FROM PRESS TRUST OF INDIA
Siliguri, May 6 (PTI) Administrative-level tripartite talks among the Centre, the West Bengal government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha will be held in New Delhi on May 11, prior to political dialogue at the end of this month.
Urban Development Minister Asok Bhattacharya today said there was no difference of opinion between the Centre and the state on the development of Darjeeling and to make the hill council more powerful.
The chief secretary and home secretary were expected to join the tripartite talks with the GJM leadership and the Centre, said Bhattacharya, who had participated in the last round of tripartite talks in Delhi.
Morcha sources, however, said they are yet to receive a confirmation about the May 11 meeting.
GJM chief Bimal Gurung, who had been demanding Gorkhaland since inception of the party in 2007, has floated a new proposal for an ‘interim set-up’ in the hills till December 31, 2011.
BJP denies having supported Gorkhaland – will the real BJP please remain seated ?!!
FROM PRESS TRUST OF INDIA
Kolkata, May 06 (PTI) Denying that it had supported the demand by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha for a separate Gorkhaland to be carved out of West Bengal, the BJP today said it was against the division of the state.
“Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was against division of Bengal. We can’t talk of dividing Bengal,” BJP National spokesperson Tarun Vijay told reporters here when asked about the party’s stand on the issue.
To a question, he said the BJP had not made any assurance to the GJM on the matter before last year’s Lok Sabha polls.
Former union minister Jaswant Singh, who was expelled from the party, was elected from Darjeeling constituency with the backing of the GJM in the general elections.
Venkaiah Naidu draws parallel between Khalistanis and Gorkhas evoking condemnation – Revisiting The Bhindranwale Fiasco ?!!
FROM THE HIMALAYAN BEACON
BY BARUN ROY
Darjeeling, May 6, 2010: A statement made by the former BJP President M. Venkaiah Naidu. Naidu, as quoted by the Indian Express, has said, “What would happen if someone were to mention Khalistani or Gorkha as their nationality.” The BJP has formally demanded that an OBC headcount and a drive to identify APL and BPL population be undertaken along with the ongoing Census exercise and Naidu was speaking on the occasion.
The former BJP President M Venkaiah Naidu is also the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Home Affairs in the Union Parliament.
However, Naidu’s comment has evoked a great deal of condemnation from various quarters.
The Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh, an umbrella organisation of the Gorkhas in India has condemned the statement.
“The Khalistanis are part of a militant Sikh organisation which seeks to establish the independent nation of Khalistan in the present day state of Punjab. Equating Gorkhas, who seek to establish a separate state of Gorkhaland under the provisions of the Constitution of India is not only wrong but tragic. It shows how much the so called national leaders know of their own people,” said Professor Keshav Pradhan.
Professor Pradhan who is presently leading a group of Anthropologists in Darjeeling further said, “Such careless remarks are certainly unwarranted. In such critical time as these, these kinds of statements lead to further alienation among the people.”
The political parties in Darjeeling, however, seem to be withholding their response since none of them have so far issued any statements on the issue.
A leader of a prominent party in the Hills requesting anonymity said, “Since the BJP has been raising the issue of Gorkhaland in the Union Parliament through its various prominent members like Pratap Singh Rudy and Sushma Swaraj, the party is reluctant to out-rightly condemn the statement made by the former BJP President. It might be possible that Naidu may have slipped his tongue. We do not want to slip ours either.”
The leaders of the BJP party in Darjeeling could not be contacted. (Wonder where they are ?!!)
BGP – Parisangh Protests BJP painting Gorkhas and Khalistanis with same brush
From The Himalayan Beacon
Released on behalf of Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh by Joel Rai, spokesperson, BGP
NEW DELHI, MAY 6: The Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh has strongly denounced former BJP President M Venkaiah Naidu’s statement in New Delhi on May 3 in which he equated Gorkhas with Khalistanis.
As reported by The Indian Express (Page 4, May 4), Naidu, while referring to the column on nationality in the documents of the ongoing census operation, said, “What would happen if someone were to mention Khalistani or Gorkha as their nationality?”
“Such irresponsible statement by a national party that has presumed to fight the cause of Gorkhas has immensely hurt the sentiments of the the community,” said Rev Dr Enos Das Pradhan, Working President of the Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh. “It must be rescinded immediately.” He pointed out that it was dangerous for the Gorkhas that it came from a person like Venkaiah Naidu, who is chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs.
The BGP said that the statement once again exemplified the misconception that the Indian Gorkhas were separatists and anti-national when they have in fact been loyal protectors of India’s territorial integrity and its social unity. Such a mischievous statement has come at a time when the Gorkhas are demanding a separate state to cement, in no uncertain terms, their Indian identity.
In a strongly worded letter to Venkaiah Naidu, Dr Pradhan said, “We protest strongly at your poor choice of examples to prove a debating point, where you have, at one stroke, denigrated the contribution made by the Gorkhas to their motherland, not only in protecting its borders, but also in a vast measure in different fields like culture, politics, business, social welfare, education, bureaucracy, media and civil society.”
Copies of the letter sent to the BJP Rajya Sabha member Naidu were also sent to Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, senior BJP leader LK Advani, Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh, BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha President Bimal Gurung, CPRM General Secretary RB Rai, AIGL President Madan Tamang and Gorkha Democratic Front President Surya Sahi of Dehradun.
A year after, BJP polls apart on Gorkhaland – will poles do ?!!
From Indian Express
By Sabyasachi Bandhopadhyay
Kolkata, May 07: The BJP today seemed split over the issue of separate Gorkhaland it had promised in its manifesto before the Lok Sabha polls, with its two spokespersons speaking in two different voices.
Tarun Vijay, who was in Kolkata today and held meetings with party office-bearers, said his party was against any further division of West Bengal. “Our founder Shyamaprasad Mukherjee was against the division of states and sitting in Kolkata, I cannot oppose it. Our party has never said it wanted Gorkhaland,” he said at a press conference at the state party headquarters.
When contacted, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, another BJP spokesperson, had a completely different take. “An unambiguous support both on ground, letter and spirit,” he wrote in an SMS sent to The Indian Express.
It was Rudy who had moved a resolution in the Rajya Sabha demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland.
The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) was surprised at the statement of Taun Vijay. “Sushma Swaraj said in Parliament that the BJP was in favour of Gorkhaland. We met their president Nitin Gadkari and he gave us his unequivocal support. I can’t understand why Vijay has said this,” said Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri.
The state BJP, on the other hand, has always maintained an ambiguous stand on this issue. “We are for the economic and social development of Gorkhas,” state BJP president Rahul Sinha had said earlier.
BJP’s flip-flop apart, Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh, who won the Lok Sabha polls on a BJP ticket, has also toned down his support for a separate Gorkhaland.
After a meeting with Morcha leaders in Darjeeling yesterday, Singh said he was more keen on development and the government should think of that first.
Singh, who came to Darjeeling on a three-day trip, today came to Kalimpong from where he left for Delhi.
(Did he leave yet – this morning, 11 am ?!! – reporting by proxy estimation ?!!)
IN THE ‘MEAN-MEAN’ WHILE
From KalimNews Titbits
May 07, 2010: Prof AC Sinha renowned Historian and analyst said in Gangtok that formulation of Interim Setup is not the solution for the remedy of Gorkhas’ agony and injustice towards them. Gorkhas too should create a national level leadership to materialise the goal of Gorkhaland.
(Never heard of this person, professor … of what ?!! – incidentally, unaware that the Gorkhas already have heavyweight politician, Stalwart Jaswant Singh ?!!)
‘Others’ shadow over hill talks – Exactly whom does it shadow ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU
Somewhere in Amra Bengal, May 6: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today accused the Bengal government of trying to derail the tripartite talks by suggesting that all stakeholders in the Darjeeling hills and the Dooars and Terai should be invited to the meeting.
Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said: “The Bengal government is trying to derail the talks by these suggestions. Only the Centre, the state government and the Morcha were stakeholders during the last five rounds and the same must continue.”
Giri refused to reveal whether the Morcha would refrain from attending the meeting if other parties were invited. “We are discussing every aspect. We have a meeting scheduled at Sukna on May 8,” he said, indicating that the party could announce its decision then.
The Morcha trade union has asked the workers in tea gardens in the Terai to attend the Sukna rally and not to work on that day.
Observers believe that the Morcha might even take drastic steps if other parties are invited, resulting in the discussions getting derailed. “Given the conflicting stand of the state government and the Morcha on territorial issues, there is a strong possibility of the entire talks on the set-up getting derailed,” an observer said.
The Morcha has been demanding that not only the entire Darjeeling district, including Siliguri with its predominantly Bengali population, but also the Terai and parts of the Dooars where the Gorkhas are in a majority be included in the interim set-up. The geographical boundary of the interim set-up would define the shape of Gorkhaland, the Morcha had said.
According to sources in the state government, there are other political formations and groups that have a significant presence in the hills and in the Dooars and Terai, and it is only fair that their views be factored in. (for sabotage purposes ?!!)
During the first round of secretary-level talks, the Morcha had taken an all-party delegation to Delhi. However, the party was unhappy with the “behaviour” of the delegates, particularly the ABGL’s charge that it was not consulted while preparing a document which was submitted then. Following the ABGL allegation, Gurung had publicly said that “the chapter of the all-party delegation has been closed”.
Madan Tamang, the ABGL president, today said it was right on the part of the government (central or state ?!!) to invite all political parties. “ The Centre and the state had once made the mistake of ignoring the other parties before inking the Sixth Schedule bill and the result is there for every one to see.” (Giving rise to the ABGL, or further erosion of Left Front in Bengal ?!!)
Tamang, however, said the ABGL could not publicly announce the stand that it would take in the tripartite meeting unless “a written invitation is issued”.(And will it ?!!)
However, all parties in the hills are against the Morcha decision to accept the new set-up. They have alleged that the Morcha has betrayed the Gorkhaland cause by accepting the interim set-up. (already accepted, right now ?!!)
Gobind Chhetri, the organisational head of the CPRM that has the second largest following in the hills after the Morcha, said his outfit would insist only on Gorkhaland (just like Telengana ?!!). “We want the Centre to listen to our demands and any other decision might trigger off unrest in the area,” Chhetri said.
Other stakeholders like the GNLF and the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad refused to disclose much, saying they had not been approached formally yet (by the state). (*?!!)
“But we will not budge from our stand. Parts of the Dooars and the Terai cannot be included in the interim set- up proposed by the Morcha,” said the state president of the Parishad, Birsa Tirkey.
Matigara, an urban centre without municipal tag – also ripe for GJM alliance ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, May 6: Rapid urbanisation witnessed in Matigara block in the past one decade because of its proximity to Siliguri has prompted the residents to demand municipal status for the area.
“From North Bengal University and the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital (NBMCH) to Uttorayon township and the North Bengal Frontier headquarters of the BSF, all are located in Matigara block,” said Tanmoy Goswami, a resident of Shivmandir in Matigara.
“Over the past 10-15 years, Matigara has witnessed many development activities as the block is adjacent to the Siliguri Municipal Corporation. Naturally, the population has increased, but we are still living in panchayats. It is unjustified and we want the state government — particularly when the urban development minister (Asok Bhattacharya) is from Siliguri — to upgrade certain areas of the block into a municipality,” said Goswami.
The block has also the North Bengal Science Centre, Savin Kingdom — an entertainment park — Paribahan Nagar, where several state and central government offices are located and the electronic manufacturing unit of Videocon, besides top schools, offices of the state secondary education board and the higher secondary council, Himul plant and the Himanchal Bihar, a composite residential area.
“A government science college and a small industrial park are also coming up at Matigara. Shivmandir hosts many government offices and the Uttorayon township is expanding fast. Although our place caters for several needs of Siliguri and its surroundings, it is still a panchayat,” said Amlan Chakraborty, a resident of Susrutanagar, where the NBMCH is situated.
Rajesh Ojha, another Matigara resident, said forming a municipality comprising Uttorayon, Dagapur, Himanchal Bihar, Matigara, Shivmandir and Susrutanagar would ensure better services to the people. “Although we live in an urbanised locality, we are deprived of civic services unlike Siliguri and have to bank on panchayats,” added Ojha.
The Matigara block is spread over five panchayats, covering an area of 128.09sqkm. According to the 2001 census, the population in the block was 1,19,408 and the growth witnessed in the previous decade was 40.90 per cent against the state’s 17.84 per cent. Many think that the recorded number of people will go up once the ongoing census is completed and the data collected are collated and published.
Asked about the Matigara residents’ demand, minister Bhattacharya said: “We are aware of the block’s growth and the state government is thinking about its upgrade into a municipality.”
Sukna bears brunt of hill strife – normalancy restored by Bengal ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, May 6: A splash of green sprinkled all around, the Darjeeling hills in the background, roadside eateries offering delicious momos and a toy train station — Sukna had all the ingredients of a tourist hotspot till the statehood agitation was renewed.
The quaint hamlet is the last in the plains, around 10km from here before National Highway 55 makes a serpentine climb uphill. Sukna is a 15-minute drive from Siliguri and one of the most favoured spots for the people of the plains who came here often to spend some time away from the hullabaloo of town.
“However, over the past three years or so, particularly after the resumption of the Gorkhaland movement, the situation has dramatically changed much to our disappointment,” said Kanak Bose, a youth from Siliguri said.
“Earlier, Sukna was our favourite spot and on most occasions, we used to travel on motorcycles during the day and even after sunset. We would travel through the forests or sip tea and enjoy momos at the eateries,” said Bose.
With frequent blockades and incidents of violence on the stretch between Darjeeling More and Sukna, many people have stopped visiting their favourite haunt.
Akhil Agarwal, a businessman who visits Sukna almost every Sunday, said: “A few months back, I was returning from Sukna when my car was stopped on the highway by some agitators who had raised a blockade near Dagapur. Despite repeated requests, I was not allowed a passage and I had to take the Sukna-Khaprail-Matigara route, covering about 20km extra. Since then, we have stopped going to Sukna.”
People running the roadside eateries on way to Sukna, admitted that the number of customers are far less now. “Earlier hundreds of people used to come from Siliguri and would stop at our shops.
Nowadays, we mostly get flying customers, most of whom are on some errand or visiting the place for some odd jobs,” said a shop owner who refused to divulge his name.
With the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha closing government offices for several days, the nature interpretation centre and the non-timber forest products museum in Sukna have also been shut for some time now.
“Although the situation had been peaceful for the past one month or so, there was either a blockade by the Morcha or a demonstration by the tribals or an anti-Gorkhaland forum on the highway before that. The final blow was the burning down of the Sukna police outpost in March,” said Utpal Choudhury, another resident of Siliguri.
With the hamlet continuing to elude Siliguri residents many are optimistic that the situation would be back to normal soon. “I had taken several of my relatives and friends to Sukna and Dudhia recently,” said Rajen Jha, a resident of Milanpally.
Dudhia is a tourist spot on way to Mirik and is 15km from Sukna and is under Kurseong subdivision
“For the past one month, things seem to be returning to normal with no demonstrations or blockades along the stretch,” said Jha. (Gorkha Supremo Bimal Gurung, or communist Bengal brings Sukna under Normalancy ?!!)
GJM Threatens Agitation – Plains expect disturbance ?!!
FROM THE HINDU
May 6, 2010: The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) leadership has threatened to go in for an agitation if its demand for bringing parts of the Dooars and Terai in the plains of north Bengal within the jurisdiction of the interim administrative arrangement proposed by it for Darjeeling district and its contiguous areas is not met.
“We shall go in for an agitation if the territorial jurisdiction of the proposed regional authority is confined only to the three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling district”, Roshan Giri, GJM general secretary, told The Hindu over telephone from Darjeeling district on Thursday.
The future of the GJM’s proposal for the interim “regional authority” is expected to be discussed at the tripartite talks to be held at the bureaucratic level in New Delhi on May 11. Besides a GJM delegation, officials of the Union Home Ministry and the West Bengal government will be attending.
The talks are being viewed as precursor to another round of political level discussions slated for later in the month.
Though the West Bengal government is amenable to the idea of an alternative administrative set-up with greater powers than what the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) was invested with it is opposed to the jurisdiction of such a body extending beyond the three hill-subdivisions of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong. It also favours constitutional status to such a set-up. (as it did for the DGHC – any difference ?!!)
The issue of jurisdiction is of greater importance to the GJM leadership presently than the powers it demands for the interim set-up, GJM sources said.
While the West Bengal government has ruled out any bifurcation of the State for the creation of a separate “Gorkhaland,” State regional parties in the Darjeeling hills like the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League and the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists have been increasingly strident in their criticism of the GJM.
According to them, it is allegedly settling for a “regional authority” rather than pursuing its professed agenda for a separate State.