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14 Jun 2017

Gorkhaland brings hill rivals together

Representatives of different parties at the meeting in Darjeeling on Tuesday. Picture by Passang Yolmo
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, June 13: Two rivals in hill politics - the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the Gorkha National Liberation Front - today came together for the first time and decided to pursue the Gorkhaland cause along with other parties, prompting questions on the longevity of their bonhomie because of the past bitterness. 
The GNLF, which was an ally of the Trinamul Congress in the last Lok Sabha, Assembly and municipal elections, today said it might even "rethink" on the alliance in the evolving situation. 
The decision to jointly demand Gorkhaland was taken at an all-party meeting convened by the Morcha at Gymkhana Club here today. 
Apart from the GNLF, the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists, Gorkhaland Rajya Nirman Morcha, BJP and the apolitical Bharatiya Gorkha Parisang attended the meeting. 
Sources said the meeting was held to send out a message to the Mamata Banerjee government that the hills were united on the issue of Gorkhaland.
"Many parties today resolved to come together for the cause of Gorkhaland. However, during the last phase of the statehood agitation in 2013, a similar exercise had been adopted by the Morcha. Many parties, including the Morcha, CPRM, BJP and Gorkhaland Rajya Nirman Morcha, formed a committee on the statehood issue. But Bimal Gurung himself announced one day that the committee would no longer function," a government official pointed out.
Lack of consensus on the course of agitation and political leaders' stand on the GTA had come as major hurdles then, he added.
The representatives of the parties which attended the meeting today decided to sit again on June 20 to chalk out their course of action and iron out differences.
Morcha chief Gurung was not present at the meeting.
Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the Morcha, said: "During the meeting, we adopted a resolution condemning the police action today and on June 8. We have also demanded a clear explanation from the state government on the language issue and resolved to come together for Gorkhaland."
Observers said the solidarity call would have to face stiff challenge because of the acrimonious relationship between the Morcha and the GNLF in the past.
In 2013, the GNLF skipped all-party programmes spearheaded by the Morcha. GNLF chief Subash Ghisingh and his supporters were stopped by Morcha activists from bringing the body of his wife to Darjeeling for cremation in 2008.
Neeraj Zimba, the spokesperson for the GNLF, today said: "We have decided to come together in the interest of Gorkhaland. In fact, our party chief Subash Ghisingh was the architect of the Gorkhaland concept. We have come together to respect the sentiments of the hill people. After all, blood is thicker than water."
Asked about the GNLF's alliance with Trinamul, which is opposed to the statehood demand, Zimba said: "We had just an electoral tie-up and not an ideological understanding with Trinamul. In politics, everything is dynamic and the central committee of our party will take a call on this. I, however, think the time has come for a rethink on the alliance."
Sources said most of the parties today were of the opinion that the Morcha had to withdraw from the GTA and a strategy should be drawn up to ensure that the hill body didn't function.
The parties were also told to submit suggestions on how to carry forward the movement. But the future of the collective forum would depend on how the Morcha responds to the other parties' opinions.

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