The tug of war between the Centre and the West Bengal government continues on the Gorkha issue as the state government failed to send any high-level representative in tripartite talks despite being informed by the union government well in advance.
The Centre has now asked West Bengal to send senior-level officials in the next round of talks scheduled to be held in November this year. On Tuesday, the state was represented by Krishna Gupta, the Principal Resident Commissioner of West Bengal who is based in Delhi.
“The West Bengal government has been specifically asked to send their senior officials for the next round of talks,” a senior ministry official told NDTV.
The Principal Resident Commissioner of West Bengal represented the state government as the state Chief Secretary or any senior government representative did not join the meeting citing engagements due to ‘Durga Puja’ celebrations there.
“The meeting was chaired by Union Home Minister Amit Shah. He patiently listened to all issues highlighted by us. But any decision would be taken only after listening to representatives of West Bengal,” BJP MP from Darjeeling Raju Bista told reporters after the meeting.
Mr Bista claims that there is “no democracy” in Darjeeling and the Indian Constitution does not apply there. “No Panchayat elections have been conducted there since 2001,” he said.
He added that atrocities have been committed against the people of North Bengal and Darjeeling. “These atrocities happened at the time of CPI-M and also continued during the reign of TMC,” Mr Bista stated, adding that the Home Minister offered the union government’s support and assured that justice would be done with the Gorkhas.
Meanwhile, Amit Shah told the delegates attending the meeting that the union government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is constantly making efforts to resolve issues related to the Gorkhas and of the region.
The Home Minister is also learnt to have assured to discuss granting Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to 11 hill tribe-communities of the Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars region – a longstanding demand of the indigenous tribal population in the area.
The meeting is significant as finding a Permanent Political Solution (PPS) to the more than 100-year-old demand of a separate state for the Gorkhas within the Indian federal structure seems to be the motive. During the 2019 parliamentary elections, the BJP’s ‘Sankalp Patra’ (election manifesto) had made assurances to resolve the issue.
Despite BJP candidate Raju Bista winning a seat from the Darjeeling constituency, these assurances have not translated into action on the PPS front.
The BJP has also not divulged what the PPS will be – a separate state, a Union Territory or any other form of administrative arrangement. All this has resulted in a constant build-up of pressure from opposition parties.
Last week, certain public representatives and political leaders received invitations from the Centre to hold a meeting in the Ministry of Home Affairs regarding the issue.
The meeting was also attended by Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai, Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs and Member of Parliament from Alipurdwar John Barla, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, Secretary Ministry of Tribal Affairs Anil Kumar Jha, the Registrar General of India Vivek Joshi, Principal Resident Commissioner of West Bengal Krishna Gupta and other senior officials.
On behalf of the Gurkhas, the delegation comprised of the Darjeeling MLA Neeraj Zimba, Kurseong MLA BP Bajgain, Kalchini MLA Bishal Lama, GNLF chief Mann Ghising, CPRM chief R B Rai, among others.