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Gorkhaland Territorial Administration

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18 July, 2011

The Hindu reports:

Bimal Gurung, Mamata Banerjee and Roshan Giri

The historic tripartite agreement for the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) was on Monday signed to resolve the vexed Darjeeling problem amidst protests and bandhs in the Terai and Dooars areas.

The agreement was signed by West Bengal Home Secretary G D Gautama, Union Home Ministry Joint Secretary K.K.Pathak and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha General Secretary Roshan Giri at the Pintail village, about 8 km from Siliguri.

Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and GJM chief Bimal Gurung and the BJP MP from Darjeeling Jaswant Singh were present at the accord-signing ceremony, among others.

Describing the occasion as ‘historic,’ Mr. Chidambaram said the Centre and the state government would fully back the GTA.

Categorically ruling out any division of the state, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the new memorandum of agreement sought to confer to the GTA maximum possible autonomy within the constitutional framework and within various state and central acts.

In a word of advice to the GJM leadership, Mr. Chidambarm said, “Your task is stupendous. Your subjects cover an entire range of development.”

The subjects under the GTA included, among other things, agriculture, irrigation, food, industry, education, women and child development, water resources, land and land revenue, municipalities, panchayats, urban development, public health and tourism, he said, adding “everything that concerns people are given to you.”

Interestingly no newspaper quotes any member of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. Are they playing their cards very close to their chests? Probably yes, claims IE:

According to GJM sources, Gurung is not only opting out of the signing but will not be directly involved either with the board of administrators that will run the interim set-up in Darjeeling hills, till election to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration is held.

Gurung’s move follows the criticism levelled at him for dropping the demand for a separate state and for accepting the interim arrangement. Like a previous tripartite agreement, this MoA too would have a written assurance from the GJM leadership not to raise the separate statehood demand.

By not signing on the dotted line, Gurung appears to be sending a message to the Gorkha people that he is keeping the option of a statehood demand open.

Kurseong Information takes one point of view, that this agreement is really a big deal:

The new administration will be vested with powers to regulate 54 subjects, unlike the 1988 creation of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council which was given control over only 19 subjects.

This will be the first time that any authority outside the state gets such wide-ranging powers. Except for legislative powers, the Bimal Gurung-led GJM has managed to wrest control over all state subjects as far as Darjeeling hill area is concerned, including land, forest, education, levy of local taxes, health and tea plantation.

A long article from Himal takes the opposite point of view, whil also providing background on intra-Gorkha politics and Gorkha political aspirations:

The Morcha candidates for the three constituencies of Darjeeling district – Trilok Dewan, Harka Bahadur Chettri and Rohit Sharma from Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong, respectively – together secured the highest margin of votes ever recorded in the state, thus clearly indicating the people’s aspirations for a separate state. Indeed, the results even showed similar support in the plains, where Wilson Chompromary, an independent MLA from Kalchini backed by the Morcha, won handily. Yet within days, the Morcha’s own leadership had all but given up on the push for Gorkhaland.

On the day the results were announced, Morcha President Bimal Gurung triumphantly stated, ‘This is a victory for Gorkhaland!’ While the GJM victory had been expected, none had been forecasting such a large margin – particularly after the sudden early-April return of Subash Ghisingh, who had ruled over the Darjeeling Hills for the two decades leading up to mid-2008. Even after the surprise end to his hibernation, however, Ghisingh’s party, the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), suffered an embarrassing defeat, with all three of the party’s candidates losing. On 16 May, GNLF supporters were accused of violently attacking their Morcha counterparts, including stabbing one in the neck, and within hours Ghisingh had again left the Hills under cover of darkness.

The biggest loser in the recent elections was probably the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL). The party, which has long supported a settlement with Kolkata on the Gorkhaland issue, is currently headed by Bharati Tamang, wife of the late Madan Tamang, the former ABGL president who was stabbed to death by Morcha supporters in May 2010. Standing for election from Darjeeling, Bharati Tamang was able to record little more than 11,000 votes – compared to 120,532 votes secured by Trilok Dewan, the Morcha victor.

19 July, 2011

The statement that was expected from Gurung came as soon as it could, reports IBN:

A day after the signing of the tripartite agreement on Darjeeling, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung today said its original demand for Gorkhaland still stands.”The original demand for Gorkhaland remains. We have never said that we have withdrawn our demand for Gorkhaland,” Gurung told a press conference in Darjeeling.

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