WHILE IT is too early to say whether talks will involving the Centre, the West Bengal government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha will help resolve the contentious Darjeeling hill issue, the Centre has finally agreed to hold a tripartite meeting. The meeting is likely in mid-August.
The Morcha, which had a few meetings with the West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and senior government officials, were unhappy with the talks with the state ruling out conceding a separate state of Gorkhaland. The agitating hill leaders have been demanding that the state initiate tripartite talks.
The Bengal government received a communiqué yesterday (August 1) from the Union Home Ministry to the effect that it is ready to host tripartite talks. Soon after receiving the green signal from the Centre, state government officials got down to business late on Friday. The chief minister called a meeting at the state secretariat, which was attended by Finance minister Asim Dasgupta, Urban Development and Hill Affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya, chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb and Home secretary Ashok Mohan Chakrabarti.
The hill affairs minister, who has been the centre of controversy, at several points during the on-going agitation in the hills and some parts of the foothills, indicated that the chief secretary in all likelihood would lead a team to New Delhi before which the state government needs to draw up an agenda for the tripartite meet.
The chief minister had made it clear at the very outset that he was not against tripartite talks but would prefer several rounds of bipartite discussions before putting the ball in the Centre’s court. But the Morcha leadership was adamant pointing out that bipartite talks would lead nowhere. The state government finally wrote to the Centre to host tripartite talks.
To go back to the earlier contention on whether tripartite talks would help resolve the imbroglio, it is hard to see how. Bengal has flatly rejected the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland as has the Centre. The Bengal chief minister has offered more power and autonomy to the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC). But the Mocha leaders want nothing short of a state.
To add to the demand is the belligerent stand of the hill leaders where they have started changing the number plates of vehicles from ‘WB’ (West Bengal) to ‘GL’ (Gorkhaland), a step which flouts motor vehicle rules.
Apart from the periodic indefinite bandhs there have been other forms of arm twisting both contemplated and some implemented, like raising a hill police battalion of sorts, ostensibly in the name of peace keeping during hill rallies and threats to stop the construction of hydro-power projects in the hills, stopping payment of telephone and electricity bills and the like. And disrupting movement of essential supplies to Sikkim bordering China, which had also affected movement of the Indian Army.
It is hard to see the Centre and the state taking these threats repeatedly and conceding the demand of a separate state in what is an extremely sensitive area, hemmed in by Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. And it is not that the demand is new. (merinews)