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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

‘Statehood’ on record.... HEART & HEAD DEAL Development hope for hills, unity for plains..... Ghising mum to media queries,,,, GTA more powerful than DGHC.... Strike defied in relief: end of mistrust, hope on lips.... Agreement skirts payment of dues .. Left sees rift and unrest..... People not sure what Gorkhaland accord will fetch,; North Bengal tribals angry.... Panel recommends release of 78 political prisoners

‘Statehood’ on record
SNS, SILIGURI. 18 JULY: Despite chief minister Miss Mamata Banerjee's outright rejection of the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha's demand for a separate Gorkhaland, the 16-page tripartite agreement signed today clearly states the GJMM has not given up its statehood demand. On the contrary, the agreement asserts: “The state government, the Centre and the GJMM keeping on record the demand of the GJMM for a separate state of Gorkhaland agrees as follows...”
Tracing the background of the agitation for the formation of a separate state carving out the three hill sub-divisions and some mouzas in the Dooars and the Terai, the agreement states that “the GJMM has been demanding for quite some time a separate state of Gorkhaland for the hill areas of the Darjeeling district, including some areas of Siliguri, Terai and the Dooars, whereas the state government and the Centre had repeatedly emphasised the need for keeping the region as an integral part of the state of West Bengal.”
Miss Banerjee sought to ally the fears of the people of the Dooars and the Terai about the formation of a separate Gorkhaland state comprising their areas as well, but the wording of the agreement is far from reassuring for them. It states : “Whereas several rounds of tripartite meetings at the ministerial and official levels the GJMM without dropping their demand for separate Gorkhaland has agreed to the setting up of an autonomous body empowered with administrative, finance and executive powers in regard to various subjects to be transferred to the said body for the development of the region and restoration of peace and normalcy there.”
The objective of the agreement is to “establish an autonomous self-governing body to administer the region so that the socio-economic infrastructure, education, culture and linguistic development is expedited and the ethnic identity of the Gorkhas established thereby all-round development of the region.
A Bill for the purpose will be introduced in the state Assembly.
Development hope for hills, unity for plains
'Bangla bhag hochchhe na.... Darjeeling is the heart of West Bengal. We will stay together — Mamata Banerjee'
ARNAB GANGULY,ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VIVEK CHHETRI,TT, Siliguri, July 18: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today handed Darjeeling a deal far more attractive than the one sealed 23 years ago and uttered what the plains wanted to hear.
“There will be no division of Bengal (Bangla bhag hochchhe na). Darjeeling is not outside West Bengal. It is the heart of West Bengal. We will stay together,” the chief minister told a meeting at Pintail in Siliguri where a tripartite agreement was signed to set up an autonomous body called the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).
She made the announcement in the presence of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung, Union home minister P. Chidambaram and Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh, besides a host of her own ministers. The signatories to the memorandum of agreement were Bengal home secretary G.D. Gautama, Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri and Union home ministry joint secretary K.K. Pathak.
Mamata’s listeners were mostly Gorkhas but she was also reassuring a larger audience in the state that the agreement was not a precursor to another division of Bengal but a harbinger of peace for a region unsettled by renewed unrest over the past four years.
The violent agitation in the 1980s had ended in 1988 after the then Jyoti Basu government signed an agreement with Gorkha leader Subash Ghisingh, who spent a lonely day today in Jalpaiguri.
Chidambaram, too, strummed the unity string. “What is India if it is not a mosaic of many races, languages, religions and yet we are one? The area under the GTA, too, has a plural society. This new administration must respect the plurality of the area,” Chidambaram said.
Morcha unfazed
Morcha supporters dance
The Morcha, whose leader Gurung was also sharing the stage with Mamata, appeared to have taken the chief minister’s assertion against a separate Gorkhaland state in its stride.
“The chief minister has to say these things,” a Morcha leader said. “She can’t be standing in the plains (Siliguri) and saying that she supports the demand for Gorkhaland. We are very happy with the GTA and there will now be peace in the hills.”
The Morcha leader pointed out that just as his party would have to keep alive its slogan of a Gorkhaland state, the parties in the plains would continue to oppose it.
In fact, the three-way pact signed today has taken care to mention twice that the Morcha has agreed to the setting up of the GTA “while not dropping their demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland”.
Telangana risk
The only potential flashpoint, according to the Morcha leader who preferred not to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject, will be the grant of statehood to Telangana. “If Telangana gets statehood, our hands will be tied,” the Morcha leader said. “We will have no option other than to revive our statehood movement.”
Such an unexpected element was injected in December 2009 when the Centre suggested that it was not averse to exploring the possibility of forming a Telangana state. The turmoil that followed scuppered a deal that was taking shape among the Centre, state and the Morcha.
Chidambaram, who had made the Telangana announcement that fateful winter night two years ago, today reached out to the hills and sought to hold the Morcha accountable. “I have a word of advice for my good friends Bimal Gurung and Roshan Giri. There is a stupendous task ahead of rebuilding the area brick by brick. 
The state government and the Centre will hold your hand, support you. Here is the opportunity to prove that you have the capacity to govern and deliver,” Chidambaram said.
The Union home minister also borrowed Mamata’s favourite slogan. “Parivartan, the word is common throughout India though pronounced differently in Bengal, Darjeeling, Delhi and Kanyakumari. It means change, a transformation for a better tomorrow,” Chidambaram said.
On his way back to Delhi, Chidambaram’s flight was forced to return to Bagdogra because of inclement weather — the reason the signing ceremony was held in Pintail and not Darjeeling. However, the second attempt was successful and the home minister reached the capital this evening.
Thrust on projects
The Morcha leadership said it would now concentrate on bringing stability and peace to the hills to “give back” something to the people for supporting the party’s movement so far.
The Centre has promised funds and Mamata listed a raft of “development projects” the new authority can implement. The projects include schemes to draw tourists, many of who were forced to look for alternative holiday spots because of the agitation.
If development was the theme, politics too scripted a role. Accusing “some people” of “playing politics” with the hills, Mamata stressed that Siliguri and Darjeeling were “like sisters” and that bond should not be broken.
“There are groups which create a rift between the people of the hills and the plains, between Rajbangshis and Bengalis. This will not go on. Banglar mati durjoy ghati, jene rakho durbritto (the soil of Bengal is impregnable, the villains should remember),” she said.
Coinage roots in Left
Without naming the CPM, she criticised the erstwhile ruling party for playing politics over the name “Gorkhaland Territorial Administration”. Mentioning a specific date, she said it was the previous Left Front government that had first agreed to the inclusion of “Gorkhaland” in the name of the new administrative body.
“Some people are playing politics with the name. What is the problem? In a meeting held on August 17, 2010, between the Centre, state and the Morcha leaders, the name ‘Gorkhaland Regional Authority’ was settled. This was done about a year ago but didn’t succeed because they didn’t want it to. We have only changed the word ‘regional’ to ‘territorial’. If there is peace in the hills, the plains will also be peaceful,” Mamata said.
The chief minister took a swipe at those who are “spreading the canard” that setting up a committee to look into the Morcha’s demand for inclusion of the Gorkha-populated areas of the Dooars and Terai was a step towards bifurcation of the state.
“So what if a committee has been formed? Why create confusion? Those who don’t want the problem to be solved are trying to create disturbance. For 35 years you did nothing, now remain quiet. Darjeeling will become Switzerland,” she said.
Gurung urged the state government to make the right decision on the demand for including the areas from the Terai and the Dooars in the GTA. “The previous government didn’t do anything. Now we expect that the committee that will look into the inclusion of areas from the Dooars and the Terai will pay attention to the demand and the government will take the right decision,” Gurung said.
Morcha supporters from the hills, the Terai and the Dooars came to Siliguri. While 5,000 could make it to the venue, another 10,000 waited on the road linking the hills of Darjeeling with the plains.
GTA more powerful than DGHC 
KalimNews: Media reports conclude that GTA is more powerful than DGHC as follows : a/ it has 59 departments (DGHC had 19 depts) - includes Tauzi-tea gardens , School & College education and agriculture   b/ the number of elected members is 45 ie the constituencies will be more (28 in DGHC) c/ Reservation for 5 seats for women, SC, ST and minority- to be nominated d/ Chairman of Municipalities along with MP,MLA as exofficio members (Municipality was excluded in DGHC) e/ A  sabha in similar line of Assembly to the conduct the meeting, a Chairperson and deputy chaiperson to conduct the sabha (not in DGHC) f/ It can create and appoint posts for  B ,C and D groups of staff (DGHC could only appoint C & D groups) g/ SSC & CSC under GTA (no provision in DGHC)
Ghising mum to media queries
PTI,  Jul 19, 2011,SUKNA: Subash Ghisingh was on Monday a lonely man at his rented house in Jalpaiguri district, far from the venue of the tripartite agreement that replaced the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council he had headed after its inception 23 years ago.
Ghisingh, the founder of the Gorkha National Liberation Front and who had once ruled Darjeeling with an iron hand, did not respond to mediapersons' queries about the Gorkha Territorial Administration, the new hill council.
It was Bimal Gurung who took the wind out of the sails of Ghisingh and drove him out of the Hills in 1998, a year after he floated the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
Plains in Pintail, TV for hills
Strike defied in relief: end of mistrust, hope on lips
AVIJIT SINHA AND RAJEEV RAVIDAS, TT, Siliguri/Darjeeling, July 18: Trinamul Congress flags and those of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha fluttered alongside at Darjeeling More today, a symbol of amity for many who hoped this was the beginning of the end of unrest that has been eluding the region for the past three years.

In Darjeeling town, 55km uphill, the celebrations were palpable though mute with deserted streets echoing the sound of the live telecast of the signing ceremony.
But the relief that came with the signing of the deal was evident both in the plains and hills. Defying a 48-hour bandh called by the Bangal O Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee across the state today, many people from Siliguri made their way to Pintail Village, 2km away, to witness the signing of the agreement for the formation of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration.
Two years ago the scene was different, with pro and anti-Gorkhaland forces clashing in Siliguri and the Dooars. The Bhasha Banchao Committee is an anti-Morcha outfit, whose bandh call did little to deter the people from the plains from making their way to Pintail on autorickshaws and two-wheelers in the absence of buses.
“Today’s event at Pintail Village is not just a ceremony held for the signing of the agreement, it is the end of all the mistrust, the insecurity and the uneasiness that both us and those in the hills have been living with,” said Utpal Sharma, a businessman from Siliguri.
Jitendra Sundas, who grows oranges in Mirik and sells them at the regulated market in Siliguri, too, breathed a sigh of relief. “Ever since our movement started, there was an uneasiness that I felt. We always visited the regulated market in groups, it was an uncomfortable situation. But today, I see that people from the plains too are enthusiastic about the signing of the pact and the leaders who spoke asked for peace and amity. Many people from Siliguri congratulated us,” Jitendra said.
If the crowds in Pintail Village spilled out on NH55 that connects Siliguri to Darjeeling, the bursting of crackers or presence of rallies was absent in the hill town.
“It was a short and sweet ceremony. I would have loved to be in Pintail Village in person. I hope that now we can get on with our lives in peace after living in fear for the past four years. I am sure that the Morcha will deliver on the development agenda and there will be peace and prosperity in the hills,” said Rita Thapa, a homemaker in Darjeeling.
Dorjay Bhutia, 83, who was clutching to the reins of his ageing pony at soggy, shower-drenched Chowrastha, said peace was the only wish he had in mind. “Let peace reign all the time or else tourists will stop coming and we will suffer. I have seen enough strife all these years,” he said.
Many felt that the lacklustre scene in Darjeeling was probably because all the Morcha leaders had gone down to Pintail Village.
“Morcha leaders of all rungs have gone to Pintail to be present on the historic occasion, maybe the celebrations will take place once they return. Most of the people in Darjeeling knew what the agreement was all about and only took time off to watch the ceremony live on TV to get a feel of it,” a resident of Darjeeling said.
Bandh confined to Siliguri streets
TT, July 18: The first day of the 48-hour statewide strike called by the Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee was limited more to Siliguri town and had little affect from Darjeeling More onwards.

Although educational institutions, shops and other business establishments were closed and private buses were off roads, droves of two-wheelers and autorickshaws with passengers made their way to Pintail to witness the signing ceremony.
The strike called to protest the agreement to form the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration had no impact in Malda and South and North Dinajpurs.
The RSP declared a “black day” as the draft of the agreement for the formation of the GTA was not discussed at an all-party meeting and not all political parties were invited to the signing ceremony. RSP Darjeeling district secretary Binoy Chakraborty and 19 others were arrested from Hill Cart Road near Siliguri Junction around 10.30am while they were organising a protest march carrying black flags.
The Darjeeling district unit of the Left Front condemned the arrest and has called a protest march tomorrow.
Two bandh supporters were arrested from Champasari More at noon while they were trying to stop vehicles on NH31. The situation was different on NH55 beyond Darjeeling More. Thousands of people gathered in and around Pintail village to witness the signing ceremony.
The effect of the bandh was limited to a halt in the services of private buses in Jalpaiguri town. But the strike was almost total in Malbazar, Nagrakata, Banarhat, Birpara, Kalchini and Odlabari and partial in Mainaguri, Dhupguri, Alipurduar and Falakata.
Vehicles carrying supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha from Gorubathan to Pintail were intercepted by Bhasha Banchao Committee members in Odlabari.
The police, however, intervened and arrested seven persons, enabling the Morcha members to proceed to Pintail.
Private buses did no operate and shops and establishments were closed in Cooch Behar. However, educational institutions, banks and government offices were open. No untoward incident was reported from any part of the district today.
Mukunda Majumdar, the president of the Bhasha Banchao Committee, said the strike would send a clear message to the central and state governments that people of Bengal did not support the formation of the GTA.
“We did not come out of our homes and yet, people observed the strike in Siliguri and its outskirts and in other districts. It is a clear message to the chief minister and the Centre that the people are not supporting the move,” he said.
Left-out gloom with fingers crossed

People from the plains who had come to Pintail to witness the signing ceremony. Picture by Kundan Yolmo
AVIJIT SINHA, TT, Siliguri, July 18: The enthusiasm was nothing less than in the hills or in Sukna but many Gorkhas in the Dooars wondered amid the celebrations when they would be part of the new set-up.
While some said they had faith in the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha that had been spearheading the movement, others preferred to keep their fingers crossed, specially since the Terai and the Dooars have been kept out of the purview of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration despite two persons from the region dying for the cause.
“There would have been more reasons for us to celebrate if the Dooars and the Terai had been included under the GTA. It is a great day of achievement for us and our leaders. But beyond that, there is a sense of uncertainty as we have to wait for recommendations of a nine-member committee that will be formed to look into our demands,” said Rajen Thapa, a Kalchini resident who was at Pintail Village today to witness the “historic event”.
Like their counterparts in the hills, hundreds of supporters from the Terai and the Dooars had been part of the movement for separate statehood launched by the Morcha in 2007.
“Our situation was more serious as there was vehement opposition from anti-Morcha forces and the Adivasi Vikas Parishad in the plains. In the Dooars, two of our supporters died and there is no doubt that inclusion of our localities under the GTA today would have doubled our joys,” said Nirmal Thami, who hails from Naxalbari. “But we have complete faith in the Morcha leadership. They will surely push the issue. But for now, our fingers are crossed, with the aspiration that the committee recommends inclusion of the 298 mouzas under the GTA.”
Vicky Lama, a resident of Ethelbari, died in a police firing at Sibchu on the Dooars border in February this year when Morcha supporters led by Bimal Gurung had forcibly tried to enter the region.
Two years earlier, Akbar Lama had died in a clash between pro and anti-Gorkhaland forces in the Dooars.
For many today, the deal was a reminder of the 1988 DGHC agreement as far as the disappointment was concerned.
“Back in 1988 before signing the accord for the DGHC, Subash Ghisingh had assured us that the Dooars and the Terai would be part of the hill set-up. It did not happen and Ghisingh continued his regime for around 20 years,” a resident of Bagrakote in the Malbazar block of the Dooars said. “The emergence of Bimal Gurung had kindled new hope among us, the Gorkha population. But the tripartite agreement was signed today and apart from the fact that a committee will be formed to look into the demand, we have no other clue about the possible end results.”
Morcha supporters in the Terai said unless the committee came up with a favourable decision and the state and the Centre endorsed it, those living in Salbari, around 7km from Darjeeling More, would continue to be a part of Siliguri subdivision and not the GTA. “But our friends and relatives in Sukna, a couple of kilometres away, would be under the GTA. This is something we cannot forget even today,” a Morcha supporter said.
Morcha leaders in the plains, however, said they could convince the people to have faith in them. “Our supporters know that a committee will be formed soon to look into our demand and we will work together so that these areas are included in the GTA,” said Madhukar Thapa, a central committee member of the Morcha.
Agreement skirts payment of dues

(From top) Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh, state ministers Gautam Deb and Chowdhury Abdul Karim at the signing ceremony in Pintail Village on Monday. Pictures by Pradip Sanyal
VIVEK CHHETRI, TT, Darjeeling, July 18: The agreement signed by the Centre, state and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today is silent on the settlement of power and telephone bills and other charges which the hill people have been refusing to pay for more than three years as part of the outfit’s non-co-operation movement.
The Morcha has, however, assured the people that they will not have to pay the dues and the party will make a plea to the Centre for exemption.
Sources in the electricity department have said dues to the tune of more than Rs 72 crore have been pending in the hills ever since the non-co-operation movement started on April 1, 2008 to press for the creation of Gorkhaland. Although it is not known immediately how much loss the state government has incurred in terms of the non-payment of other charges like land mutation fees, some officials hinted that the figure had reached a Rs 10 crore mark.
The hill people were expecting that they would be assured a reprieve from the payment of the dues in the agreement, but the deal did not touch on the issue.
The Morcha had a few words of consolation for the people.
“This is definitely a big issue for us since we had asked the people not to pay the bills as part of our non-co-operation movement. We cannot make them pay the dues now. The party has already discussed the issue with the Centre and has included the payment of the dues in the list of waivers we have placed before the government,” said a Morcha leader.
However, the pact agrees to review cases registered against Morcha supporters during the agitation.
“A review will be done by the state government of all the cases registered under various laws against people involved with the Morcha agitation. Steps will be taken in the light of the review, not to proceed with prosecution in all cases except those charged with murder. Release of persons in custody will follow the withdrawal of cases,” the agreement reads.
Observers say the three parties to the agreement have deliberately refrained from mentioning the waiver of electricity and telephone bills to solve the matter in a different way.
“While one aspect of the agitation (review of cases) has been mentioned, the other issue concerning the non-co-operation movement might have been deliberately kept aide. Probably, the new body might pay the bills from its budget to the electricity department on a mutually understanding basis as there is no way the Morcha can make the people pay the bills.”
Left sees rift and unrest

TT, Calcutta, July 18: Left Front chairman Biman Bose today warned that far from bringing peace to Darjeeling, the agreement between the state government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha would “create a divide” between the people of the hills and the plains.
The Bengal CPM secretary said the announcement of a committee to examine if some areas in the Dooars and Terai could be included in the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration had “led to unrest” among people in the plains who “don’t want to be part” of the new set-up.
“Today’s agreement could be a step towards such inclusion. So the pact will not help establish peace in Darjeeling. It will create a divide between the hills and plains people,” he said after a front meeting this morning to discuss the issue.
“Bandhs,” he added, “are being observed in the plains to protest against the inclusion of some Dooars and Terai regions. The majority of the Adivasi, non-Adivasi and Nepali populations are against the inclusion. Therefore, this agreement will disrupt peace in Darjeeling.”
The Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee, a Siliguri based outfit opposed to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, had called a 48-hour bandh across the state today to protest the hill deal. The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad, too, had called a three-day strike starting Saturday to protest the formation of the committee that would look into the Morcha demand to bring some plains mouzas under the GTA. The tribal outfit, however, lifted the bandh after they were assured of a meeting with the chief minister.
Yesterday, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat had said his party was not in agreement with the nature of the settlement between the government and the Morcha. The Left had also decided not to send leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra to attend the signing of the agreement in Pintail today.
Bose said the new government had shown “undue haste” in getting the agreement signed. “When the Left was in power, it had called an all-party meeting to discuss the Darjeeling stalemate. However, the Trinamul Congress didn’t participate despite being invited. This time, the new government didn’t convene any all-party meeting to discuss such a sensitive issue before striking the deal.”
He wondered why the House was kept in the dark on the agreement signed today. “In 1988, when the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council was set up, the matter had been debated in the Assembly. The then government discussed the issue with the Centre… bipartite and tripartite meetings were held. Now we find the new government suddenly taking a decision to frame an agreement and get it signed. We don’t even know the contents of the pact.”
Bose, however, does not think the name of the new set-up is a “big issue”. “But that also could have been discussed with the Opposition,” he said.
People not sure what Gorkhaland accord will fetch,; North Bengal tribals angry
19 JUL, 2011, DEBASIS SARKAR, ET BUREAU : PINTAIL VILLAGE (SILIGURI): The signing of the Gorkhaland accord has marked two divergent moods. The Gorkhas of Darjeeling district are elated but the tribals of North Bengal .s Dooars and Terai regions are furious.
Key to both moods seems to be the official stamp on the word 'Gorkhaland' in the accord. The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, or GTA, will be the new administrative body for Darjeeling.
"I won't mind dying today after seeing the official seal on the word 'Gorkhaland.' As a Gorkha, I lived for this day. I had yearned to see my identity given recognition," said Moni Pradhan, an octogenarian ex-tea garden employee. His heavily wrinkled but bright face beamed with joy.
Tea stall owner Bhanu Subba, yet another Gorkha, was simpler. "It is finally Gorkhaland and that is enough for me," he said.
Subba has reduced the price of tea by a rupee, for a day, to celebrate the event.
Tribals in the foothills present a different picture. "Mamata Banerjee should understand that as chief minister, she cannot behave like a monarch. She is recognising Gorkhas, who are not of Indian origin, but ignoring aboriginal tribals. This whole exercise is just to appease GJM and the chief minister will suffer for this," warned Birsa Tirkey, president of the Akhil Bhartiya Adivasi Vikash Parishad . "We have our elected MLAs and panchayat members. But no tribal representative is there in the committee. The state government is subjecting tribals to Gorkha domination."
In-between two extreme views, there is confusion. "Is this a departure then from the main Gorkhaland statehood demand," asked an academician in North Bengal. Is Gorkhaland Territorial Administration just a new name for the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council , formed after the 1988 agreement with Subhas Ghising, ask some others in Siliguri.
GJM's brains-trust and chief of strategy, the dimunitive and courteous HB Chhetry did not want to even talk about it.
"This happy moment today is the outcome of numerous sacrifices. It should not be wasted on such debates," he said.
The All-India Gorkha League , the 1923-founded organisation, which first raised the demand for a separate hill administration to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1952, has started distancing from GTA. "The GJM has sold out actual Gorkhaland interest," said League president B Tamang.
"We will not take part in GTA elections, whenever it takes place," she added.
In the plains, people are skeptic. "I just want Darjeeling to remain in peace, be it GTA or whatever. But I am not sure whether it will," said S Bhattacharya, a school teacher. Her views could be that of the majority.

All fingers are crossed as they sign Darjeeling autonomy pact
Subrata Nagchoudhury, IE, Jul 19 2011, Sukna, Siliguri:There were smiles and cheers all around as the tripartite Memorandum of Agreement was signed between the Centre, the West Bengal government and the Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha here this afternoon paving the way for an interim political set-up promising “maximum possible autonomy” to the troubled Darjeeling hills.
But reading between the lines of the agreement and listening to GJM chief Bimal Gurung and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the message was unmistakable: the ice has broken but the thaw will take time as both sides wait and watch for this transitory phase of peace to pan out.
“West Bengal will not be divided. (The) Kanchenjunga will smile and our brothers and sisters in the hills and the plains will smile after signing this historic treaty that sets up the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA). Politics is played with this...only to create confusion and disturb peace,” said Mamata Banerjee addressing a large assembly of local residents.
But when she sought a cheer from the crowd, the roar was not as loud as she had expected. She appealed again: “Women of the hills, please shout louder.” This time, too, the applause didn’t reach the decibel level the Chief Minister expected.
Watching the ceremony from the front VIP row was Asha Gurung, wife of Bimal Gurung. Speaking to The Indian Express after the agreement was signed, she said: “What has been given to us is so-so and clearly short of our expectations. I am not too happy. Our goal is statehood. We will only be happy when we achieve that,” she said, leading a cluster of Gorkha Nari Mukta Morcha leaders who have been a major force behind the agitation launched by Bimal Gurung in 2007.
On the stage, Bimal Gurung himself, the GJM president, did not hesitate to underline his priorities. “We are proud to have a new identity through this GTA. But one outstanding issue remains to be sorted out — the inclusion of the Dooars and the Terai region within the jurisdiction of the GTA. These areas would be included according to the recommendations of the nine-member committee formed to look into it,” he said. “This happy moment for the hills could have come much earlier had the earlier government not played politics with the hill people for the past 34 years,” he said.
If the speeches of the two key protagonists at this “historic moment” suggested a sharp division, the agreement’s text, too, underlined the discord. The agreement had to include — in its preamble — the fact that the tripartite agreement is being signed even though the GJM has not dropped its demand for a separate state.
The MoA stated: “After several rounds of tripartite meetings at the ministerial and at the official levels, the GJM, while not dropping their demand for a separate State of Gorkhaland, has agreed to the setting up of an autonomous body.”
In 1988 when Subash Ghising, the president of the Gorkha National Liberation Front had signed the Memorandum of Settlement, the document had clearly stated that the GNLF was dropping the demand for a separate statehood.
Union Home Minister P Chidambaram congratulated his “good friends” Bimal Gurung and Roshan Giri for signing the agreement after years of strife and conflict. “Paribartan” meaning change is a word known in all parts of India and this “paribartan” in the hills will certainly usher in a better tomorrow and a better future, he said.
“Both the Government of West Bengal and the Government of India will stand by you and hold your hand. The task before you is stupendous. There will be many hurdles, but there is no hurdle that cannot be solved through dialogue, determination and spirit of give and take,” Chidambaram said.
He said the GTA’s jurisdiction would extend to subjects such as agriculture, irrigation, food, industry, education, women and child development, water resources, land and land revenue, municipalities, panchayats, urban development, public health and tourism — “everything that concerns people is given to you”.
A 48-hour bandh, called by the Bangla O Bangla Bhasa Bachao Committee, shut down major parts of Dooars and the Terai region. The committee is opposed to the inclusion of any area from these regions into the GTA which, it says, should be restricted to the three hill subdivisions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong.
Didi touched a chord in the Hills
Nirmalya Banerjee, TNN , Jul 19, 2011, KOLKATA: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee could sign an accord with Gorkha Janmukti Morcha within months of taking over office because she could strike the right note with the Hills people.
In Mamata, the Gorkhas found a CM with a difference, who wanted to trust them, feel their agony and be one of them. The process of Mamata winning over the sentiments of the Hill people started last year. Convinced of her coming electoral victory, she visited Darjeeling and was given a rousing reception, at a time when then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee studiously avoided going to the hills.
A cross-section of people met her with their demands and grievances, as if she was already the chief minister. Mamata listened to all of them and moved around in without concern for security.
Another key reason was that the GJM leadership understood that the people in the hills did not want any more bandhs. The GJM was on the back foot ever since the gruesome killing of All India Gorkha League leader Madan Tamang. When Mamata offered them a face-saving solution, they accepted it.
Mamata offered not only a hill council with additional powers and funds, but also an alluring development package to take care of the problems - road, drinking water, education, employment. From day one she started sending her cabinet colleagues to the hills to solve issues. Tourism was given attention. Steps were taken to restore the ropeway in Darjeeling town. People in the hills are thirsting for democracy and now the elections are promised to be held within a time-frame.
GJM leaders also understood that Mamata has the blessing of the Centre. Indeed, Delhi lost no time in clearing the agreement, though it had taken its time to hold tripartite meetings when the Bhattacharjee government was negotiating with GJM. A handsome special package has also been announced by Delhi.
The Bhattacharjee government could not achieve an early settlement as he had played the wrong cards, say observers. In 2005-06, when people in the hills were unhappy with the way DGHC was being run and wanted an early election to the council, Bhattacharjee made GNLF president Subash Ghisingh the sole caretaker administration of DGHC. The decision to bring DGHC under the sixth schedule also backfired. It was interpreted as a move to divide the Gorkha community for political advantage, between tribals and non-tribals, the majority in the hills being non-tribals. The chasm grew between CPM and GJM
The new agreement giving birth to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration has steered clear of any constitutional guarantee but still gives more power to GTA. Bringing the "touji" department under the council will give GTA jurisdiction over tea garden land. Some functions of the Regional Transport Authority would also be brought under the control of GTA.
Adding more areas in Terai and Dooars under the hill council is a main demand of GJM, and Mamata has agreed to refer the burning issue to a committee. This has given both GJM and the state government a breathing space, and a window to bring the hills back to normal for some time and a chance to continue with the council experiment for some more time.
Panel recommends release of 78 political prisoners
SNS, KOLKATA, 18 JULY: The committee for release of political prisoners has recommended the release of 78 prisoners, Mr Justice (retired), Malay Sengupta, chairman of the committee, said at Writers’ Buildings today following its third meeting.
The committee has further decided to recommend to the state government to consider withdrawal of the cases against the agitating farmers of Singur that have not been taken to trial so far. The Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee had submitted a list of more than 700 persons claiming them to be political prisoners. All of them were arrested during the anti-land acquisition stir in Singur.
Chief minister Miss Mamata Banerjee has already announced that her government would release 46 political prisoners arrested during the Left Front regime. The documents relating to the cases of the 78 political prisoners were scrutinised before recommendation for their release was made to the government.
Mr Justice Sengupta told reporters that the committee members would visit different correctional homes to find out if any political prisoner is lodged there. They would be advised to apply for their release.
A total of 83 prisoners have been given the status of political prisoners by various courts in the state till today. Human rights organisations, on the other hand, have claimed that the actual number of political prisoners in West Bengal is more than 430.
A member of the committee said the cases of those arrested during the agitations in Singur and Nandigram would be verified once documents relating to their arrests are available.

Hills pact signed, peace hopes high
Soma Mookherjee, SNS, SILIGURI, 18 JULY : The “historic” tripartite agreement for the formation of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration for Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong was inked here today in a colourful ceremony in the presence of Union home minister Mr P Chidambaram, chief minister Miss Mamata Banerjee and Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha chief Mr Bimal Gurung. The chief minister prefaced the deal with a clear and unequivocal assertion that Bengal won't be partitioned and that Darjeeling will remain part of the state.
A large number of Gorkha women, who had all along been singing and dancing, fell into stony silence after Miss Banerjee's unambiguous remarks ruling out a separate state carved out of Bengal as is being demanded by the GJMM. The chief minister at once asked them why they suddenly became quiet. At her prompting they resumed their jubilation though it became somewhat tempered for a while.
However, they erupted with joy the moment the three representatives of the Centre, state and the GJMM completed the signing (see sns photos).
On the other hand, the 48-hour bandh called by eight organisations against the accord evoked overwhelming response in Siluguri and other areas of the Dooars and Terrai region. Shops downed their shutters and the markets were closed.
There was euphoria among the GJMM supporters and a beaming Mr Gurung thanked Miss Banerjee for properly “addressing” the Gorkha problem and respecting the Gorkha identity, while the previous Left Front government, he complained, hadn't “given us a chance or listened to us.”
The chief minister took serious exception to attempts (by the CPI-M leadership) to “politicise even the name of the new administrative set-up” and brandished a copy of the draft agreement prepared by the LF-government in consultation with the Centre and the GJMM on 17 August, 2010, where the nomenclature given to the new entity was “Gorkhaland Regional Authority.”
“We have only replaced the term ~ ‘regional' ~ with ‘territorial'. That's all. Yet, some propaganda is on by some interested quarters that there will be a separate Kamptapuriland and greater Cooch Behar. Let these rogues know there won't be such things ever. We won't tolerate this. Our aim is to convert Darjeeling into Switzerland meaning it will be turned into one of the best tourist destinations. For about 35 years nothing has been done for the region,” the chief minister thundered.
“Darjeeling is in the heart of all Bengalis. The GJMM needs to develop it as much as the rest of Bengal. An expert committee will go into the question of inclusion of areas in the Dooars and the Terrai region into the GTA," she said.
Mr Chidambaram, while thanking Miss Banerjee for her “sagacity, wisdom and foresight” and “my good friend Gurungji" for bringing into fruition the Darjeeling accord, said: “I stand witness to the historic occasion. The GTA may face many hurdles, but any hurdle can be removed by negotiation. I have a word of advice for Mr Gurung and Mr Roshan Giri (GJMM general secretary). You have a stupendous task before you. You have to build Darjeeling brick by brick and the Centre and the state will stand by you in this process of rebuilding.”
The areas given to the GJMM, Mr Chidambaram said, include education, agriculture, development of women and children land and land reforms, culture, sports, tourism, irrigation, health and power. “All these are concerned with development. ***Paribartan*** (Trinamul Congress's poll plank in the Assembly poll that brought it to power) is a word that is pronounced differently in different parts of the country, but its meaning is the same everywhere. It implies change and transformation. I bring greetings for you all from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Mrs Sonia Gandhi and the Union finance minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee. India won't be India if there is no diversity in culture, religion and race. Plurality is to be respected,” he said.
Miss Banerjee said election to the GTA would be held in six months and it will have 45 councillors, a chairman and deputy chairman as in civic bodies. She said state of the art hospital, world class tourism facilities and other areas of economic development would take place for which a special package would be provided by the Centre and the state.
The agreement was signed by Mr GD Gautama, state home secretary, Mr Giri for the GJMM and Mr KK Pathak, a joint secretary in the Union home ministry.
Mr P Arjun, GJMM central committee member and its think tank, termed the formation of the GTA as a “goodwill suggestion on the part of the Bengal government. In all, 59 departments have been given to the GTA except home, police and legislative powers, he added.
GJMM supporters, who flocked to Pintail village ~ the venue of the signing ~ since the morning, kept saying their ultimate goal is to establish Gorkhaland state.  

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