Centre calls meeting on Gorkhaland at short notice; election move, says TMC
The development has irked the TMC government and the Binoy Tamang faction of the GJM, whose leaders have been put in charge of the GTA by the state.Updated: Oct 04, 2020, 21:07 IST
The Centre has convened a meeting in Delhi on October 7 to discuss “issues related to Gorkhaland,” a Union home ministry letter issued on Saturday to the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government, the autonomous Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) said.
The meeting has been convened by G Kishan Reddy, Union minister of state for home affairs at the ministry’s North Block office. The state home secretary and district magistrate of Darjeeling have been asked to attend it. The letter was marked “Most Immediate”.
The development has irked the TMC government and the Binoy Tamang faction of the GJM, whose leaders have been put in charge of the GTA by the state.
Bimal Gurung, who founded the GJM and clamped a 100-day shutdown in the Darjeeling hills in 2017 in demand for a separate state, is on the run ever since he was charged by the state under anti-terror laws.
In November 2017, Gurung’s erstwhile lieutenant Binoy Tamang suspended him and his aides in their absence.
“Every time we approach an election the BJP government raises the Gorkhaland issue to create disturbance in the hills. This is yet another move,” said Gautam Deb, tourism minister and TMC lawmaker from north Bengal.
“The Centre is making a fool of the Gorkhas. It has called a meeting because the assembly polls will be held next year. The same thing was done before elections in the past. The struggle for Gorkhaland went on for years. No government took any step. This is just a political move,” Anit Thapa, a leader of the GJM’s Binoy Tamang faction and chairman of the board of administrators of the GTA, told the local media.
Significantly, the home ministry letter was marked to the “President, GJM” and the address mentioned is that of Bimal Gurung’s office at Singamari in North Point, Darjeeling.
Reacting to this, Thapa said, “According to a court order both Gurung and Binoy Tamang are presidents of the GJM. How can it be said that Gurung was invited?”
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat thrice since 2009 by forging an alliance with the GJM. In 2019, the BJP had an alliance with the GJM (Gurung faction), Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) and other small political parties in the hills.
Since 2009, the BJP has been promising to find a permanent political solution to the long-pending demands of people of Darjeeling, Siliguri, Terai and Dooars region. The promises were made in the BJP’s election manifestos in 2014 and 2019 as well.
BJP state general secretary Sayantan Basu said, “The Centre is aware of the problems and aspirations of the hill people. All these issues will be addressed.”
Ajoy Edwards, president of the GNLF Darjeeling branch committee, said, “We welcome the Centre’s move. The GNLF is also an alliance partner of the BJP but we have not been invited. Those who attend the meeting must raise the issue of separate statehood. They cannot hoodwink the hill people anymore.”
In November 2017, the decision to dethrone the GJM founder was taken at a meeting of the party’s central committee chaired by Tamang. The meeting was however, attended by only 37 of the 93 members of the committee. Gurung was removed from the post of president and Tamang took over.
The fugitive general secretary Roshan Giri, was also stripped of his position and Tamang’s close associate, Anit Thapa, took over. Both Tamang and Thapa now enjoy the support of the administration.