People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 30

July 24, 2011


Hills Treaty Spurs

Alarm in West Bengal

From Our Special

Correspondent in Kolkata


THE treaty for constituting a new “Gorkhaland Territorial Authority” (GTA) in Darjeeling hills in West Bengal has given rise to deep concern and fear of more turmoil in the state. The treaty has been signed between state and central government and Gorkha Janamukti Morcha, the organisation leading the movement for a separate state. No other political party in the state, even in the hills, was consulted either before or after the treaty was signed. Nothing was reported in the assembly or in the all party meeting.


During the Left Front period, a number of bipartite, tripartite and all party meetings were held. In the final rounds of tripartite in January 2011, there were broad agreements on issues concerning interim council, delegation of powers, including legislative powers. The state and central governments had agreed and persuaded Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) to agree to an elected council. The GJM, earlier, on its part was hell bent on running a council without any elections. One of the very important elements of tripartite talks was that the new council will be located within the existing boundary of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, constituted in 1988.  But, after returning from last talks, GJM started an agitation demanding areas of Terai, Dooars and Siliguri plains and their movement turned violent. It was clear that the GJM was not ready to accept peace until the assembly elections. It also supported Trinamool and Congress candidates in constituencies outside hills.


The state government under Mamata Banerjee refused to reveal the agreement, not only before the signing but also after that. The central government also radically changed its position within days.


The first question is that in the new agreement, the concept of a separate state has been accepted. It is written that GJM, while reiterating its demand for a separate state, has agreed for an interim elected authority. It was also written that the demand for a separate state is hereby recorded in the treaty. The new name of the authority has completely wiped out the word “Darjeeling”, replacing it with “Gorkhaland”.


The new treaty has arranged for a high power committee to examine demands of including Terai, Dooars and Siliguri in the authority. GJM will have four members in the five member committee. This has enraged large sections of people in these areas. Consecutive strike calls by different organisations evoked strong response. The CPI(M) has opposed such strikes as they will contribute to ethnic enmity and harm the unity of the people. In fact, the scope for extending the jurisdiction of authority beyond hills is a real source of danger for the entire state. In fact, Bimal Gurung, president of GJM, has categorically announced that there would be no elections to authority till the areas from Terai and Dooars were elected. Gurung told this the day after the treaty was signed. He also drew attention to the fact that he himself has not signed the agreement (Roshan Giri, another leader signed on behalf of GJM), so that he could lead the struggle for a separate state.


Another pertinent point is the constitutional provision for such an authority or administration. There is no mention of such a provision in the treaty. Even union home minister P Chidambaram, while attending the signing ceremony, consciously avoided this important question in his speech.


The CPI(M) has reiterated its position that the Party is in favour of peace, democracy and regional autonomy for hill areas within West Bengal. The CPI(M) and the Left Front decided not to attend the treaty signing ceremony.