GJM leaves Gorkhaland Territorial Admin, claims promises not kept

Darjeeling/ Kolkata: In a development that threatens to break the brittle peace of the Darjeeling hills, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) on Friday said that it has withdrawn from the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), claiming that promises were not fulfilled.

The GTA, a semi-autonomous body to administer Darjeeling hills, was formed after a tripartite agreement was signed by the GJM, and the central and West Bengal governments in July 2011 following prolonged unrest demanding a separate Gorkhaland state.

The GJM said it has written a letter to President Droupadi Murmu informing her about the party’s decision to withdraw as one of the signatories of the GTA.

“We have sent copies of the letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The GTA has completely failed to fulfil the aspirations of the people in the hills,” GJM general secretary Roshan Giri told PTI.

Elections to GTA were first conducted in 2012 and then again on June 26 last year. There are 45 elected members in the GTA Sabha and five others are nominated by the governor.

The GJM swept the first polls, winning all the seats. Elections could not be held in 2017 due to a violent statehood agitation, and a state-appointed administrative body took over its reins.

In last year’s election, Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM) emerged as the single largest party winning 27 out of 45 seats. The Bimal Gurung-headed GJM had boycotted the GTA polls. The Hamro Party and the Trinamool Congress bagged eight and five seats respectively, while five independent candidates also emerged victorious.

The decision by the GJM, which is presently cornered in hill politics, comes days after Binay Tamang, who recently left the TMC to return to GJM, Hamro Party’s Ajoy Edwards, and Gurung joined hands to reignite the demand for Gorkhaland.

The three have formed a platform, Bharatiya Gorkha Swabhiman Sangharsh Manch, and have vowed to fight for the aspirations of the people of the hills claiming that the GTA had failed to fulfil them.

The TMC claimed the development was a drama scripted by the GJM and the BJP to orchestrate violence in the hills.

“The BJP is trying to instigate violence in the hills. The GJM is part of this sinister design. People won’t allow them to succeed,” senior TMC leader Sougata Roy said.

BGPM chief and GTA chairman Anit Thapa dubbed the GJM’s decision as “ridiculous”.

“First, you can’t just walk out of a tripartite agreement without discussing it with other stakeholders. Secondly, GJM presently doesn’t have any stake in GTA as it was won by us, BGPM, last year. The decision of GJM is ridiculous and won’t yield any results,” he said.

The BJP demanded that there should be a permanent political solution to the hill problem.

“The TMC and the GJM have only played with the aspirations of the masses of the hills,” BJP MLA from north Bengal’s Siliguri Sankar Ghosh said.

The picturesque Darjeeling, often referred to as the queen of the hills, has witnessed several agitations over the years, with political parties promising the people a separate Gorkhaland state and implementation of the Sixth Schedule, which grants autonomy to a tribal-inhabited region.

Although the demand for separation of the region from West Bengal is over a century old, the Gorkhaland statehood movement was ignited by GNLF supremo Subhash Ghisingh in 1986.

The violent stir claimed over 1,200 lives and culminated in 1988 with the formation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, which governed the hills with a certain degree of autonomy till 2011.

The Council administered the hills for 23 years with a certain degree of autonomy. Following a fresh stir by Gurung, the GTA was formed. More violent bouts of protests were also witnessed later, the last being in 2017.

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