DARJEELING HILLS: Centre responsible for peace in the Hills, says GJM chief

FROM INDIAN EXPRESS

Gurung dismisses relevance of tripartite meeting, says ‘people losing patience, want immediate results’

“Our agitations will be peaceful. But if the law and order situation goes haywire in the Hills, the Centre will be responsible. If they can consider Telangana, why not Gorkhaland?” asked Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung on Sunday while hinting at the possibility of violence erupting in Darjeeling and surrounding areas if their demand for a separate state is not fulfilled.

Describing the four-day bandh in the Hills as their “last battle” to get a separate Gorkhaland, Gurung warned the Central government to consider the matter seriously.

Gurung said that everything will come to a standstill during the four-day strike from December 14 to December 17 in the Hills, including movement of government and police vehicles.

“The people of Darjeeling are losing patience and now they want results rather than meeting after meeting,” said the GJM chief.

Delivery of essential services like fire services, examinations, LPG gas, marriage, funeral, and media will be exempted from the bandh purview. Sources said that the superintendent of police and the district magistrate have requested GJM leaders to not stop their vehicles from plying in the area.

“We have considered their request. I have also asked all my activists to ensure that no tourist is harassed. We have already set up several assistance booths across the Hills to assist tourists. Those needing any help or wanting to lodge a complaint may consult our men in these centres,” Gurung said.

Dismissing the December 21 tripartite meeting on the Gorkhaland issue involving the GJM, West Bengal government and Centre, Gurung said, “The meeting has lost its relevance. There is no point in discussion. We want immediate results.”

Gurung expressed his displeasure at Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s recent statements against Gorkhaland.

“They are senior political leaders and have the right to speech. He (Pranab) is speaking politics and we are speaking about rights. I request Pranab babu to understand that it is in the Centre’s hand to maintain peace in the Hills. This land is ours and it does not belong to Mamata Banerjee,” said Gurung.

On Monday, 21 members each from the Janamukti Secondary Teachers’ Organisation, the Janamukti Primary Teachers’ Organisation and the Janamukti Karmchari Sangathan will launch an indefinite hunger strike in Darjeeling, Kurseong, Pintail village in Siliguri, Kalimpong, and Kalchini in the Dooars.

Students and ex-servicemen are expected to join the hunger strike. Also, from December 15 onwards, nearly 150 members of the Nari Morcha from Darjeeling-Dooars-Terai will be on hunger strike at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi and in Kolkata.

The GJM has already placed its concerns before UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, BJP president Rajnath Singh and other Central leaders in Delhi.

The four-day bandh in Darjeeling is expected to hamper the Tourism industry in addition to landing a major blow on tea and wool businesses.

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DARJEELING HILLS: GJM says talks losing meaning, warns of violence

FROM INDIAN EXPRESS

Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung on Sunday hinted at the possibility of violence in Darjeeling and surrounding areas if the outfit’s demand for a separate state was not fulfilled.

He described the four-day bandh in the hills that starts from Monday as the “last battle” to get a separate Gorkhaland and stated that the people of Darjeeling are losing their patience. Everything will come to a standstill during the strike from December 14 to December 17, he warned, including movement of government and police vehicles.

Speaking to The Indian Express over the phone, Gurung warned the Central government to consider the matter seriously. “Our agitations will be peaceful. But if the law and order situation goes haywire in the hills, the Central government will be responsible. If they can consider Telangana, why not Gorkhaland?” he said.

Gurung claimed the people of Darjeeling now wanted results rather than meetings after meetings, and dismissed the tripartite talks on the Gorkhaland issue among the GJM, West Bengal government and Centre on December 21. “The meeting has lost its relevance. There is no point in discussion. We want immediate results,” he said. While the four-day strike will be total, the GJM has decided to exempt vehicles of essential services like the fire brigade, LPG gas and media as well as examinations, weddings and funerals from the bandh purview.

Mediator holds out hope for trouble-torn Hills

DARJEELING: A path for solving the crisis in the Hills has been identified, according to interlocutor Lt-Gen (retd) Vijay Madan, who met Gorkha
Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leaders in Darjeeling on Thursday. The GJM leaders, on their part, assured the Centre and the state government that no disturbance would occur in the run-up to the December 21 tripartite meeting.
At the end of a 90-minute-long meeting at Mayfair Hotel, attended by GJM chief Bimal Gurung, general secretary Roshan Giri and party central committee leaders Amar Lama and L B Pariyar, Madan said talks on the demand for Gorkhaland have been fruitful.
“We are trying to find out steps for a way forward towards an acceptable solution. We are on some sort of a path now. An issue like this one can’t be solved overnight and hopefully we will have a roadmap by the time the tripartite meeting is held on December 21,” said Madan.
GJM leaders, too, expressed satisfaction with the talks. They would write to the Union home ministry, assuring it of peace in the Hills, they said. “We will maintain peace in the Hills and provide our cooperation in maintaining an environment conducive to talks,” said Gurung after the meeting. The possibility of including Siliguri on the proposed Gorkhaland map was also discussed at the meeting, said Giri.
Madan, on the other hand, said the Union government had no apprehension about disturbances in the Hills. “There is no fear of any trouble. It is the media that has been speculating about a possible flare-up. After this meeting, that should now be laid to rest,” said Madan.
On his role in the tripartite talks, the interlocutor said he would be a facilitator. “My job is to highlight the points on which the three sides have a consensus. It will also be my responsibility to help the parties reach an agreement on the contentious issues,” he added.

Madan visited the Dooars on Wednesday and met members of the local communities. “I met the tribals and Gorkhas. I wanted to survey their socio-economic conditions in person. The interaction was quite enlightening and I would include my observations in my report to the Union government.” Madan added that he was open to discussions with other parties as well, but none had approached him so far.

This is Madan’s second visit to the Hills in the last two months. He had visited Darjeeling on November 2 to meet GJM leaders. He will leave for Delhi on Friday.

Darjeeling to have new administrative framework

The Times Of India
NEW DELHI: The Darjeeling Hill areas will soon have a new administrative set-up as the Centre on Tuesday decided to abolish the Darjeeling Gorkha
Hill Council (DGHC) — the body which has been involved in the affairs of the region for the last two decades.

Besides, the Centre also agreed to drop the existing proposal of the Gorkha Hill Council under the sixth schedule of the Constitution, which gives special status to certain areas in terms of administrative and functional autonomy.

The proposal — being opposed by the Bimal Gurung-led Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) — had been pending ever since the government introduced the concerned Bills in Parliament in 2007. The Bills were subsequently referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee which had also expressed reservation over the sixth schedule issue while asking the government to take the views of all concerned before taking any decision regarding the Darjeeling Hills area.

The decisions — interpreted as finally closing the chapter of Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) leader Subhas Ghising in favour of his detractor Bimal Gurung — were taken in a tripartite meeting held here among the Centre, West Bengal government and GJM.

Though the government did not promise anything about GJM’s long pending demand of statehood — Gorkhaland — during the talks, the Gorkha representatives termed the abolition of DGHC and dropping of the sixth schedule proposal as a step towards fulfilling their demand.

The government, on its part, announced the appointment of an interlocutor to carry forward the discussions. It was also decided that all the three parties will hold the fourth round of tripartite meeting in Darjeeling in December. So far, all the three rounds were held in the Capital.

In a bid to involve the agitating GJM in political process, the government also suggested that the Gorkha representatives take part in local level elections. Union home secretary G K Pillai said: “The Centre and the West Bengal government proposed that as an interim measure and to restore the democratic process, the elections to panchayat samitis, gram panchayats as well as municipalities be allowed to be held. GJM stated that they would consult and revert back to the state government.”

Referring to other concerns of GJM, Pillai said: “It was informed by the West Bengal government that portions of the Central Relief Funds and Special Central assistance amounting to Rs 70 crore were lying unutilised. It was agreed that a team of state government officials would be sent to Darjeeling to discuss the utilisation of these funds.”

Later, BJP MP from Darjeeling Jaswant Singh — who contested the parliamentary election with GJM support — said: “I hope that eventually these talks would lead to formation of Gorkhaland, which is the main demand of the Morcha.”

While the Gorkha delegation was led by Anmole Prasad, the West Bengal government was represented by a number of officials led by its chief secretary A Chakrabarty.

The Hills were on the boil for the first time during mid-1980s when GNLF leader Subhas Ghising came up with the statehood demand. He, however, later settled for the Hill Council following negotiations with the state and the Centre. GJM entered the scene much later and renewed the Gorkhas’ demand of separate state. It was also opposed to giving sixth schedule status to the region.