Eight months before the 2021 West Bengal elections, the Gorkhaland issue is once against under the limelight because of the tripartite talks called by the Narendra Modi government on Wednesday, October 7.
The call for the meet has riled up the Mamata Banerjee government and even the Opposition in West Bengal.
The meeting will be chaired by MoS home affairs, G Kishan Reddy.
While the Binoy Tamang-led faction of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has said this is an issue that makes an appearance only during elections, the Bimal Gurung-led faction of the GJM claimed that this was not about the Gorkhaland issue but about the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).
The GTA is an autonomous body in the hills led by the Tamang-led faction that backs the TMC.
The home secretary of Bengal has been invited to this meeting.
Here are 4 points to consider on this controversy:
1. Meet on October 7, govt changes agenda
Amid controversy caused by the Modi govt’s corrigendum on the tripartite meet, the agenda of the meeting was also changed.
The Telegraph reported that the agenda was changed to “the issues related to Gorkhaland” to “issues to Gorkhaland Territorial Administration”.
The first letter was issued on Saturday, and then changed on Monday.
The newspaper quoted an anonymous observer of hill politics as saying, “The sudden change in the agenda is nothing but an egg on the face of not only the BJP but also the Bimal Gurung faction of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. Both were portraying the scheduled talks as the beginning of a process to meet the Gorkhaland demand.”
2. Mamata govt to skip meet, TMC unhappy
The Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal, which does not see eye to eye with the Centre on most issues, said that it won’t attend the meet, even though it was invited, because it was not informed of the meeting first.
The New Indian Express quoted a statement from the Bengal govt as saying, “The Centre did not discuss the issue with us before convening the meeting. Besides, a state government bureaucrat cannot be asked to attend a Centre’s meeting without the consent of the state government concerned.”
The TMC said that the BJP was trying to stir up controversy right before the elections.
3. Bengal opposition parties not so happy either
The Congress in Bengal also called this a “political stunt” and appeared miffed that it was left out of this meet.
Working state president of the Bengal Congress told The Telegraph, “We want a permanent solution to the hill issue and feel that the solution is greater autonomy with appropriate validation. But it has to be within the state (of Bengal). It would be wrong if the Centre does not call all political parties to make a decision on the issue. Inviting one or two parties won’t serve the purpose.”
Meanwhile, Left front leader of Darjeeling district J Sarkar told The Economic Times, “BJP always shows sudden spurt of activity on hill issues before every election. By using the word ‘Gorkhaland,’ they are trying to refuel separatist movement here... Darjeeling has an autonomous development body formed by tripartite agreement between Centre State and a GJM, a major hill political force. Why that body is not being called in the meet?” asked Sarkar. “LF is likely to launch its movement opposing the meeting.”
4. GJM’s Tamang faction says Centre making ‘fool’ of Gorkhas
The meeting, which is reportedly going to be held in Delhi’s North Block, will also include Bimal Gurung, the president of the Gurung faction of the GJM.
A leader of GJM’s Tamang faction and the chairman of the board of administrators of the GTA, Anit Thapa, told Hindustan Times, “The Centre is making a fool of the Gorkhas. It has called a meeting because the Bengal assembly polls will be held next year. A court order had said both Gurung and Tamang are presidents of the GJM. How can Gurung be invited alone for the tripartite talks?”
The two factions separated during the 2017 Gorkhaland protests and the Gurung factions is said to be loyal to the BJP.