Kolkata, July 15: The much-awaited tripartite agreement on the vexed Darjeeling issue would be signed at Sukna, near the hill station, on Monday July 18 in the presence of Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today said.
Banerjee said at the state secretariat that she would be present during the signing of the agreement between the Centre, state government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. The state's chief secretary and other officials would also be present representing the state.
Sukna, which is within the Darjeeling jurisdiction, was chosen as the venue because of ‘uncertain weather' condition in the hills, she told reporters.
Asked to comment on objections from several quarters over the use of the word ‘Gorkhaland' in the name of the proposed hill authority (Gorkhaland Territorial Administration), Banerjee said, “It hardly matters with change in a word. Some people are doing politics on the issue.”
Banerjee dismissed suggestion that the agreement would pave the way for ultimate separation of Darjeeling from West Bengal, saying, “Darjeeling would rather be more strongly integrated with the state.”
In a veiled reference to the erstwhile Left Front government, the chief minister said, “Failure on some people's part to restore peace in the hills does not mean that others cannot achieve it.”
She said several ‘unauthorised organisations' and ‘vested interest groups' were spreading falsehood to disrupt the peace process in Darjeeling.
“They are against signing of the pact, development in the Darjeeling hills and solution of the crisis.” Banerjee expressed hope that the signing of the agreement would usher in peace in the hills and plains. “Let the people of the hills and the plains, Dooars and Terai, live in peace.”
Visibly in a very happy mood, Banerjee said, “I want Kanchenjunga to shine even during cloud-filled rainy season.”
The chief minister said that the Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Surjya Kanta Mishra would also be invited, besides members of the North Bengal Development Council (NBDC) and ministers and MLAs from North Bengal.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today expressed happiness that the word ‘Gorkhaland' was included in the nomenclature of the new hill council in Darjeeling, but did not specify whether it would continue with its demand for a separate state.
“We are happy with the inclusion of ‘Gorkhaland' in the name of the new hill council to be known as Gorkhaland Territorial Administration,” GJM general secretary Roshan Giri told PTI over phone from Darjeeling.
Asked whether the GJM would stick to the demand for a separate Gorkhaland, Giri evaded a direct reply saying, “We are happy that the agreement is going to be signed on the council. This much I can tell you.”
Welcoming the proposed signing of the tripartite agreement to set up the new council, he said “whatever the disputes there were, have been agreed upon and finalised. We are now getting ready for the meeting on July 18.”
On GJM's demand for inclusion of the Gorkha dominated areas of Terai and Dooars in the council, he said a nine-member committee with four each from GJM and the West Bengal government and one from the Centre, would be set up to identify the areas within six months.
GJM chief Bimal Gurung would be one of the members representing the party in the proposed committee, he said. The GJM has demanded that 398 additional mouzas—199 each in Terai and Dooars region be included in the jurisdiction of the new council.
Meanwhile, anti-GJM outfits like Akhil Bhartiya Gorkha League expressed reservation over the agreement while the CPI(M) sought details of the agreement.
“We are not in agreement with such an accord. It is evident that the present government is pursuing the same policy as followed by the erstwhile Left Front government,” ABGL general secretary Laxman Pradhan told PTI.
“If the Centre and the state government enter into agreement with only GJM, it will not be a long-term accord. We are for Gorkahaland and we feel that such an agreement will not fulfil the aspirations of people,” he said.
He said that the previous government did business with GNLF chief Subhas Ghishing only and the current government was following its footsteps by not involving other parties. Former Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) legislator Shanta Chetri refused to comment on the proposed agreement.
“GNLF leaders including Subhas Ghishing and I were driven out from our homes by the GJM. This is the situation, what we will comment?” she asked.
Leader of the Opposition and CPI(M) leader Suryakanta Mishra said his party would like to know the details and the basis of the agreement.
“We would like to know the details about the agreement which the government will sign with the GJM and the Centre,” Mishra, who has been invited to the signing ceremony, said. PTI