Darjeeling, June 11: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha knew from the outset that it was nowhere near getting the 396 mouzas it had demanded but had banked on a formula followed during the formation of the Bodoland Territorial Council, among its other strategies, to see it through, party sources said.
The Morcha knew that problems of homogeneity and contiguity would come in the way but had cited the BTC formula followed in neighbouring Assam to try and convince the Shyamal Sen committee to recommend the inclusion of at least 60 to 100 mouzas in the GTA, they said.
“We were aware that contiguity would be a problem to connect all the 396 mouzas and this was why we were looking for a face-saver in the recommendations. Anything between 60 and 150 mouzas would have been a face-saver for the party, which unfortunately we could not find in the recommendations,” said a senior Morcha leader.
By homogeneity the high-powered committee meant the presence of a majority of people speaking a similar language and following the same culture. Contiguity meant linking one mouza with the other.
“We had told the committee that if two areas with more than 51 per cent Gorkha population were separated by one that had less Gorkha population, that too should be included to maintain contiguity. The mouzas with less Gorkha population could be included as John Barla, the adivasi leader backing us, had significant following in these areas. We felt that the middle mouza could be left out only if there was no majority even after the Adivasi and Gorkha populations were taken into account,” said one of the committee members.
“Such a model had been followed when the Bodoland Territorial Council was formed,” he claimed.
The Morcha members had hoped that forest stretches would be considered as links to mouzas, making them contiguous. For example, villages like Kumai-Sipchu and those mouzas demanded in the Nagrakata block of Jalpaiguri district are not contiguous because of the Chapramari forest that separates them. But according to the Morcha formula, the Chapramari forest should be considered the connecting link between the mouzas which would then be contiguous.
“We understand that it might not be possible to connect all the 396 mouzas but efforts should have been made to include a decent number of mouzas so that the issue would have been settled for once and all,” said a Morcha leader.
Chief secretary Samar Ghosh had listed four key parameters used by the committee to arrive at its conclusion — contiguity, homogeneity, compactness and ground realities.
Bimal Gurung’s party is unwilling to buy the argument that more mouzas could not be considered, given the “ground reality” criterion. Under this criterion if the DGHC areas are not a source of sustenance for a mouza, it would not be considered for inclusion.
“It is unfair to say that if people of a mouza depend on Siliguri for sustenance, it cannot be part of the GTA. We in Darjeeling are also dependent on Siliguri. To consider where people shop as a ground reality criterion was not fair. Also, just because some mouzas are adjacent to international borders of Nepal and Bhutan, they have not been included in the GTA,” the leader said.
“The best way out was to have both the pro-inclusion and those against it sit together and justify their cases mouza-wise. In this manner both the parties would have been satisfied.”
The Union home ministry had specified that the mouza-wise linguistic data would be privy only to Sen because of the “sensitive nature” of the information. The decision-making power lay only with Sen.
L.B. Pariyar said he and other three Morcha members on the committee were not consulted before the final recommendations were made public by Justice Sen.
“How can I say that I was a member of the committee when the final report does not bear my signature? It was a one-man commission. The fact that we would not be consulted before the final recommendations would be drawn up was made known to us only during the last meeting of the committee on May 29. Even then, we had lodged a verbal protest but I do not know whether Sen recorded our protest or not,” Pariyar said.