The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha on Thursday stuck to its threat to pull out of the tripartite agreement for setting up the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA), the new hill council in Darjeeling, saying that this was being demanded by the people of the hills.
“We are being pressurised by the people to come out of the GTA agreement,” GJM General Secretary Roshan Giri told PTI from Darjeeling.
“We will be compelled to think about rejecting the GTA if the state government does not allow us to hold meetings in the Terai and Dooars,” Mr. Giri said.
The GJM had not been given permission to hold a public meeting at Nagrakata in Jalpaiguri district on Sunday, which had led to a bandh being called leading to violence and arson.
The shutdown was “relaxed” for two days yesterday.
The GJM wanted inclusion of Gorkha-dominated pockets in the Dooars and Terai in the plains in Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts to be included in the jurisdiction of the GTA, which has been opposed by organisations in the plains.
Mr. Giri contended that public meetings were necessary to explain to the people who were not fully aware of the details of the GTA.
“We want to hold rallies to explain the GTA because people are not aware of it,” he said.
When told that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at a rally at Lalgarh yesterday had ruled out division of West Bengal, Mr. Giri said, “The CM will say that. But we stick to the demand (for creation of Gorkhaland),” he said referring to the tripartite agreement where the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland was not dropped.
He said that GJM president Bimal Gurung had already stated that the party would ‘boycott’ any programme of the chief minister and North Bengal Development minister Gautam Deb in the hills.
Mr. Giri alleged that it was the the Adivasi Vikash Parishad led by Rajesh Lakra which was opposed to the inclusion of 398 mouzas in the GTA and was responsible for the violence in the Dooars.
A traders’ body, opposed to the GJM, called a 24-hour bandh on Thursday at Banarhat in Jalpaiguri district affecting normal life.
The Banarhat Byabsayee Samiti, supported by other organisations, called a strike from 6 a.m. on Thursday in Banarhat demanding compensation to traders whose shops were torched and the arrest of John Barla, convenor of the Terai-Dooars Coordination Committee and chief of a breakaway faction of the Adivasi Vikash Parishad that had called the indefinite bandh in Terai and Dooars region along with the GJM.
Stating that an FIR was lodged against Barla on Monday for the arson, a spokesman of the Samiti said they also demanded security to people and return of peace.
Local people and businessmen had gheraoed Banarhat police station on Monday demanding Barla’s arrest and compensation to those whose shops were set on fire.
Pro-bandh activists had set ablaze nine shops at Banarhat and torched a truck and several other shops around the area on Monday.
Educational institutions, shops and markets were closed while private vehicles were off the road at Banarhat during the bandh called by the Samiti with support from bodies like the Amra Bangali and Bangla Bhasa Bachao Committee.
Meanwhile, the situation in the rest of the region was normal on Wednesday as the Terai Dooars Coordination Committee has relaxed the indefinite bandh for two days from today.
The indefinite bandh has been called by Terai Dooars Coordination Committee backed by Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) to demand inclusion of Gorkha-dominated mouzas from the Terai and Dooars under the Gorkha Territorial Administration, the new hill council in Darjeeling, set up after an agreement between the Centre, the West Bengal government and the GJM.
The Dooars lies on the foothills of the eastern Himalayas around Bhutan while Terai is the area near the Siwalik range, the lowest outer foothills of the Himalayas.
“If the government does not give us permission to hold public meetings, the indefinite bandh will resume from April 27,” Barla said.
With the GJM not given permission to hold a meeting at Nagrakata on Sunday, its general secretary Roshan Giri warned that should the administration continue to act in this way, his party could ‘reject’ the GTA in future.