Mamata-GJM meeting postponed

5 years ago | 12-06-2012 | IBNS

Kolkata, June 12: The meeting between West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and leaders of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) on the Gorkhaland issue has been deferred with the Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo flying to New Delhi on Tuesday.

Banerjee would meet UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday to discuss on the Presidential election.

According to reports, the meeting between Banerjee and GJM leaders will take place on June 16.

The meeting was earlier scheduled to take place on June 14.

The meeting assumes significance as fresh unrest can unfold in the hills of Darjeeling after a year of peace with the GJM rejecting outright the recommendations of a committee headed by a former judge that allocated only five mouzas to the new Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).

Former Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court Shymal Sen led committee made the recommendations. The GTA which was formed a year ago replacing the previous Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGCH).

"We will write to chief minister Mamata Banerjee first. Then a 21-member delegation will meet the CM and we will boycott all elections to the GTA," said GJM leader Roshan Giri.

He said from July 2 to 4, they would observe Darjeeling shutdown and on July 17 they will burn the copies of the GTA agreement signed on July 18, 2011.

Giri said legislators of the Assembly from the region will step down en mass and they would hold a big rally on July 27.

"This is a matter of our prestige, our sentiments, we have to fight," said Giri.

He said the Justice Shymal Sen committee was not a committee but a one-man commission because all our members in the panel were just showpieces.

Darjeeling is a magnet for tourists and with scorching heat wave sweeping the plains, people had thronged the hills in large number this summer.

The agitation is likely to hit badly the tea and tourism industry of the hills again.

West Bengal Chief Secretary Samar Ghosh June 9 told reporters that the ten-member panel went by factors like contiguity and homogeneity of the population while Banerjee had urged all to accept the recommendations since when it was formed every group had agreed to accept its recommendations.

It was assured to the GTA that more areas from the Terai, Dooars and plains would be added to the existing GTA.

The principal party in the hills spearheading a Gorkhaland movement, the GJM, said they were shocked by the recommendation of the panel and had expected at least 150 mouzas to be added to the GTA.

"We thought at least 150 mouzas would be in GTA. In fact our actual demand is 396. But only five were given and so it is a kind of humiliation for us," said Giri.

Of the five mouzas that were recommended to be added to the GTA by the panel, two are in Jalpaiguri district and three in Darjeeling district.

GJM spokesman and Kalimpong MLA Harka Bahadur Chhetri said Gorkha majority areas were shown as Gorkha minority areas in the panel report.

"The panel's recommendation appears to be a political one," said Chhetri.

However, the Adivasi Vikas Parishad (AVP), who represent the Tarai and Dooars region, welcomed the panel's recommendation.

After the Mamata Banerjee government assumed power, a historic tripartite agreement inked in July 2011 had raised hope of peace in Darjeeling hills of West Bengal that was roiled by the renewed demand of a separate state in recent years.

With an aim to end the Gorkhaland crisis, the accord formalized the formation of the new autonomous body- GTA. It was seen as a middle ground for the administration and those calling for a separate state to caved out of the region.

In the presence of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung, the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), the autonomous body to govern the region with more powers to the local people (Gorkhas or ethnic Nepalese) replacing the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), was formalized on July 11, 2012.

The GJM had last year welcomed the agreement, but did not appear to back down from their original demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland and said it was a positive movement towards independence.

In the past over three years before the GTA formation in 2011, the Himalayan mountains of Darjeeling coped with the economic fallout of tourists cancelling their holiday plans in the hills singed by the agitations and shutdowns.

The famous tea and tourism industry had also suffered as a result of the long periods of shutdown called by the GJM which said the demand for a separate state dates back to 1907.

The movement for a separate Gorkhaland claimed 1,200 lives in the 1980s during the first campaign for statehood led by hill leader Subhas Ghisingh that had resulted in limited autonomy being granted to the region and the formation of DGHC.