The Committee headed by retired Justice Shyamal Sen has recommended that five mouzas in the plains be added to the proposed new body in the Darjeeling hills. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) expressed its dismay at the report, saying that they had expected the figure to be more than 150. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee appealed to all to stay together for the sake of development of the region.
The GJM, which had demanded the inclusion of 198 mouzas each in Darjeeling and its adjoining Jalpaiguri district in the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) jurisdiction, initially reacted by threatening to relaunch its agitation, while saying that it was rejecting the report. Its leader, Roshan Giri, said later that it would chart out its future strategy at a meeting on Sunday.
To a question on if they would participate in the elections scheduled to be held next month to constitute GTA, Mr. Giri said that this would be decided on Sunday.
When it was pointed out that as per the February 2012 agreement between the GJM and the State government, the panel report was binding, he said: “The GJM had never thought that only five mouzas would be added. We thought that it would be more than 150.”
Birsa Tirkey, leader of Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad, a tribal people's body active in the plains, said they accepted the report. He dismissed the negative reactions given by dissenting Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad leader, John Barla, saying that he understood neither the Constitution nor the legalities.
Ms. Banerjee said: “There is no question of being either sad or happy regarding the Sen Committee report. I haven't seen it in full, but there is no scope for any misunderstanding, and we have agreed to abide by the report. I am happiest when peace rules in the hills, and when development starts bringing the fruits of prosperity to the region.”
Appealing to all to stay together for the sake of development, she said. “We have many proposals in horticulture and tourism for the hills and the plains.” She said that while the GJM and the State government gave their views, the decision rested with the Commission. She mentioned that taxes and government dues, which had fallen in arrears due to the prolonged agitation in the hills, had been waived by her government.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and former minister, Ashok Bhattacharya, said the Left Front would discuss the report.
Chief Secretary Mr. Ghosh told reporters that based on the criterion of contiguity, compactness, and keeping in mind the group realities, the nine-member committee headed by the former Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court, had recommended the inclusion of two mouzas in Jalpaiguri, and three in Darjeeling, where the Gorkha population constituted more than 50 per cent of the total population.
He said after signing of the tripartite pact on the Darjeeling issue on July 18, 2011, it was decided to set up the high-power committee which would look into the issue of bringing additional areas within the jurisdiction of the GTA. Subsequently, another bipartite pact was signed by the State government with the GJM in February this year which made it binding on both the parties to accept the committee's report. The report was received by the government on Friday.