KOLKATA: The current bickering between Mamata Banerjee’s government in West Bengal and Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) chairman Bimal Gurung over use of central funds in the Darjeeling hills is likely to land up in New Delhi’s lap.
The GTA feels the state government is bypassing the autonomous council of Darjeeling and Kalimpong. On the other hand, the state government is working on the presumption that central funds allocated to the autonomous region are being misappropriated.
The tiff flared up with Mamata Banerjee setting up a six-member team to conduct a special audit of the central funds devolved upon GTA in the last five years.
While Mamata Banerjee has repeatedly accused the GTA of misappropriating central funds, the autonomous council alleges that the state government interfered in its administrative affairs, which GJM says is a direct violation of the agreement with the government of India and West Bengal.
Sources revealed that the Centre is likely to step into the equation and set the stage for tripartite talks to bring about an end to the dispute.
The general secretary of GTA, Roshan Giri told New Indian Express, “Mamata Banerjee has always bypassed the GTA in Darjeeling. Now Trinamool Congress is imputing that the BJP is getting involved in the Darjeeling agitation because violence erupted a day after a GJM delegation met (West Bengal BJP chief) Dilip Ghosh in Kolkata. But that meeting had nothing to do with the agitation.”
On Saturday, the state government stepped up pressure on GTA by sealing its head office Bhanu Bhavan and removing Bimal Gurung’s security guards.
Also, Mamata Banerjee replaced the superintendent of police of Darjeeling, Amit P Javalgi apparently for failing to stop the violence in the hill station.
The current term of the autonomous council will end in July after which elections will be held. Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress made a dent in GJM base in the recent civic polls and is apparently confident about emerging as the opposition in the 45-member council.
Jan Andolan Party chief Harka Bahadur Chhetri calls the current language agitation being led by the GJM a ‘farce’ to extract political mileage. Nevertheless, the language agitation has put the ball in Banerjee’s court.
Eight police vehicles and an under-construction industrial training institute have been set on fire, allegedly by GJM activists, during the ongoing agitation against the proposal to make Bengali compulsory in all schools in the state.
GRAPHIC: GORKHALAND GENESIS
1850: The Brits annex Darjeeling from Sikkim
1850-1947: 87 tea gardens opened over the next 100 years
1947: Darjeeling made part of West Bengal in independent India
1956: Nepali-speaking Darjeeling continues of be part of Bengali-speaking West Bengal after reorganization of linguistic states.
1960-80s: Demand for separate state continues
July 27, 1986: Gorkhaland statehood agitators killed in CRPF firing during rally led by Subhash Ghising in Kalimpong.
1986-88: More than 1,200 Gorkhas killed during two years of armed rebellion for statehood by the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) led by Subhash Ghising.
1988: GNLF signs peace agreement with government of India and West Bengal. Region granted autonomy with formation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) led by Subhash Ghising.
2007: Kolkata police constable Prashant Tamang wins Indian Idol Season 3. Bimal Gurung mobilises Gorkhas to vote for Tamang, gains immense popularity and eventually overthrows Ghising from DGHC. Bimal Gurung forms Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and revives Gorkhaland statehood movement. DGHC renamed by Left Front government as Gorkha Territorial Administration with same powers. Gurung becomes chairman of GTA.
2009: GJM allies with BJP which supports small states. BJP veteran Jaswant Singh wins from Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat.
May 21, 2010: Influential Gorkha leader Madan Tamang of Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL) hacked to death in Darjeeling. Prime accused GJM chief Bimal Gurung and 17 others currently out in anticipatory bail in the case.
2011: Mamata Banerjee comes to power in West Bengal, forms Lepcha Development Board stating that the Lepchas are a community indigenous to Darjeeling and Gorkhas are immigrants from Nepal. She forms 16 more development boards of various ethnicities over the next six years. Gorkhaland movement takes a serious beating due to the divisions.
2014: GJM allies with BJP again. S S Ahluwalia wins from Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat.
2015: Former GJM leader and Bimal Gurung’s close aide Harka Bahadur Chhetri quits party and forms Jan Andolan Party and allies with Mamata Banerjee.
Feb. 14, 2017: Kalimpong district carved out of Darjeeling. Mamata Banerjee says February 14 will be called Kalimpong Day.
May 15, 2017: TMC breaks into GJM bastion in the civic polls, wins Mirik municipality, and single-digit seats in Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong municipalities.
May 16, 2017: Mamata Banerjee makes Bangla compulsory in all schools in West Bengal.
May 17, 2017: GJM starts agitation against Bangla