Darjeeling accord on July 18: Mamata (Lead)

July 15th, 2011 - 8:39 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram Kolkata, July 15 (IANS) The Darjeeling tripartite agreement will be signed on July 18 and union Home Minister P. Chidambaram will attend the function, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced Friday.

The parties to the agreement are the West Bengal and central governments, and the pro-Gorkhaland Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM).

The signing will be held at the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) resort at Sukna in Kurseong sub-division near the plains of Siliguri of Darjeeling district.

“Due to the untiring efforts of our officers led by the chief secretary, the central government and my brothers and sisters from Darjeeling, there is now a consensus on signing the tripartite. We will sign it on July 18,” Banerjee told mediapersons here.

She said Sukna adjacent to the hills was chosen as the venue following a request from the central government to hold the programme in an area where the union home minister, who will be coming by air, can reach easily in view of the monsoon.

“They wanted to ensure that the programme was not derailed by the rains,” she said.

Asked about details of the pact, the chief minister said: “All I will say now is it will solve the problems of roti, kapda aur makan.”

GJM general secretary Roshan Giri later said in Darjeeling that the programme will be held at Pintail Village. Leader of opposition Surjyakanta Mishra has also been invited to the signing ceremony.

The GJM has been in the forefront of the agitation for a separate Gorkhaland state to be formed out of the three hill sub-divisions Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong and some adjacent plain lands and himalyan foothills.

Expressing her dismay at the spate of shutdowns called by various anti-GJM organisations in North Bengal starting Friday, Banerjee said: “There are some outfits which do not want peace in Darjeeling. We are very clear. Our state cannot be developed by leaving out Darjeeling from the development map.”

“I appeal to all those creating nuisance not to do it. Let us all work together.”

The tri-partite pact envisages the formation of a new autonomous hill development body for Darjeeling called ‘Gorkhaland Territorial Administration’ with more wideranging powers than its predecessor Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) formed in the late 1980s.

The GTA will also get a special financial package from the central government, while a nine-member high-powered committee, comprising four members each from the GJM and the state government and one from the central government, will be formed to study the GJM’s demand on demarcating Gorkha majority areas in the Terai (plains of Darjeeling) and Dooars (foothills of the Himalayas) for inclusion in the council.

The new council would be formed through enactment of a law in the state assembly, and have administrative and financial powers besides being equipped to frame rules related to the hills. But the body would not have legislative powers.

Banerjee said there was no basis in the objections raised from some quarters that the presence of the word “Gorkhaland” in the GTA would pave the way for the ultimate separation of Darjeeling from the state and formation of Gorkhaland.

“Some people are playing political games. This accord will instead make Darjeeling more strongly integrated with the state.”

The demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland covering parts of northern Bengal gained momentum during the 1980s under the leadership of Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) supremo Subash Ghising.

But the reins of the movement were later taken over by the Bimal Gurung-led GJM which forced Ghising out of the hills.

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