Home Ministry meeting on GTA sparks speculation, confusion in Darjeeling hills

Confusion, speculation and also some resentment have prevailed in the Darjeeling hills over a meeting called by the Union Home Minister on the “issues related to Gorkhaland Territorial Administration”. Scheduled on October 7, the representatives of the Centre, officials of the State government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha have been invited for the tripartite meeting.

The earlier version of the meeting notice issued by the Home Ministry’s Centre State division said “Meeting to discuss issues related to Gorkhaland-reg’. The term Gorkhaland is synonymous to the long-standing demand of a separate State of the people of Darjeeling hills and the reference to Gorkhaland created strong reactions in West Bengal. The Trinamool Congress leadership which has always opposed any talks on Gorkhaland said it was a ploy to divide the State.

The Home Ministry later changed the subject to “issues related to Gorkhaland Territorial Administration”. The GTA is the regional autonomous body formed as a result of the State, Centre and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) tripartite agreement in 2011.

Neeraj Tamang Zimba, who won the Darjeeling Assembly seat on a BJP ticket, told The Hindu that the development has led to “confusion among the people of the hills”.

“It shows that the Centre is not serious about finding a political solution to the Darjeeling hills, the way it is for other long-pending issues like the people of Ladakh and Nagaland,” Mr. Zimba said. The MLA said no public representative in Darjeeling Hills has been invited to the meeting.

It is not certain whether the officials of the State government have extended the invite to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM). The party has two factions one led by its founder Bimal Gurung and another by Benoy Tamang. While Mr. Gurung had to leave the hills after the violent 100-day statehood stir in 2017, it is the Benoy Tamang faction of the GJM which wields control over the GTA with the support of the Trinamool Congress. Both the factions claim that they represent the party and the matter is also sub judice.

Trinamool Congress leader from Darjeeling district and State Minister Gautam Deb said whenever elections are around, the BJP rakes up the issue of Gorkhaland. “From Trinamool Congress we are very clear that there should be no talks on any subject that leads to the division of Bengal.”

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat with a margin of more than 4 lakh votes, highest among all the seats in West Bengal. On Gorkhaland, the BJP has been maintaining a balancing act for more than a decade.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2020 5:06:35 PM |

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