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Amitava Banerjee, Hindustan Times
Darjeeling, March 22, 2012
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is all set to attempt a repeat of her Delhi triumph in the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) issue. She has expressed desire to meet the fuming Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung in Kolkata on March 24. Trouble had been brewing with the GJM waving off the State Government’s desire to hold early GTA polls. Instead they had threatened a protest “Padyatra” (march) to Dooars; a public meet in Dooars followed by another Padyatra to Kolkata demanding the inclusion of “Gorkha dominated” mouzas of Terai and Dooars to be incorporated in the GTA. “No election before the inclusion of Terai and Dooars mouzas” Gurung had threatened.

“The chief minister has called up President Bimal Gurung and invited him for talks in Kolkata on March 24. He has consented. We will be listening to what the CM has to say. However we will also explain to her that it is not possible on our part to agree to elections prior to inclusion of mouzas of Terai and Dooars” stated GJM General Secretary Giri.

The GJM team would comprise of Gurung, Giri, LB Pariyar and Anit Thapa. The team is slated to leave Darjeeling for Kolkata on March 23.

Sources state that the GJM policy makers are under immense pressure from party supporters from Terai and Dooars with the demand for inclusion of the mouzas in the GTA. In the past, despite taking active participation in the Gorkhaland agitation of the 1980s, Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) President Subash Ghising had made no attempt to include areas of Terai and Dooars in the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (a development agency-the fallout of 28 months of violent Gorkhaland agitation led by Ghising in the 1980s.)

The GJM supporters from Terai and Dooars fear a rerun of this. Gurung addressing GJM supporters from Terai and Dooars  in Mongpu, 30 km from Darjeeling town, on March 18 had stressed that come what may, there would be no elections to the GTA unless mouzas of Terai and Dooars were incorporated in the GTA. He had even used the platform to take a dig at CM Banerjee for her “uncalled for behavior” and “failing to reciprocate the warmth that the GJM had showered on her during her Hill visits.”

However the GJM leaders had not failed to educate the masses on how the GJM had triumphed over Ghising and his DGHC in regards to the Terai- Dooars issue. “While Ghising did not give a thought to Terai and Dooars; a High power committee mentioned in the GTA Act has been constituted to study the territory issue. The Government will act according to this committee’s recommendations” Giri had stated in Mongpu.

Incidentally the GJM were on an agitation path for a separate state since 2007. Finally after numerous rounds of tripartite talks between the Centre, State and the GJM, all three parties had agreed to the formation of the GTA- an autonomous administrative body.

Territory remains a contiguous issue with the GJM pressing for the incorporation of 199 Gorkha dominated mouzas of Terai and 199 mouzas of Dooars in the GTA. The Government had insisted on the present Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council area (Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong sub divisions.)

Finally a joint committee was constituted comprising of representatives from all the three sides. The committee headed by former Justice Shyamal Sen is at present conducting field visits and survey. The committee will be meeting in Kolkata on March 27.

With the President’s assent to the GTA Bill, following which the GTA Act had been formulated, the State Government had pressed for elections. The GJM insisted on an interim nominated body till the territory issue is resolved. The State Government had not agreed to a nominated body. A stalemate ensued.