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21 Jun 2017

Morcha to dump GTA deal - Meeting demands with drawal of forces

KINSUK BASU and VIVEK CHHETRI, TT, Darjeeling, June 20: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today agreed to withdraw from the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) agreement, meeting a key condition of other political parties in the hills to join hands to intensify the demand for a Gorkhaland state.
It was also decided that the indefinite general strike, which entered the sixth day today, will continue "unless the state government withdraws its repressive forces".
But a Bengal government official in Calcutta said: "The paramilitary forces were deployed for a purpose and the purpose still exists, so it is not possible to withdraw the forces. But at the same time, the state government will continue its efforts to establish peace in the hills."
The Morcha leaders today agreed not just to resign from the GTA, whose five years' tenure was to end next month, but also decided to unilaterally withdraw from the GTA Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) that was signed between the hill party, the Bengal government and the Centre on July 18, 2011.
"It has been decided that we will scrap the GTA accord, with the Morcha withdrawing from the body without further loss of time. We can withdraw from the agreement as we are one of the three signatories to the accord," P. Arjun, the spokesman for the Morcha, said.
Party insiders said the decision reflected the consensus view among the 14 political and apolitical organisations that attended the meeting today at the Darjeeling Gymkhana Club that "merely resigning" from the GTA would not have much of an impact.
"In such a case, the state would continue to tell the Centre that the hill body still exists and the impasse could be resolved. The state would have had the option of calling fresh elections or appointing an administrator to the hill body," said an insider.
The hill leaders believe that if the Morcha withdraws from the accord, it would possibly pave the way for the Centre to intervene.
The Centre has so far maintained a diplomatic silence on whether it supports the issue of Gorkhaland even though senior Morcha leaders, including Roshan Giri, had recently met Rajnath Singh, the Union home minister, with the statehood demand.
Munish Tamang, national working president of the Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh, said: "The unanimous feeling among political and apolitical stakeholders was that unless Morcha withdraws from the GTA, talks on the issue of Gorkhaland will never move forward."
The Morcha leaders said they would consult lawyers to work out the formalities of withdrawing from the GTA.
During the last phase of the Gorkhaland agitation in 2013, Bimal Gurung had resigned as the chief executive of the GTA. The rest of the 44 elected GTA Sabha members, however, held on to their posts. This time, they have gone a step forward.
"Mamata Banerjee wants peace in the hills and we too want the same. This, however, cannot take place unless all the repressive forces, including the central forces, are withdrawn from the hills and political atrocities are stopped," said Arjun. "We are not against any particular community but against the political leadership of Bengal."
The meeting, which was attended by parties like the BJP, Jana Andolan Party, Congress, GNLF, CPRM and ABGL besides the Morcha, decided they would not hold any dialogue with the state.
"None of the political or apolitical parties here today would be attending the proposed all-party meeting on June 22," Tamang said.
Trinamul leader and state education minister Partha Chatterjee said: "I am still hopeful about the all-party meeting. The whole idea of initiating anything under such conditions without the state can't be acceptable. I believe time will be the best healer."
The Morcha has also decided to form an "all India coordination committee for Gorkhaland" to lead the movement.
It was decided at today's meeting that an all-party delegation with representatives from different social organisations working on the Gorkhas would be heading to Delhi to meet the President, Prime Minister and Union home minister.

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