Marcus Dam

KOLKATA: Even though the leadership of the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) continues to insist that the tripartite talks scheduled to be held in Darjeeling on December 21 should revolve around its demand for a separate State, questions have been raised of that happening.

Instead, chances are that the discussions will be focussing on the formation of an alternative administrative arrangement to replace the existing Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), if the past three rounds of talks among the Centre, the West Bengal government and the GJM leadership are anything to go by.

The issues to be taken up at the talks were discussed at a meeting between the Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai and West Bengal Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen in New Delhi on Wednesday. The latter made the State’s stand clear on the political impasse in the Darjeeling Hills.

The West Bengal government, however, believes that the on-going agitation by the GJM that includes a “fast-unto-death” programme by some of its activists that entered its sixth day is not conducive to the holding of talks as things stand currently.

“Such agitations are vitiating the atmosphere prior to the holding of the tripartite talks,” State Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakrabarti said here. “Either there be discussions or there be an agitation. Both cannot happen at the same time,” he asserted.

Less emphasis was placed in the past discussions on the issue of a separate Gorkhaland State. Instead what had been stressed on was the formation of a new set-up with greater administrative and financial powers than the DGHC.

It was also decided at the last tripartite talks on August 11 in New Delhi that the DGHC Act 1988 will be repealed once a decision on the body to replace it is taken.

The GJM leadership had welcomed the outcome of the last discussions as it has been consistently demanding the scrapping of the DGHC Act.