GTA chairman meets Mamata amid churn in Darjeeling Hill politics
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee(Left) and GTA chairman Anit Thapa

Kolkata: Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) chairman Anit Thapa met West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee here and discussed various issues related to the development of the Darjeeling Hills.

The 45-minute-long closed-door meeting was held at the chief minister’s chamber in the state assembly in the presence of senior minister Aroop Biswas, who is also the in-charge of TMC’s Hill affairs.

“We discussed various issues related to the development of the Hills, including the ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) scheme and issuance of land rights to people living in tea and cinchona plantations,” he said.

Thapa said he requested the CM to set up a separate primary education board for the area that comes under the GTA’s jurisdiction.

The meeting assumes significance in the backdrop of recent political churning in the Hills after Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) withdrew from the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) last month, claiming that promises were not fulfilled.

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

GJM leader Bimal Gurung, Hamro Party’s Ajoy Edwards and Binay Tamang, who has quit the TMC to return to the GJM, have joined hands to reignite the demand for Gorkhaland.

The trio has formed a platform, Bharatiya Gorkha Swabhiman Sangharsh Manch, and vowed to fight for the aspirations of the people of the Hills claiming that the GTA failed to fulfil them.

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.

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

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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