Bengal wants ‘others’ in hills talks

The Telegraph

May 5: Bengal wants all stakeholders in Darjeeling and the Dooras and Terai to participate in the next political-level talks to bring an end to the hill impasse, sources in the Union home ministry as well as the state government said today.

This is likely to delay the resolution of the problem and the setting up of an interim authority since the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which is leading the agitation for a separate Gorkhaland state, is bitterly opposed to the idea.

The next round of political-level talks is scheduled for the end of this month. In the last round held in New Delhi in March, the state and central governments and the Morcha were involved.

However, Subash Ghisingh’s GNLF and the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad as well as Left Front partner RSP have been demanding that they, too, be included in the talks as they have a stake in the areas that the Morcha wants to be brought under the interim set-up.

The Morcha has been demanding that not only the entire Darjeeling district — including Siliguri with a predominantly Bengali population — but also parts of the Dooars where Gorkhas are in a majority be included in the interim set-up. The geographical boundary of the interim set-up would define the shape of Gorkhaland, the Morcha had said.

According to sources in the government, the administration now not only wants the GNLF and the Adivasi Vikas Parishad, but also the ABGL, CPRM and the RSP, to be included in the talks.

Sources in the home ministry said the Bengal government had conveyed to it that a solution to the Gorkhaland problem could not be reached without including all the stakeholders.

“So far the state and central governments have only talked with the Morcha,” said an official. “But there are other political formations and groups, which have a significant presence, in the hills and the Dooars. For instance, the CPRM is the second largest hill party after the Morcha, and the RSP as well as the Adivasi Vikas Parishad have a far greater presence in the Dooars than the Morcha. So it is only fair that their views are also factored in, otherwise there will be no consensus.”

State urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya, who represented the state government in the last meeting, spoke on similar lines.

“Our intention is to tell the Union government that we want to take into account the views of all the political parties on the Darjeeling issue before the final agreement is signed,” Bhattacharya said. “We want a consensus to emerge before signing the pact. But there’s no question of ceding the Dooars, Terai or Siliguri.’’

However, this runs contrary to what the interlocutor for talks, Vijay Madan, had said recently. He had specifically said on a recent visit to Sukna that other than those involved in the last round of talks at the political level no other party would be invited for the next round of talks.


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