The spectre of a fresh spell of political unrest that threatens the future of the proposed Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) looms over the Darjeeling Hills with the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha announcing on Sunday a series of protest programmes spread over this month and the next which could well signal the resumption of its agitation for a separate Gorkhaland State.
This is in protest against the report submitted to the State government by a high-power committee recommending the inclusion within the jurisdiction of the GTA five mouzas in the Terai and Dooars region of north Bengal as against the GJM's initial demand for 396 mouzas.
The programmes include opposing elections to the proposed body, resignation of its MLAs and councillors, a three-day strike in the region and the burning of copies of the GTA agreement in public.
The recommendations made by Justice (retired) Shyamal Sen, who headed the committee to look into the question of transfer of areas in the Terai and Dooars to the GTA, were a “humiliation to us,” GJM general secretary Roshan Giri told The Hindu over telephone from Darjeeling.
“We will be writing to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the District Magistrate, Darjeeling, on June 12 and will seek a meeting with Ms. Banerjee to make official our rejection of the report. The recommendations are that of a single-man commission of Justice Sen and not a committee … We had hoped that we would be given justice but were denied it,” Mr. Giri said, after a meeting lasting close to five hours that the GJM leadership held with representatives of various frontal organisations of the party.
The GJM leadership said it would be opposing the GTA elections in the hills. This threat, if carried out, would certainly draw the battle lines between the GJM and the State government that plans to hold the polls next month.
Moreover, Ms Banerjee has already made clear that the recommendations in the report are binding on all sides concerned, including the GJM.
As part of its protest, the GJM has decided that all the chairpersons of the four hill municipalities of Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong and Mirik as well as all councillors belonging to the GJM will resign en masse on June 27. It has called for a 72-hour strike in the hills and the Terai and Dooars region from July 2. The three GJM MLAs and one Independent MLA supported by the party will resign at a public event on July 17 when copies of the GTA agreement will be set ablaze affirming the GJM's rejection of the GTA.
The leadership of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikash Parishad (ABAVP), a grouping that claims to enjoy considerable support of the tribals in the Terai and Dooars region and which has been opposing the GJM's demand for inclusion within the GTA of areas there, has also threatened an agitation in protest against the recommendations in the report.
The reasons for the ABAVP's opposition to the report are, however totally at variance with those behind the GJM's rejection of it. The former is against the inclusion in the GTA of even a single mouza — not to speak of five — in the Terai and Dooars, as it feels any such move would go against the interests of the tribals in the region.