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Thursday, Nov 14, 2019

Centre yet to announce date for tripartite talks on Gorkhaland

The Bengal government says it is for the Centre to announce a date for the tripartite talks to address the Gorkhaland issue even as top leaders of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha continue to be in hiding.

india Updated: Oct 31, 2017 11:44 IST
Pramod Giri
Pramod Giri
Hindustan Times, Siliguri
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has been at the forefront of an agitation for a Gorkhaland state in the north Bengal hills
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has been at the forefront of an agitation for a Gorkhaland state in the north Bengal hills(HT file photo)

More than a month after Union home minister Rajnath Singh announced that the home secretary would convene a tripartite meeting on Gorkhaland to discuss “all related issues” within a fortnight, it remains elusive.

“The meeting would be convened soon. Earlier the state government was opposed to the idea of tripartite meeting,” was all that Darjeeling MP S S Ahluwalia would tell HT on the phone Monday from New Delhi.

While the MP could not indicate when the meeting would take place, the West Bengal government insists that it is the Centre’s prerogative to call the tripartite conference.

“The tripartite meeting is a subject of the Centre but the bilateral meeting between the state government and hill parties will be held on November 21 in Siliguri,” Bengal’s tourism minister Goutam Deb told HT. Deb is also the Trinamool Congress president of Darjeeling district (plains).

Ahluwalia won from Darjeeling on a BJP ticket in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections due to the support of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), a BJP ally.

The GJM and other parties of the north Bengal hills such as Gorkha National Liberation Front, Jan Andolan Party, All India Gorkha League have demanding a tripartite meeting to address the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland. Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had ruled out another division of the state.

On September 26, GJM chief Bimal Gurung had called off the indefinite shutdown in the hills after 104 days following Rajnath’s appeal and the assurance of a tripartite meeting.

Read more: Bengal police staged encounter, planted AK47s to frame me:Bimal Gurung

“I have asked the home secretary to convene an official level meeting in the home ministry within a fortnight to discuss all related issues. I also appeal to the GJM and its leader Bimal Gurung to withdraw the ongoing bandh and to help create a conducive atmosphere for allowing normalcy to return to the area, particularly in view of the festive season,” Singh had said in his statement on September 26.

Gurung has been absconding for a long time after the Bengal police slapped charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against him and a few of his comrades.

Over the past few days, he has claimed through audio messages from his hideout that he would appear before his supporters on October 30. Despite being on the run with the police hot on his heels and the state government propping up a rival faction of the GJM led by Binay Tamang and Anit Thapa, Gurung still seems to have some support among the hill people. Tamang and Thapa were expelled from the party on September 1 for alleged anti-party activities.

“As the Centre is about to fix the date for the tripartite talks, Bimal Gurung would not come out in the public soon. It would give the state government an opportunity to jeopardise the upcoming talks,” GJM general secretary Roshan Giri, who is also facing UA(P)A charges and is in hiding, said in a statement.

Sources said the Centre is still waiting for the state government’s nod before announcing the date for tripartite.

Tamang who was appointed as the chairman of the board of administrators in the semi-autonomous Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) by the state government after his expulsion by the Bimal Gurung faction, also insists the ball in is the Centre’s court.

“Gurung is hiding not for the cause of Gorkhaland but out of fear of arrest. The Centre has not taken any initiative to call a tripartite meeting,” said Tamang.

In his audio clips, Gurung has accused Tamang of betraying the cause of Gorkhaland and for working as an agent of the state government. Tamang, who is also facing many charges, said “We are not against the cause of Gorkhaland but are against the undemocratic way of functioning of Gurung.”

A total of 13 people have died so far in the north Bengal hills as the agitation for Gorkhaland turned violent from June.

Incidentally, there had been a series of tripartite meetings on Darjeeling that culminated in the creation of the semi-autonomous GTA in 2011. Subsequently, the hill parties alleged that the state government was encroaching upon the autonomy of GTA and that full statehood was the only solution to the problem.