"Let alone the inclusion of Mouzas of Jalpaiguri district, the very question of the formation of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) does not arise at all," said Birsa Tirkey, West Bengal State President of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivashi Vikash Parishad (ABAVP) in the all party meeting in Kolkata convened by the Joint Committee on GTA Territory.
With the Government steadfast on the three hill subdivisions of the district (Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong) to come under the GTA (an autonomous administrative body for Darjeeling) and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) demanding the inclusion of 199 Gorkha dominated Mouzas of Terai and another 199 Mouzas of Dooars region of the Darjeeling and Jalapiguri district, a committee had been constituted with representatives of the Union, State and the GJM to look into the matter.
The committee is to hand in recommendations on this issue after studying the ground reality. Political parties as well as organizations, both for and against the inclusion of the mouzas have already deposed before the committee. The committee led by Justice (retired) Shyamal Sen, on Friday had called for an all party meeting in which the parties would get a chance to hear each others arguments for and against the inclusion.
"We heard 11 parties today. While 3 deposed for the inclusion the rest were against. The next meeting of the joint committee has been fixed on March 16. On that date a clear road map for future course of action is expected to emerge. In between we might hear any new party wanting to depose," stated Justice Sen talking to HT.
Sen added that John Barla who had earlier filed a petition against the inclusion, withdrew it and filed a re-petition for the inclusion. Incidentally John Barla, former Dooars-Terai regional President of the ABVP had been expelled from the organization for hobnobbing with the GJM and preaching the inclusion of the region in the GTA.
The others for the inclusion included Roshan Giri and LB Pariyar of the GJM. The parties and organizations deposing against the inclusion included ABAVP, RSP, Bangla O Bangal Bhasha Bachao Samity.
"We have submitted a village wise population document of the entire Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling districts showing the general, Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe breakup. This document clearly shows that majority of the villages in both the Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling district has a majority Schedule Tribe population. It is a Government document hence authentic. Hence the question of the formation of GTA does not arise let alone inclusion of Mouzas of Jalpaiguri district" stated Tirkey.
Further 315 Mouzas of the Jalpaiguri District have been categorised as Integrated Tribal Development Project Mouzas (a special constitutional provision) argued Tirkey. "As per Article 338(9) of the Indian Constitution all policies in respect to the tribal mouzas will have to be decided in consultation with the Chairman, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes. Will we forgo our constitutional right. Where does the question of inclusion arise after this?" questioned Tirkey.
ABAVP also submitted a document which projected the geographical, linguistic and differences in tradition, culture and customs between the Adivasis and Gorkhas, negating the "Homogeneous and compactness parameters for the inclusion."
"We are talking of contiguity and compactness with reference to area and not population. Our demand is in term of Mouzas and not blocks or the entire district. John Barla, an eminent Adivasi leader, deposing for the inclusion is proof enough that the Adivasis are with us. These two communities (Adivasis and Gorkhas) form the majority in each mouza of the Jalpaiguri district" claimed LB Pariyar. The GJM also submitted documents projecting the Gorkha population of the mouzas.