Hill deal at next meet, says Gurung – whiff of backstage pact

The Telegraph

Darjeeling, Oct. 24: Bimal Gurung today assured his supporters in Mirik that the interim set-up would be finalised in the next political level-meeting to be held in a few days, triggering speculation that a backstage negotiation might be on.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president’s statement has created a flutter in the hills, as it is largely believed that a number of political-level talks will be needed to thrash out some of the contentious issues related to the set-up, especially the territorial jurisdiction of the new body.

Addressing the people at the ongoing tourist festival in Mirik, 45km from Darjeeling, Gurung said: “The interim set-up will be finalised in the first (after the October 11 official-level talks) political meeting itself. If not the first, I am confident that the settlement will be definitely signed at the second meeting.”

During the October 11 talks in Delhi, representatives of the state, Centre and the Morcha were of the opinion that all that could be “discussed at the bureaucratic-level” had been done. They decided that they did not have the mandate to take a decision on some issues which they kept aside for the political-level talks.

The issues include the territorial jurisdiction of the new body, mode of selection of the members of the interim council, transfer of the tauzi department which keeps land records of the tea gardens and the legislative powers of the new body.

Gurung’s confidence in inking a settlement at the next meeting itself has raised speculation that perhaps some backstage negotiations are underway to settle these contentious issues. “The issues which have not yet been settled are touchy. However, Gurung’s confidence smacks of a possible backstage negotiations between the three parties involved in the talks,” said an observer.

The Morcha leadership is aware that it cannot accept an interim set-up without including some areas of the Dooars and the Terai within its jurisdiction. “Such a set-up would not be considered anything significant by the public,” the observer added.

The Morcha president was also confident that the members of the new body for the hills would be nominated by the party. “The body will be nominated but we will not include our central committee members in the interim set-up. Even after the set-up is formed, we will continue our agitation for Gorkhaland,” said Gurung.

His confidence regarding the nomination is again surprising as both the Centre and the state want either a direct or an indirect election — depending on the number of seats won in the panchayat election — for the Gorkhaland Regional Authority.

Both the governments have been arguing that a nominated body cannot exercise legislative authority as this would go against the established rule of the land.

Gurung maintained that the political-level talks could take place “before or after Tihar (Diwali)”.

ABGL campaign

The ABGL has appealed to governors of all states across the country seeking support for Gorkhaland. “We will also send similar letters to all the chief ministers soon,” said Narayan Chhetri, a spokesperson for the party.

The ABGL has maintained that they were trying to mobilise 50,000 youths in the hills for the Gorkhaland march. “We plan to mobilise the youths by December after which we will undertake a padayatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and from Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh in support of Gorkhaland,” said Chhetri. The ABGL also claimed that many people would be joining the party after Diwali.


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