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Gorkhaland: Mamata Banerjee calls for a long-term solution, rejects demand for a separate state


Kolkata: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday asked moderate Gorkha leaders from Darjeeling to build a consensus on a “long term solution”, even as she rejected their demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.

All leaders from the hills of West Bengal have said the creation of a separate state was the only permanent solution to the problem. On Monday, Banerjee urged them to settle for a “long-term solution” for now and decide among themselves what it could be, according to Niraj Zimba, a spokesperson for the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF).

She has made it clear that Gorkhaland was out of question, he said, adding that at the same time she asked the moderate leaders to decide what could serve as a long-term solution. The GNLF had agreed to the Gorkha community being granted more autonomy under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, but because of political resistance a plan to create an autonomous council did not materialize.

Ousted Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leader Binay Tamang, who appears to be calling the shots now, may also not be opposed to gaining more autonomy for now, said an aide to Mint, who asked not to be named.

Tamang, along with three GJM legislators from the hills, attended Monday’s meeting—an indication that the lawmakers, too, may be distancing themselves from party president Bimal Gurung.

Tamang and Anit Thapa, another defector from the GJM, have already been given interim administrative responsibility by the state to revive the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA), a semi-autonomous body formed five years ago. Earlier this year, Tamang and Thapa led an agitation to pull down the GTA, saying it did not serve the stated purpose of accelerating Gorkha development, but they have now agreed to work with the state to restore normalcy.

A Darjeeling district official said there’s pressure on these leaders to make the hills functional again and revive an economy dependent on tourism and tea. Both have taken a blow from a 104-day general strike this year which ended after the Union government committed to holding tripartite talks. Because of the pressure from local people, the leaders need to decide on a solution fast, said the official, asking not to be named.

Hardliner Gurung is expected to oppose any solution other than creation of a separate state, but the fugitive leader is fast losing his control over the hills.

Harka Bahadur Chhetri, another Gorkha leader who quit the GJM to form his own Jan Andolan Party, did not attend Monday’s meeting, saying decisions were being taken only by consulting Tamang.

Meanwhile, Banerjee slammed the Union government for its “unilateral” decision to withdraw central paramilitary forces from Darjeeling even before order had been restored.

She accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of conspiring with hardliners within the GJM to destabilize Darjeeling. She said she had written to the home minister as well as the Prime Minister expressing her disapproval of the move.

Zimba and Tamang also said forces should not have been withdrawn immediately. Normalcy has still not be restored, said Zimba, while Tamang said tension had intensified again following a police raid on a GJM camp on 13 October.

- LIVEMINT

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