Gorkhaland row: Mamata constitutes new GTA board with ‘friendly’ leaders
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Gorkhaland row: Mamata constitutes new GTA board with ‘friendly’ leaders

The Bengal government said the new board, helmed by expelled Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Binay Tamang, has been set up to keep the hill administration running. However, other leaders have decried the move.

kolkata Updated: Sep 20, 2017 18:36 IST
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri and Pramod Giri
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri and Pramod Giri
Hindustan Times, Kolkata/Darjeeling
Darjeeling has been under total shutdown ever since the GJM called an indefinite bandh on June 15. (AFP photo)

In an unexpected move, the Bengal government on Wednesday announced the formation of an administrative board helmed by expelled Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leader Binay Tamang to run the semi-autonomous Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).

The government said this was being done to keep the hill administration running. The GTA had stopped operating nearly three months ago, when its board members resigned. Ironically, it was Tamang who led the pro-Gorkhaland agitation that culminated in GJM leaders burning the GTA accord at Darjeeling on June 27.

The government’s decision drew sharp criticism from hill parties. The Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), pioneer of an 80’s militant movement and the second-largest party in the region, said it would move court against the Mamata Banerjee government.

The new eight-member board will have Anit Thapa, another leader of the Morcha, as its vice-chairman. Both Tamang and Thapa were expelled from the GJM after Morcha chief Bimal Gurung accused them of conspiring with the state government to sabotage the Gorkhaland movement. “We have set up a board of administrators. An IAS officer had been running the GTA ever since the elected members stepped down. The board, comprising a chairman, a vice chairman and members, will now run the body,” said Banerjee at the state secretariat on Wednesday.

The GTA was set up on July 18, 2011, after the Centre, state and the GJM signed an agreement to this effect. Bimal Gurung was appointed as the chief executive of the body, which finally came into being in 2012.

“I shall not comment on this development because I came to know about it only from the media. When I met the chief minister recently, it was to discuss the issue of providing tea garden workers with a much-needed bonus – not the GTA,” Tamang told HT.

GNLF spokesperson Niraj Zimba decried the “unilateral decision” taken by the chief minister. “We condemn it, and we won’t accept it. Our party president, Mann Ghising, will file a defamation suit against the chief minister,” he said.

Incidentally, Ghising has been named as a member of the board by Banerjee.

GJM spokesperson Binita Roka termed Banerjee’s action as unconstitutional. “Binay Tamang, Anit Thapa and Mamata Banerjee have come together to murder democracy in Darjeeling hills. The GJM rejects this decision, and appeals to all other parties to do so too,” he said.

The hills have been under total shutdown ever since the GJM called an indefinite bandh on June 15. Internet services have been suspended in the region since June 19. IAS officer Barun Roy was given the responsibility of running the administrative body after GTA members resigned.

The chief minister said the board would also have Darjeeling GJM MLA Amar Singh Rai and Mirik municipality chairperson LB Rai as its members. “We have inducted representatives from Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong. They will help the GTA function until fresh elections are held. We did this because the present situation is not conducive for polling,” she added.

Banerjee also expressed displeasure over Union home minister Rajnath Singh meeting secessionists such as Roshan Giri, who has been charged by the police on various counts, in Delhi on Tuesday. “The Union home minister’s post is a constitutional one. I would not have met them if I were holding the post,” she remarked.

This was the third meeting between Singh and pro-Gorkhaland agitators since August 13. The agitators are pressing for a tripartite meeting to discuss the formation of a separate state. “Some may be angry at the decision (of forming the new board), but what can one do? We did not ask the elected members to resign,” the chief minister said.

The elections to the GTA were supposed to be held this year. However, Banerjee had ordered a special audit of the body over allegations that its authorities were indulging in financial irregularities.

First Published: Sep 20, 2017 18:36 IST