramdin and Rhenock, through which chemical fertilizers are being smuggled into Sikkim. The Sikkim government and GTA will work out measures for construction and upgradation of roads and bridges in some areas,” said Chamling.