|Newly inducted members of the GNLF hold party flags at Tindharia on Friday. Picture by Kundan Yolmo|
Darjeeling, March 22: Around 100 workers of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today joined the GNLF, which is making a comeback in the Darjeeling hills by capitalising on the strained relations between the state government and the GTA Sabha and the perceived failure of the autonomous body to deliver.
Subash Ghisingh’s party had been lying dormant after the Morcha was formed in 2007 and the 100 Morcha supporters who joined the GNLF were from Tindharia, 60km from here. Less than a week ago, an equal number of people had left the Morcha and joined the GNLF in the Sukna-Garidhura area.
The GNLF leaders are of the opinion that this is the best time for the party to spread its wings in the hills.
“Our perception is that the hill people are now feeling betrayed by the Morcha which had garnered support for statehood. Instead of statehood, they have settled for a weak GTA and the people are slowly moving away from the Morcha,” said Lucky Gurung, a GNLF leader from Tindharia.
Observers say with the Morcha itself complaining about the functioning of the GTA, opposition parties are provided with a space to play on the disenchantment creeping into people’s mind.
“The GNLF leaders are also confident that the Morcha will not be shielded by the state government now that there is a strain in their relations and they seem more confident of coming out in the open against the Morcha,” said an observer.
Gurung, who presided over the meeting organised at Tindharia Golai Dhara community hall, said: “Around 100 supporters from the Yuva Morcha and the Nari Morcha today joined the GNLF at the meeting. The supporters now believe the inclusion of the Darjeeling hills in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution is a better arrangement for the hill people.”
The Sixth Schedule is a special administrative provision enshrined in the Constitution for tribal-dominated areas in the Northeast.
The Centre, state and the GNLF had signed a memorandum of settlement to bring the Darjeeling hills under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution on December 6, 2005. On November 30, 2007, Union home minister Shivraj Patil had introduced two constitutional amendment bills in Parliament but they were referred to the standing committee on home affairs.
The committee, headed by BJP MP Sushma Swaraj tabled its report in Lok Sabha on February 28, 2008, suggesting a fresh assessment of ground realities before going ahead with conferring the new status on the hills.
Following the standing committee’s report, the bills were neither taken up for a discussion nor passed. By the time the committee’s report was placed in the Lok Sabha, the Morcha had managed to win popular support in the hills with its Gorkhaland slogan.
Gurung today said the GNLF leaders present at the meeting explained to the public about the Sixth Schedule status. Around 150 people were present at the meeting today.
“Tshering Dahal, our leader from Sukna, spoke in detail about the Sixth Schedule status,” said Gurung.
The GNLF leader said the new members of the party had been asked to open village committees in and around Tindharia.
The GNLF leaders will also hold a meeting tomorrow to take a decision on organising a function to mark the foundation day of the party on April 5. The GNLF had been formed on April 5, 1980, and the party has been unable to organise programmes on its foundation day in a proper way after the Morcha’s formation.
“As of now, our plan is to hold a meeting at some place in the Terai on our foundation day. However, a final decision will be taken at a meeting tomorrow,” said Gurung.
However, he didn’t disclose where the leaders would meet tomorrow.
Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the Morcha, didn’t immediately comment on the Tindharia meeting. “Let us first find out the details of the development that took place in Tindharia. We will comment only after we get the details,” said Giri.
A scheduled meeting between a Morcha team and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leadership in Ranchi on March 24 to discuss the alliance between the two parties for the coming panchayat polls has been postponed by at least one week.
The Morcha team was supposed to be accompanied by JMM leader in north Bengal, John Barla.
“Jharkhand has been under President’s rule since January. The JMM leaders in Ranchi cited some other factors also when they asked us to cancel the trip. The leaders in Jharkhand have told us that they will give us time a week later. Once we get confirmation from their end, we would consult Morcha leaders and head for Ranchi,” said Barla.
Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri also confirmed the cancellation of the trip. “Because of some political factors, we were asked to cancel the trip. We will, however, visit Ranchi, maybe after a week or so,” he said.