Sushil Kumar Shinde
March 1: The Centre today told the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha that its request for a committee to look into the Gorkhaland demand, on the lines of a similar panel on Bodoland, could be considered only if Mamata Banerjee agreed to it.
Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who met a five-member Morcha delegation in Delhi today, later told The Telegraph that the issue had a “bearing on Centre-state relations”.
“I have told them (the Morcha delegation) that it cannot be done unless the Bengal chief minister agrees to it. In the case of Bodoland, the Assam chief minister had agreed to a committee,” Shinde said.
A Trinamul general secretary said Darjeeling was “a very touchy issue” and Mamata “would not accept any move by the Centre to take a unilateral decision on anything related to the hills”.
Sources said Mamata was unlikely to agree to the formation of the Gorkhaland committee.
The Centre’s insistence on Mamata’s consent comes at a time both Trinamul and the Bengal Congress have raised their pitch against an alliance but not closed the door.
Mamata, whose government had taken stern administrative steps to curb the Morcha-led Gorkhaland agitation last year, had expressed anger after the hill party claimed in September that a Union home ministry official had called a tripartite meeting in October. The chief minister had said such meetings could not be called without the state’s consent.
Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri, who led the party delegation today, said after meeting Shinde that the Union home minister had “assured” the party he would speak to Mamata about the committee.
“He also requested us to speak to the chief minister. We will definitely request the chief minister to give her consent to the formation of the committee,” Giri said over the phone from Delhi.
Shinde had told the delegation that the Centre had “no problem in creating a committee on the lines of the one on Bodoland”, Giri said, “but he also said that Mamata Banerjee’s consent had to be taken”.
Giri said the Morcha team met Shinde at his residence at 10.30am. “We congratulated both the Congress and the BJP on Telangana. We requested the home minister to unilaterally create a Gorkhaland (state) without consulting the state government,” Giri said.
“We also requested him to form an expert committee like the one looking into the Bodoland demand.”
The one-man committee on Bodoland, headed by former Union home secretary G.K. Pillai, was formed on Thursday and given nine months’ time to submit a report after speaking to all sections of society in the Bodoland area and studying the viability of creating a state.
After the session with Shinde, the Morcha delegation met defence minister A.K. Antony.
“We requested him to impress on the Union home minister the need to form an expert committee on Gorkhaland. We told the defence minister that since Darjeeling was a strategically located area, Gorkhaland should be formed for the greater national interest,” Giri said.
Mamata today handed over a charter to the Tamang Youth Association on the basis of which a development board would be set up for the Tamang community, sources said.
According to the sources, the chief minister said at a meeting with five hill communities at Nabanna that the government was considering a similar board for the Rais.
VIVEK CHHETRI AND NISHIT DHOLABHAI
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