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Mamata tightens grip on Darjeeling politics, creates development panel with GNLF leaders

The Hill Area Development Committee is the second panel that the state government has formed after the end of the 104-day strike in the hills in the demand of separate Gorkhaland state.

india Updated: Nov 23, 2017 10:56 IST
Pramod Giri
Pramod Giri
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Mamata Banerjee,Darjeeling politics,GNLF leaders
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.(IANS File Photo)

The Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government has constituted a separate development committee for the hill areas that will “supervise development work in specific sectors” in another attempt to tighten its grip over Darjeeling politics.

The Hill Area Development Committee is the second panel that the state government has formed after the end of the 104-day strike in the hills in the demand of separate Gorkhaland state.

The constitution of the committee made it was clear that it was formed to give an administrative space to Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), the second most powerful political force in the hills after Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM).

The committee will be headed Mann Ghising, president of GNLF, as per a notification by the principal secretary (home and hill affairs) and was issued on November 13 but made public on November 21. The GNLF general secretary Mahendra Chhetri was made the vice-chairperson.

As a clear attempt to divide GJM, the state government constituted a board of administrators for Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) on September 20, bringing Binoy Tamang and Anit Thapa - anti-Bimal Gurung faction leaders - at the helm of the board.

Gurung, the fugitive founder president of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha was removed from the post by the rival Tamang faction on Monday. Gurung and some of his aides went underground more than four months ago after the Bengal police slapped cases under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. They are suspected of hiding somewhere in Sikkim.

Gurung issued a statement from his hideout describing the constitution of the new committee as yet another ploy to hoodwink and divide the people of the area.

Roshan Giri, Gurung’s close associate and erstwhile GJM general secretary, told the Hindustan Times from hiding that new committees or boards cannot fulfil the aspirations of the hill people but only a separate Gorkhaland statehood will help.

Earlier, the state government wanted to appoint Mann Ghisingh as a member of the board of administrators in the GTA. But it was rejected by the GNLF on the ground that “GTA was illegal and hence GNLF is opposed to it.”

The GNLF wants a repeal of the GTA accord and demands Darjeeling hills to be included in the sixth schedule of the constitution.

Neeraj Zimba, the GNLF spokesperson, told HT that the new committee will even have the power to supervise the development works carried out by the GTA.

He also ruled out the possibilities of any power tussle between the new GNLF-led committee and the board of administrators represented by the Tamang faction of GJM.

First Published: Nov 23, 2017 09:52 IST