A once bitten twice shy Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supremo Bimal Gurung is not willing to call off all the agitation programmes with the setting up of the 3 member Fact Verification Committee (FVC) by the state government. Mounting pressure on the government, Gurung made it clear that the agitation programmes will be held as per schedule except the resignation of the councillors of the four hill municipalities.
Gurung also stated that the GJM would not agree to Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) elections, if imposed.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) are on an agitation path demanding the scrapping of the retired Justice Shyamal Sen Committee recommendations. With the GJM demanding the inclusion of 396 mouzas of Terai and Dooars of the plains in the GTA, a 9 member committee had been constituted comprising of representatives from the Centre, State and the GJM. The committee headed by Justice Shyamal Sen had recently recommended the incorporation of 5 mouzas (3 from the Terai region of the Darjeeling district and 2 from the Dooars region of Jalpaiguri District.)
The GJM dubbing the recommendations as “humiliating and one-sided” demanded that the Chief Minister immediately scrap it. The Morcha further announced a number of agitation programmes including bandhs and resignation by the four GJM MLAs and even threatened to resurrect the Gorkhaland demand scrapping the GTA.
A GJM delegation met the Chief Minister in Kolkata on Saturday with this demand. The meeting managed to break the ice, with the State Government deciding to form three member FVC to study the various parameters that the Justice Sen committee had adopted. The GJM in the Kolkata meeting had argued that the parameters (compactness, homogeneity, contiguity and ground reality) that had decided the inclusion of the 5 mouzas were applicable for many other mouzas too. The FVC is to review this.
“As of now our agitation stands. We will only defer the resignation of the Councillors of the four his municipalities that was earlier slated for June 27. We will sit in a meeting with the GJM team after their return from Kolkata. We have to carefully scrutinize the Fact Verification Committee which comprises of three Government officials, who we feel will work on the behest of the State Government. We are weary of the functioning of the Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri District Magistrates who were given the task of reviewing the ground realities in the Justice Sen committee. The report was one sided. We do not want a rerun” stated Bimal Gurung in Darjeeling.
The future agitation programme includes a 72 hour long bandh in the Darjeeling Hills, Terai and Dooars on July 2, 3 and 4th; 4 GJM MLAs (Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong and Kalchini) would send in their resignations from the Darjeeling Chowrasta on 17 July.
Gurung anticipated that as the Government had not specified a time-bound report from the newly constituted review committee headed by Ragavendra Singh, the principal Secretary of the North Bengal Development Ministry, they would try to impose GTA elections in between. “To hold elections is the prerogative of the Government. We will however not accept the elections, if imposed” retorted Gurung.
However political observers feel that there is very little scope for the GJM to stay away from GTA elections. State Government sources state that very soon notification of the delimitation of the GTA area into 45 constituency will be published. With this the election process will ensue.
Sources further state that the GJM had initially pressed for a time bound report (within 6 months ) by the FVC in the Kolkata meet. However the Government argued that 6 months would be too short a period for studying the ground realities.
“The GJM delegation had also pressed for a neutral person to head the review committee but the Government did not agree. The Government insisted that a Secretary of the State Government head the review committee” claimed Gurung.
The GJM climb down is a clear pointer of the issue to be resolved amicably in the near future. Observers feel that the Government could include a few more mouzas in the kitty ensuring a face saver for the GJM.