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Upset over panel report, GJM threatens to renew agitation

Kolkata/Darjeeling, June 9 - The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) Saturday threatened to launch another protest campaign to press for its demand for a separate Gorkhaland.

It is upset that a committee set up for inclusion of additional areas in the proposed Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) in northern West Bengal recommended inclusion of only five areas into the hill development council.

Going a step further, a faction of a tribal outfit active in the Dooars (foothills of the Himalayas) region in north Bengal said the demand for a 'Gorkhaland state' would be revived.

The 10-member committee, headed by Judge (retd.) Shyamal Kumar Sen, submitted the report Friday night which was read out to reporters by West Bengal Chief Secretary Samar Ghosh Saturday.

The committee was set up July 29 last year after the GJM demanded 398 additional mouzas (area less than a sub-division) spread over Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts to be included in the GTA -- a new hill council that would run the administration in Darjeeling area.

It is armed with more powers than its predecessor, Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), formed in the 1980s.

The committee, which considered parameters such as homogeneity, (whether over 50 percent of the Mouza population was Gorkha), contiguity, compactness and ground reality, said only two mouzas in Jalpaiguri and three in Darjeeling fulfilled all the criteria for being part of the GTA.

Ghosh said the government has not finalised its stand on the report. 'I've come to merely brief you on the report's contents,' he said.

Ghosh said though members of the GJM and the state government were members of the panel, it had been decided that they would not be part of the committee's decision-making process which was left to Justice Sen.

Asked when the GTA elections would be held, he said: 'It was earlier decided that the panel will submit its report in early June and polls will be held in July. We will get back to you when we work out the exact time-table'.

However, the GJM is angry.

'The recommendation is a farce. We do not accept this. The people of (Darjeeling Hills) are with us. We will go on a stir. We were hoping to get over 150 mouzas,' GJM general secretary Roshan Giri said.

GJM spokesman Harka Bahadur Chhetri called the recommendations an insult to the hill people.

'The number of mouzas given are much lower than out expectation. People are alleging that Gorkha majority areas have been shown as minority areas,' Chhetri said.

He said the GJM would hold a meeting Sunday in Darjeeling and decide on its next course of action.

Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad (ABAVP), a tribal body active in the Dooars and which had been fighting against the inclusion of any additional mouzas in the GTA, welcomed the report.

'We don't have any objection to the mouzas given to the GTA,' said ABAVP leader Birsa Tirkey.

However, John Barla, leader of the pro-GJM faction of the ABAVP, rejected the recommendations. 'We will start an agitation. We will revive the movement for a separate state.'

The opposition Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) said it wanted peace in the hills.

'We also want peaceful resolution to the Darjeeling problem. We are not certain whether peace will return to Darjeeling following the GTA treaty,' said CPI-M state committee member Ashok Bhattacharya.

The three picturesque Darjeeling hill subdivisions of Darjeeling, Kurseyong and Kalimpong have been on the boil for nearly three decades due to anti-government protests over the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state.

On July 18 last year, a tripartite agreement was signed between the GJM and the state and central governments for setting up the new autonomous, elected GTA. The hills have been peaceful since then.


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