In a development that is expected to have a major impact on the politics of north Bengal, the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) and a section of the State leadership of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikash Parishad (ABAVP) on Sunday jointly proposed the setting up of an autonomous “Gorkhaland and Adivasi Territorial Administration” for the Darjeeling hills and the Terai and Dooars region.
This body, it is proposed, will replace the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), to be created for the Darjeeling hills and for which a memorandum of agreement was signed among the Centre, the West Bengal government and the GJM on July 18. A Bill was also passed in the Assembly on September 2 for setting up the GTA.
“A joint delegation of the GJM and the ABAVP will soon place the proposal before Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram,” GJM general secretary Roshan Giri told The Hindu over telephone from Darjeeling district.
The two organisations were at loggerheads over the GJM demand for inclusion of Gorkha-dominated areas in the Terai and Dooars region within the GTA's territorial jurisdiction. The ABAVP leadership earlier threatened to launch an agitation if “even an inch of land” in the region is transferred to the GTA.
Now, “with the GJM and the ABAVP proposing the setting up of the Gorkhaland and Adivasi Territorial Administration, we can look forward to a future in which the two parties can work for the development of the region spanning the Darjeeling hills, the Terai and the Dooars,” Mr. Giri said.
Asked whether this meant rejection of the GTA, he said: “What we are looking at is a GTA with an extended area.”
“The proposed new body is the outcome of an understanding between the GJM and us. We have been demanding the setting up of an Adivasi Territorial Administration [ATA] for the Terai and the Dooars under the Sixth Schedule and on the lines of the proposed GTA but to no avail. We shall jointly take our proposal for a new body to the State government and the Centre,” said Tejkumar Toppo, ABAVP State secretary.
But ABAVP State president Birsa Tirkey struck a note of dissent. “Those leaders of my organisation who arrived at the understanding with the GJM had no official authority to do so. The matter will now be taken up by the ABAVP State committee,” he said from Ranchi.
GJM chief Bimal Gurung and the president of the ABAVP's regional Dooars unit, John Barla, were among those present at a conference at Mangpong in the Kalimpong sub-division, where the proposal for the new body was announced.