Parties demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland in Darjeeling region have reacted sharply to the Union home ministry’s decision to convene a tripartite meeting in Delhi on August 7, to review the semi-autonomous Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) which has administrative power in the hill region.
The hill parties want the BJP to keep its electoral promise and come up with a permanent political solution for Darjeeling hills, Siliguri, Terai and the Dooars region before the 2021 assembly elections in Bengal.
The Bimal Gurung faction of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), the biggest hill parties that have been agitating for statehood for decades now and helped the Bharatiya Janata Party win the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat thrice in a row; have said that they feel disillusioned.
The present office bearers of the GTA are appointed by the Mamata Banerjee government.
The last review meeting was held in January 2015 when Gurung, who is now in hiding, controlled the GTA.
Leaders of the GJM (Gurung faction) and the GNLF met Union home minister Amit Shah and BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya on July 22 and July 29 respectively with the appeal to find a permanent political solution before the assembly polls.
The GJM (Gurung faction) said that during the talks Shah decided to start tripartite talks within a fortnight. However, on July 27 the home ministry issued a notice saying that the Union home secretary would review issues related to GTA on August 7 at a meeting with the home secretary, the district magistrate, GTA officials and representatives of the GJM.
The hill parties have taken exception to the fact that the letter does not specify which faction of the GJM would be present at the meeting although the Union home ministry has asked the district magistrate to issue a notice to the GJM.
In a statement, the Gurung faction has said that it will not attend the meeting. “There is no logic in calling the GTA review meeting after more than five years,” said the statement Roshan Giri issued from his hideout on Friday.
Gurung’s followers feel that the BJP-led government at the Centre is sitting on the issue for a long time.
In September 2017, then Union home minister Rajnath Singh appealed to the GJM to withdraw its agitation and said the ministry would convene a meeting to discuss the raging issue. The meeting did not take place and politics in Darjeeling underwent a sea change.
Gurung, who founded the GJM, went into hiding along with his faction’s general secretary Roshan Giri as they were charged under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act by the state. The Trinamool Congress government put Binoy Tamang, head of the other GJM faction and Gurung’s rival, at the helm of affairs of the GTA.
Raju Bista, the BJP Lok Sabha member from Darjeeling, said, “I have informed Shah that GTA has failed to fulfill the aspirations of the people of Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars and political talks should be held immediately with GJM, our other allies and rest of the stakeholders.”
Benoy Tamang and Anit Thapa, chairman of the GTA board of administrators and general secretary of the GJM’s other faction, said on Friday that they will not attend the meeting.
Ajoy Edwards, president of the GNLF Darjeeling branch committee, said, “Those attending this meeting will be betraying the cause of the Gorkhas. We want the BJP to clarify its stand at the earliest.”
North Bengal development affairs minister Rabindranath Ghosh said, “I will not say anything on this issue.”