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Darjeeling set for historic treaty - amid controversy

india Updated: Jul 17, 2011 20:39 IST

IANS
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The hills of Darjeeling are set to see a historic tripartite pact on Monday between the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM), the West Bengal government and New Delhi. But the Left Front is against it.

"The people of Darjeeling are eagerly waiting for the agreement. This treaty will bring development in the hills," GJM spokesman and legislator Harka Bhadur Chetri said.

Apart from chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Union home minister P Chidambaram will attend the event at the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) resort in Sukna in Kurseong sub-division.

"People from the Darjeeling hills dressed in traditional attire will receive the chief minister," Chetri said.

After ending the Left Front's 34-year rule, Banerjee opened a dialogue with the GJM to resolve the long pending problem of the hills.

Last month, after a series of meetings with the GJM leadership, Banerjee claimed the Darjeeling issue has been resolved.

The GJM, however, said it has not gone back on its demand for Gorkhaland and called the pact the "foundation of a separate state".

There is speculation that GJM chief Bimal Gurung opted out of signing the treaty due to resentment among a section of hill people that he had scaled down his demand for statehood.

"It is a decision taken by the president that (GJM general secretary) Roshan Giri will sign the pact. More than this I cannot say," Chetri said.

At the core of the pact is the formation of a new autonomous elected hill council, the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), armed with more powers compared to its former avatar, the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, formed in the late 1980s.

A nine-member high-powered committee, comprising four members each from GJM and the state government and one from the central government, will be formed to study GJM's demand on demarcating the Gorkha majority areas in the Terai (plains of Darjeeling) and Dooars (foothills of the Himalayas) for inclusion in the council.

The Left Front feels the proposed agreement will only aggravate the problem of the hills. Leader of the opposition in the West Bengal assembly Surjya Kanta Mishra said he would stay away from the function.

Kshiti Goswami, a leader of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), echoed Mishra.

"We are in the dark about details of the understanding. We oppose the change in the nomenclature of the council. We are also against the formation of the committee to include more areas in the autonomous body," Goswami said.

"We fear this agreement will aggravate the problem rather than solving it. We are apprehensive that inclusion of new areas under the hill authority, which the proposed treaty will consider, will create tension and anarchy," Mishra said.

He said his party favoured the area under the hill authority being the same as that under the DGHC.

The GJM leadership slammed Mishra's statement and blamed the Left for not being honest in solving the problem.

"If he says he doesn't know anything about the agreement, then he is not saying the truth. He was present in previous tripartite talks. They (Left) were never serious about solving the situation," said Chetri.

North Bengal, particularly the plains of Darjeeling, saw several shutdowns this week called by political and social groups to protest the proposed pact.

These organisations, which include Amra Bangalee and Rashtriya Shiv Sena, plans to organise protest rallies on Monday.

The demand for Gorkhaland covering parts of northern Bengal gained momentum in the 1980s under the leadership of Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) supremo Subash Ghising.

But the reins of the movement were later taken over by the Bimal Gurung-led GJM.

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