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Gorkhaland occupies centre stage at GTA clebrations

india Updated: Jul 21, 2011 22:00 IST
Amitava Banerjee
Amitava Banerjee
Hindustan Times
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Though chief minister Mamata Banerjee time and again claims "What's in a name?" referring to the nomenclature of "Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA)," Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung and his party has lost no opportunity in capitalizing on this nomenclature to woo the hill masses.

"Ask anyone hailing from the Bodoland Territorial Council where they are from they will reply "Bodoland." Similarly when people ask you where you are from, you can proudly say you are from Gorkhaland" suggested Bimal Gurung addressing a victory rally on Thursday in Darjeeling.

Gurung claimed that the name "Gorkhaland" has already been legitimized and it is just a matter of time that the GTA will be upgraded to a full fledged state. "Raging debates have ensued through out the country over the GTA nomenclature. We have emerged victorious" stated the GJM Chief.

Though the mammoth rally on Thursday was to celebrate the inking of the GTA agreement, "Gorkhaland" occupied centre stage. "The agreement clearly states that we have not dropped the Gorkhaland demand. It is Mamata-didi's political compulsion that drives her to say that she will not allow the division of the State. She is a mother figure. If we coax her she will definitely give us something better" prophesied Gurung.

The day saw a mammoth rally from the Darjeeling Railway Station which culminated at the Darjeeling Chowrasta. GJM along with frontal organization supporters, leaders took part in the rally dressed in traditional attire. School students, marching bands, dancing and singing formed an integral part of the rally.

Even the GJM Supremo did not miss the opportunity to Tango. Amidst euphoric cheers from his supporters Gurung displayed the moves. Thousands of laddus were distributed. Gurung also chose the celebrations to announce that the hills would not pay their electricity dues.

The announcement was timed perfectly. Just as Gurung took to the microphone, his speech was interrupted with a power cut. With the power returning after a few minutes Gurung made it cleat to the electricity department that he did not like jokes.

"The electricity department must be trying to remind us that electricity bills are due in the Hills. But let me make it clear to them that the Hills will pay for electricity only from the day of signing of the agreement- July 18, 2011. Even if you hang us we will not pay our previous dues" stated Gurung, hinting at a waver.

Incidentally with the GJM launching the separate state agitation had called for a non cooperation movement which included non payment of State taxes, electricity and telephone bills since April 2008. According to electricity department sources the outstanding has crossed the Rs 70 Crore mark already.

Gurung did not fail to promise large scale development under the GTA. "Give me two years time and I will change the face of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong. I will not be a part of the GTA but will keep a close tab on it. We have to all work sincerely in order to translate words into action. GTA is for everyone not only for the Gorkhas. All are happy" stated Gurung.

Gurung on Thursday clarified he had accepted the GTA with the consent of GJM Central committee members and the Study Forum. "Hours before the GTA signing ceremony, I had asked the 48 strong Central Committee and Study Forum members to recheck the agreement. Only after they had all given written consents had I given the go-ahead" stated Gurung.

Incidentally the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the formation of the GTA was signed by KK Pathak, joint secretary, Union home ministry, GD Gautama, home secretary, government of West Bengal and Roshan Giri, GJM general secretary at the Pintail Village on the foothills of the Darjeeling district on July 18 in the presence of chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Union home minister P Chidambaram and Gurung.

Highlighting the key points of the draft Giri stated that 6326 adhoc workers of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) would be regularized in the GTA; Hill youths would get preference in the police, para military and armed forces. "The Gorkhaland Personnel (GLP) will benefit from this" stated Giri.

Interesting with the GLP (this voluntary outfit under the GJM has raked up a lot of controversy including being dubbed Gurung's personal army by opposition political parties.

Gurung announced that the GLP hereby would be called the GTA Youth. Political observers feel that this is to avoid the controversies that the GLP has sparked in the past.

Educational institutions, offices, tea gardens, cinchona plantations were shut down to facilitate people from taking part in the victory celebrations. "Our 43 month 10 day long agitation has resulted in this powerful GTA. The next part will definitely bestow us with our final goal Gorkhaland" stated assistant secretary Binay Tamang.

The GJM has been spearheading an agitation for carving out a separate state Gorkhaland since October 2007.