Before the deal, the balancing act – Morcha keen to avoid 6th Schedule-like fiasco

The Telegraph

Darjeeling, Oct. 26: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has decided to seek the opinion of all its leaders across the country before accepting the proposed set-up for the hills, an indication that the outfit is walking a tightrope and wants to avoid a Sixth Schedule-like fiasco that also brought out Subash Ghisingh’s nemesis.

Sources confirmed that Morcha president Bimal Gurung would invite its unit leaders from across the country for deliberations on the interim set-up and Gorkhaland.

“The meeting will be held very soon,” a source said. The date could probably be October 30, another source said.

The Morcha has formed units in the seven northeastern states besides Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. It has a unit in Calcutta, too. The Nepali-speaking people from across the country had supported the Morcha agitation for Gorkhaland as they saw in it a solution to the identity issue of the Gorkhas. The new state, it was said, would give the Gorkhas the identity they had been craving for by differentiating between the Nepali-speaking Indians and the citizens of Nepal.

Although the party has been insisting that the proposed arrangement is only temporary and the statehood movement will continue, Gurung and his think tank are wary because the initial agitation was for a new state and not a new administrative set-up. Under the circumstances, the Morcha wants a consensus to be reached before the interim set-up deal is inked. Observers said the Morcha did not want a repeat of the Sixth Schedule fiasco, another reason why a consensus is needed.

In the past, the Centre, the state and the Subash Ghisingh-led GNLF had signed a Memorandum of Settlement for conferring the Sixth Schedule status on the three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling. The status could not be conferred because of a spontaneous opposition in the hills. The delay in amending the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution — the process starting almost one-and-a-half years from when the settlement was inked in 2006 — to include the Darjeeling hills proved to be Ghisingh’s nemesis.

“Gurung is aware how Ghisingh, who was then considered the undisputed leader of the hills but had to go because of the mass opposition. The Morcha leadership does not want a repeat and will try to convince its unit leaders that the interim set-up is only for two years and that the party has not set aside the Gorkhaland issue,” said an observer.

The party is likely to firm up its decision on the interim set-up only after receiving feedbacks from its unit leaders. In fact, the Morcha yesterday asked its leaders from the Dooars and Terai to submit their opinions complete with their address and phone numbers. “A similar exercise will be conducted when members of other units are invited for discussion,” the source added.

The prospect of settling the interim issue within the next political-level talks seems real as Gurung seems to have worked out a strategy to solve the territorial dispute. He has hinted that the solution is in the formation of a joint verification committee that will survey the Dooars and Terai and submit a report by 2011.

“(After that) the government has to agree to include the Nepali-dominated areas in the administrative arrangement that will be in force till 2012,” he said yesterday.


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