Bill hearing on Dec. 20 – Regional parties invited to speak on special status

Darjeeling, Dec. 16: The Standing Committee on Home Affairs has invited six regional parties to Delhi for a hearing on the Sixth Schedule status for the Darjeeling hills on December 20.

In a letter to Darjeeling MP Dawa Narbula, the director of the Rajya Sabha secretariat, P.P.K. Ramacharyulu, said the parties have been invited to voice their opinion on the special status.

Narbula had recently sent a letter to the committee to say that the opinion of the regional parties should be taken into account before a report is prepared. The constitutional amendment bill for the inclusion of the hills in the Sixth Schedule was referred to the committee by Parliament during the winter session.

Apart from the GNLF, the newly formed Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, CPRM, ABGL, Gorkha Rastriya Congress and GNLF(C) have all been invited for the hearing. The government will bear the travelling expenses of the representatives of the parties.

Morcha president Bimal Gurung, who returned from Delhi yesterday, convened a meeting of the hill opposition parties in Darjeeling last evening. While the ABGL stayed away, leaders of the other parties were present and were thinking of submitting a joint memorandum on the special status to the committee.

ABGL president Madan Tamang made it clear that his party would not be a signatory to the memorandum. “We will voice our opposition independently.”

The ABGL has finalised its argument, which is based on the Constitutional Amendment Bill placed by the Left Front in 1982 and 1985 seeking greater autonomy for the hills through amendment of Article 244 (Section 1). “As we have been saying, if more powers have to be given to the present council it should be done through amendment of Article 244 and not through the Sixth Schedule status which will only divide the Gorkha community,” said Tamang.

In response to a question, Tamang said the ABGL would think about accepting the Sixth Schedule if the entire Gorkha community was made tribal. “We have been opposing the Sixth Schedule status from day one solely because it divides the hill people on tribal and non-tribal lines.”

The GNLF did not issue any statement today.


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