|Gurung presents Lord Buddha’s bust to Mamata at the reception hosted for the President in
Darjeeling on Tuesday. Picture by Suman Tamang
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, July 14: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung today mentioned in the presence of the President that the state government was dividing hill communities and that he was “hurt” for not being invited to speak on the birth anniversary of Nepali poet Bhanu Bhakta.
Gurung, who also heads the Darjeeling hills’ autonomous council GTA, told journalists later that he did not know yesterday that chief minister Mamata Banerjee would announce development boards for three hill communities.
Gurung was present at the reception of President Pranab Mukherjee organised by the state government at Chowrasta on July 12.
The next day, July 13 which was the 202nd birth anniversary of Adikavi Bhanu Bhakta, at a another state government event at Chowrasta, Mamata announced the formation of boards for the Kami, Damai and Sarki communities. Gurung was on the dais then too.
On both days, the President, governor Keshari Nath Tripathi and Mamata had spoken at the events.
Gurung, who was the special guest at the annual general meeting of the Darjeeling Tea Association today, said in Hindi: “At the very beginning, I would like to express my gratitude to the President of India. I was not allowed to express my gratitude yesterday. Also, yesterday was the birth anniversary of our Nepali poet, Adikavi Bhanu Bhakta but I could not even say a word there.”
The Morcha chief then switched to Nepali and said he had to speak in the local language as “this is our home”. “Adikavi Bhanu Bhakta had united our (Nepali) community bringing all communities, cultures, language, religions together. But yesterday, our community was divided again. I cannot remain a mute spectator.”
The state had already formed seven development boards for different hill communities, a move Gurung despised as it fragmented the community, he said.
“Two people might have been happy with the announcement, but thousands of our people have been pained. I request our President and governor to seriously think on this issue,” Gurung said.
Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi was present on the dais with the President when Gurung spoke.
He said he was “really hurt” that he could not speak on Bhanu Bhatka.
“I am also a person who has been given a stamp (of authority) by the President as he has given this (Gorkhaland Territorial Administration by giving his assent to the GTA Act). However, this (GTA) has no importance. It is in your hands (President), whether the GTA should be kept or be discarded altogether now,” Gurung said.
President Mukherjee, in his address, praised both the chief minister and the GTA.
“Our chief minister is making serious efforts to resolve the problems of various tribal groups, cultural groups and to recognise the special importance and that is why the Gorkha Territorial Administration Act was passed and the authority has been created, which is in charge of the administration and responsibility of the development. I wish them all success,” Mukherjee said.
Mamata was not present at the DTA programme unlike on July 12 aqnd 13.
Later, Gurung told journalists: “I want to create good relations with state government and that is why our delegation met the chief minister at Richmond Hill yesterday but the atmosphere was not good later. I did not even know that three boards were being created.”
Soon after the DTA event, a seven-member Morcha delegation led by Gurung called on the President at Raj Bhavan.
The delegation raised the issue of non-transfer of departments to the GTA and no-fulfilment of provisions of the GTA Act.
“All these prayers and requests seem to have fallen on deaf ears, which is now compelling us to reconsider our position vis-à-vis the GTA and if this temporary set-up should continue, or if dissolving it altogether in favour of a Gorkhaland state would lead to a better future for the people in Darjeeling, Terai and Dooars,” the memorandum reads.
Asked about the bipartite meeting that Mamata had reportedly said would be called to resolve the GTA issues, Gurung said: “We will definitely attend the bipartite meeting as and when called and we will raise these issues.”
The Gorkha Janmukti Yuva Morcha held a press conference today and said if the GTA was not allowed to function properly, the GTA Sabha members should resign.
“If such interferences continue and if the need arises, we will also show black flag to the chief minister when she visits the hills in future,” said Tilak Chhetri, the president of the youth’s town committee.