FROM TIMES OF INDIA
NEW DELHI Dec 28: Ahead of the second round of tripartite meeting with Gorkha leaders and the West Bengal government here on December 29, the Centre has
finalised the modalities which will revolve around giving more powers to the Darjeeling Hills through special status instead of acceeding to the separate state demand.
The Gorkhas will be represented by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) which has been on the warpath since February demanding creation of a separate state — Gorkhaland — comprising the three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong, besides Siliguri sub-division in the plains and the adjacent area in North Bengal.
Though GJM has been insisting on statehood, officials in the home ministry hinted that the Centre would in no way agree to the demand which has not found favour with other sections like non-tribals living in the area.
The 17-member Gorkha delegation led by GJM’s general secretary Roshan Giri will also meet home minister P Chidambaram. The first round of the tripartite meeting was here held in September.
Sources in the home ministry said the negotiators would keep in mind the unique geographical position of the area as this has implications considering the sensitivities of the people living there.
The region — a thin strip of land called Chicken’s Neck which separates China and Bangladesh and also connects India’s mainland with North-East — has always been on the radar of security agencies which have time and again resisted the separate statehood demand.
Referring to such concerns, the sources said the Centre would not agree to any decision by excluding the wishes of a majority of non-tribals in the region as it could create unrest, opening a new front for insurgents and `external elements’ to fish in troubled waters.
“Through the tripartite talks, the Centre would like to address all such concerns by taking into confidence all stake-holders, including GJM and the state government,” said a senior officer.
The Darjeeling Hills were on the boil for the first time during mid-1980s when the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) — an outfit supported by tribals in the region and led by Subhash Ghising — came to the forefront with the statehood demand. Ghising, however, later settled for the hill council following negotiations with the state and the Centre.
The GJM — another outfit led by Bimal Gurung and supported by tribals — entered into the scene much later when it started demanding a separate state while rejecting the move to give special status to the hill council.
FROM TIMES OF INDIA