The Union Home Ministry Tuesday began tripartite talks with the Gorkha representatives from the Darjeeling Hills, Terrai and Dooars region and the Government of West Bengal in order to resolve the longstanding demand of statehood in the North Bengal region.
The talks were chaired by Home Minister Amit Shah with the Gorkha delegation being led by Darjeeling MP Raju Bishta. Officials said the meeting discussed various issues concerning the Gorkhas and the region.
“The Union Minister of Home Affairs said that the Central Government…is constantly making efforts to resolve issues related to the Gorkhas and of the region. The Union Home Minister listened to all the parties…and has decided to call for the second round of talks in the presence of the senior officials of the Government of West Bengal in November 2021,” an MHA statement said.
Notably, the West Bengal Government was represented only by its resident commissioner in Delhi in the meeting.
“The West Bengal Government has been specifically asked to send their senior officials for the next round of talks. The all-round development and prosperity of the Darjeeling hills, Terrai and Dooars region is the top most priority of the Modi Government,” the MHA said.
The last meeting on the issue was held by MHA in October last year when a delegation of Gorkha leaders had come to meet then MoS Home G Kishan Reddy to discuss the statehood issue. Coming ahead of West Bengal polls, the Mamata Banerjee government had boycotted the meeting with the TMC claiming it to be a ploy to divide the state.
The Tuesday meeting was also attended by MoS Home Nityanand Rai, MoS Minority Affairs and MP from Alipurdwar John Barla, Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, Tribal Affairs Secretary Anil Kumar Jha, the Registrar General of India Vivek Joshi apart from the Principal Resident Commissioner of West Bengal Krishna Gupta. On behalf of the Gorkhas, the delegation comprised Darjeeling MLA Neeraj Zimba, Kurseong MLA B P Bajgain, Kalchini MLA Bishal Lama, GNLF Chief Mann Ghising, CPRM chief R B Rai, GoRaNiMo chief Dawa Pakhrin, ABGL chief Pratap Khati and SuMuMo chief Bikash Rai.
In October last year, a seven-member delegation led by Lopsang Yolmo Lama, working president of the Gorkhaland Janmukti Morcha (GJM), had met Reddy. The meeting was also attended by Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla and other MHA officials.
“The delegation raised the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland and grant of Scheduled Tribe status to 11 Gorkha sub-communities. When the issue of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration was raised, the GJM delegation submitted that the delegation was there to discuss the statehood demand and grant of Scheduled Tribe status and not the GTA since the Memorandum of Agreement signed between the Union of India, Government of West Bengal and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in 2011 was not honoured by the state of West Bengal,” Lama had said then.
Lama had then said that Reddy gave the delegation a patient hearing and assured them that the government will consider everything presented before it and announce the next meeting after briefing Home Minister Amit Shah.
Officials from the government of West Bengal had also been invited then but they did not attend the meeting.