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29 May 2018

Absence bares GNLF unease...

Mamata comes out of the Bagdogra airport on Monday. Picture by Passang Yolmo
BIRESWAR BANERJEE and AVIJIT SINHA, TT, May 29, 2018, Siliguri: Leaders of the Gorkha National Liberation Front were not present to welcome Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee as she arrived at the Bagdogra airport on Monday, en route to Kalimpong.

The absence betrayed the GNLF's apparent aggrievement at lack of help from the state to a body for the development of the Darjeeling hills.

The Bengal government had formed the Hill Area Development Committee in November last year with GNLF chief Mann Ghisingh as the chairman and general secretary Mahendra Chhetri as the vice-chairman. Ajoy Edwards of the GNLF and Shubhomoy Chatterjee of Trinamul were made members of the committee.

The formation of the committee had then been seen as an acknowledgement by the state of the second largest political party of the hills.
"The committee has remained almost redundant so far with no funds being allocated by the government. We are really upset over the prospects of the committee as we were given posts but not funds. No guidelines have reached us so far with regard to the running of the body," a GNLF leader said on condition of anonymity.

Observers said the GNLF leaders hadn't come to the airport to receive Mamata as they were displeased with the state's attitude towards the committee.

Senior leaders of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the hill committee of Trinamul were present to welcome Mamata. She has reached Kalimpong and will stay put there till May 31 or June 1.

Mahendra Chhetri, the GNLF general secretary, said the party leaders would attend the chief minister's meeting in Kalimpong on Tuesday.

"I was out of station and cannot say why our leaders or supporters were not present at the airport. But on Tuesday, we will be in Kalimpong as we have been invited to attend a meeting. We will seek her suggestions as to how the HADC should function for betterment of the hill people," said Chhetri.

Tripartite talks

The Union home ministry has written to the Bengal government, seeking initiatives to convene a tripartite meeting to discuss the Darjeeling issue, sources said in New Delhi on Monday. The tripartite talks will involve the central and state governments and leading players of the hills.

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