After J&K bifurcation, hill parties want Darjeeling to be Union Territory


The Centre’s decision to revoke provisions of Article 370 and bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir has rekindled hope among the major hill parties, which want that Darjeeling should also be a separate Union territory with a legislature.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Darjeeling, Raju Bista, said he was hopeful that the saffron party’s promise of a “permanent political solution” in the hills would be a reality by 2024.

The ruling Trinamool Congress, however, said it would oppose any move to bifurcate West Bengal.

The Centre had on Monday revoked Article 370, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and proposed bifurcation of the state into two Union territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

The Bimal Gurung-led Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) faction, which supports the BJP, said the saffron party should keep its poll promise of a permanent political solution in the hills, which have witnessed violent agitation for the past few decades over the demand of a separate statehood.

“We have been demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland for a number of years. The BJP in its manifesto had also promised a permanent political solution,” GJM general secretary Roshan Giri told PTI, quoting party supremo Gurung. “We think this is the appropriate time for the Centre to carve a Union territory with legislature. We would soon start agitation over this.”

The statehood issue and implementation of the sixth schedule of the Constitution have been the major demands in the hills since the beginning of the protracted Gorkhaland movement in 1986.

Darjeeling witnessed one of its most violent agitations — a 104-day-long strike — over the demand of a separate statehood in June 2017, leading to death of several locals and security personnel.

The GJM’s call for Darjeeling to be a Union territory was backed by the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), which felt it would be the most suitable solution for the problem.

“The demand of a separate state may be a long-drawn process, but we think a Union territory (UT) with legislature would be accepted by all the stateholders,” GNLF leader N V Chetri told PTI. “The present governing body of the hills, the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), has failed to deliver.”

The views of the GJM and the GNLF also found support from several smaller outfits in the hills.

BJP MP Bista said he respected the views of the hill parties, adding that all options would be discussed while deciding on a solution. PTI