Even as first elections to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) were held in the Darjeeling hills on Sunday, the leadership of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), which is set to take control of the new regional autonomous body, asserted that its campaign for a separate Gorkhaland will continue.
The setting up of the GTA does not mean that the GJM was, in any way, moving away from its “ultimate demand” for the creation of a separate State, senior GJM leaders told The Hindu over telephone from the Darjeeling hills.
Drawing a distinction with the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) that was set up in 1988, marking the end of the movement led by Subhas Ghising, president of the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), for a separate State, GJM leaders said that while the DGHC accord did not have any mention of the Gorkhaland demand the GTA agreement does. The GTA is replacing the DGHC.
“We insisted that the GTA agreement keep on record the GJM’s Gorkhaland demand and that was the case,” GJM spokesperson Harka Bahadur Chettri said from Kalimpong.
“The DGHC accord was accepted as a final settlement, with Mr. Ghising dropping the Gorkhaland demand; the GTA agreement which has mention of our Statehood demand should not taken to be a final settlement to the people’s aspirations,” assistant secretary of the GJM Jyoti Kumar Rai pointed out from Darjeeling.
Remarks at rally
Dr. Chettri said that his remark while sharing the podium with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at a rally organised by the Trinamool Congress here on July 21 that the Darjeeling hills would remain in the State as long as Ms. Banerjee and the government she headed is in power should not be construed as the GJM giving up its statehood demand.
He said: “We are with her (Ms. Banerjee) for her initiatives for the region’s development and the importance she is giving to the hills. We have no reason yet to think that the setting up of the GTA is just an election gimmick and will lead to a betrayal of the aspirations of the hill people.
“But in politics, no statement is a final statement; if she [Ms. Banerjee] changes, we will also change. If people start thinking that the GTA is not delivering because of the government is baulking despite the promise of autonomy it is not binding on us that we cannot change our line.”
Mr. Rai added, “The GTA will work towards development. Side-by-side we will be taking forward our campaign for Gorkhaland. Need for development is one step towards ensuring that the region has the wherewithal to embrace statehood.”