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29 Jun 2017

Darjeeling unrest-30 member committee to spearhead statehood movement

Add captionWith the all-party unanimously deciding to continue the bandh, this scene on the streets of Darjeeling is not going to change in the near future.(HT Photo)
Pramod Giri, HT, Jun 29, 2017: A 30-member Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee will henceforth spearhead the movement for a separate state, it was decided in a meeting of 14 parties and organisations including BJP in Kalimpong on Thursday.

The committee was formed with two representatives each from the 13 parties and organisations that attended the meeting. There will be two representatives from the Dooars and Terai, which are in the foothills and cover vast areas of Cooch Behar, Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri districts, where Nepalis a minority. The newly formed body decided in a meeting that spanned nearly six hours, that the indefinite bandh will continue.

The first meeting of the committee will be held on July 6.

“We decided not to settle for anything less than a separate state. Kalyan Dewan, who is a vice president of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), will be the convener of the committee. He will be assisted by D K Pradhan, who is the chairman of Darjeeling municipality,” said Tamang.

BJP was represented in the meeting by Manoj Dewan, the president of the party’s hill district committee.

“It was unanimously decided in the meeting that the bandh will continue,” said Niraj Zimba, the spokesperson of Gorkha National Liberation Front, the second most influential party in the hills. “By Friday evening all the parties will nominate their representatives on the committee,” added Tamang.

GJM president Bimal Gurung was not present in the meeting. The formation of the committee indicated that the struggle for statehood has formally moved from GJM to a collective leadership.

During the day, Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee reiterated her position that she will just not allow a division of Bengal. She also took a jibe at the Centre and said, “You can’t set Kashmir right, and now you are eyeing Darjeeling.” Incidentally, BJP is facing criticism from Trinamool Congress after its assurance of looking into Gorkha demands in its manifesto before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. BJP’s S S Ahluwalia won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha constituency with GJM support.

The north Bengal hills are in turmoil since June 8 when violent clashes erupted between police and agitators demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland to be carved out from West Bengal.

The meeting on Thursday was the third all-party meeting. The two earlier meetings were held on June 13 and 20. While six hill parties and associations attended the first one, the attendance went up in the second with 14 parties and organisation attending.

Incidentally, many were surprised at the change of venue from Darjeeling to Kalimpong. According to GJM leaders, the decision was prompted in the wake of the reports that thousands of common people would throng the venue to put pressure on the leaders.

Leaders across party lines in the hills have admitted that the movement has touched a popular chord and has moved beyond the control of a single party agenda.

During the June 20 all-party meeting at Darjeeling’s Gymkhana Club, common supporters shouting outside put the leaders in embarrassing situation. Though a section of the leaders attending the meeting were in favour of a temporary relaxation of the bandh, common people outside were opposed to the idea.

“Unnecessary crowd at the time of meeting would serve no purpose, but would only make the situation chaotic,” said a senior leader requesting anonymity.

The meeting on June 20 unanimously resolved that the GJM would unilaterally withdraw itself from the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) agreement signed in 2011. Accordingly, all elected GTA members resigned on June 23, while the copies of GTA accord were burnt on June 27.

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