Conspiracy by WB govt to accord 6th schedule status to Hills of North Bengal, says GJM

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Darjeeling, July 4, 2017: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) Chief Bimal Gurung on Tuesday stated that the ongoing indefinite bandh in the Hills of North Bengal will continue. He further stated that the State Government is conspiring to accord the 6th Schedule status to the Hills.

File photo of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) Chief Bimal Gurung

The collective movement for Gorkhaland sailed into choppy seas with these statements.

Barun Roy, the Jalpaiguri Divisional Commissioner and the present Principal Secretary of the GTA took charge as the Administrator, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) on Tuesday. With Gurung and the GJM elected and nominated members resigning en masse from this autonomous administrative body, the State Government has appointed Roy as the administrator.

Incidentally the GJM along with 12 other political parties and apolitical outfits have formed a Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GLMCC) that is to spearhead the movement for Gorkhaland. On June 29 the GLMCC had resolved that the 30 member committee would spearhead the movement instead of the GJM and would announce joint programmes.

Turning volte face, Gurung in a press conference in Patleybash in the outskirts of Darjeeling town stated "There is a conspiracy to accord the 6th Schedule status to the Hills. This has to stop immediately. We will not lift the ongoing indefinite bandh even if the GLMCC decides to lift it in the scheduled meeting on July 6. We will further intensify our movement and will now shut down the hydel projects that till now have been functioning in the Hills."

The indefinite bandh hit the 20th day mark on Tuesday. People were speculating that the GLMCC meeting slated for July 6 would bring a relief to the indefinite bandh situation.
Gurung who has been constantly demanding Central intervention, on Tuesday claimed that the Centre is in touch with him and the GJM party. "The Centre wants to hold talks with us but we have apprised them that talks can be held over the single point agenda of Gorkhaland alone" claimed Gurung.

Gurung has written to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh demanding a CBI inquiry into the alleged police firing on June 17 in Singamari near Darjeeling in which 3 GJM activists had died.

Though Gurung made the oblique remark (without naming the GNLF) about the state hatched conspiracy of pushing through the 6th Schedule, GJM Spokesperson Binita Roka trained guns at the GNLF alleging that the GNLF hand in glove with the State Government was trying to get the 6th Schedule status through.

"The State Government and the GNLF have hatched a conspiracy to get the 6th Schedule through. The GNLF have to make their stand clear before the Coordination Committee meeting on July 6" stated Roka.

The GJM will hold a rally on Wednesday at 10 am from Railway station to the Chowrasta and then demonstrate in front of the DM office. This will be followed by a public meeting at the Chowk Bazar" stated Roka, hinting at a unilateral programme and not a joint programme as decided earlier at the Coordination Committee meeting.

Reacting to these allegations GNLF Spokesperson Neeraj Zimba stated, "It is very unfortunate that such baseless and false allegations are being leveled against us. 6th Schedule is redundant now. Forgetting all past differences we have joined hands with the GJM for Gorkhaland. How can they make such allegations unilaterally before media persons. If they wanted any clarification they could have approached us directly."

The demand for Gorkhaland shot into prominence in 1986 with Subash Ghising led Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) spearheading a 28 month long violent agitation which left 1200 people dead. The end result of the agitation was the formation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hills Council (DGHC- an administrative setup) with Ghising at the helm of affairs.

DGHC failed to win the hearts of the people. Subash Ghising had then made a demand for the granting of the 6th Schedule status under the Indian Constitution to the Darjeeling Hills.

The 6th Schedule protects tribal interests, tribal autonomy and their rights over land. A Memorandum of Settlement was signed by the Union Government, West Bengal Government and Subash Ghising in December 2005 to incorporate the Darjeeling Hills in the 6th Schedule.

Bills to grant 6th Schedule status to the Darjeeling was introduced in the Lok Sabha was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2007. The Bills were referred to the Standing Committee on Home Affairs which submitted its report on Feb 28, 2008.

Meanwhile Bimal Gurung, one of the GNLF strongman and DGHC Councillor broke away from the GNLF and floated his own outfit "The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha" (GJM) with the single point programme of Gorkhaland on 7th October 2007.

Gurung and the GJM riding piggyback on the Gorkhaland demand finally managed to oust Ghising and the GNLF from the Hills thereby seizing reins of the Hills spearheading an agitation. With the ouster of Ghising and the GNLF the 6th Schedule was also shelved. The agitation culminated in the formation of the GTA.

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