With the elections for the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), the regional autonomous body in the Darjeeling hills, scheduled to be held on June 26, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has asked the West Bengal government to defer the elections and instead focus on the complete implementation of the tripartite memorandum of agreement (MoA) signed in July 2011.
Bimal Gurung, the GJM president, began a hunger strike on Wednesday over the demands.
Roshan Giri, general secretary, GJM, talks exclusively to DH’s Mohammed Safi Shamsi on issues driving politics in the region. Edited excerpts:
Your party submitted a ‘memorandum of proposal’ to the state government, and GJM president Bimal Gurung also wrote a letter to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. What are your party’s concerns?
Our party wants 396 (Gorkha-majority) mouzas of Siliguri, Terai, and Dooars included in the GTA. The GTA agreement and MoA should be implemented in full and final. Panchayat elections have not been held since 2000.
We want parja patta to be given to the tea garden and cinchona plantation workers. The reorganisation of blocks, subdivisions, and districts is also part of the MoA.
GTA elections are about to happen. Could other issues not be settled while the elections take place?
Let the GTA agreement and act be fully implemented and finalised before holding elections. This is one of the main demands. Why not postpone the GTA elections for six months, another year, to fully implement the MoA if they are not held from 2017 to 2022?
Why did your party leave the BJP and join the Trinamool after over 10 years of alliance?
They didn’t deliver anything. They could have given us a central university, granted tribal status to 11 Gorkha communities, or gone for a ‘permanent political solution’. They did nothing but only gave ‘fake’ promises.
Has Trinamool been able to give you anything?
It was during the Trinamool Congress’ time that the GTA was formed, and if we have good relations with the state government, they can fulfil our promises.
What are your demands as a political party, in the present situation? One party at the Centre, one in the state?
We are not asking for a ‘permanent political solution’ or ‘political solution’ right now. We want the implementation of the GTA agreement. But after that let there be a ‘political solution’.
If the Trinamool goes slow on political promises, what will be your strategy?
We will go to the people and convince them of what needs to be done. We will knock on the doors of the Trinamool government.
Is an option to realign with the BJP, open?
BJP – they ‘deceived’ us for more than 10 years.
The demand for statehood, your party had come to the public with, was Gorkhaland. Are there any alternative political solutions?
The permanent political solution is statehood. The political solution is other than statehood. For a political solution, we have to sit with the government and find out what can be done.