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Current Affairs

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

Date: 06 August 2019 Tags: Constitution

Context: 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.

 

Highlights:

  • The GJM's (Gorkha Janamukti Morcha) 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 views of the GJM and the GNLF also found support from several smaller outfits in the hills.

Background:

  • Darjeeling is a picturesque hill town and the area is ethnically dominated by the Gorkhas. The place, known for its world-renowned tea, is also inhabited by the Lepchas, Sherpas, Bhutias among others.
  • The demand for a separate state was first made in the 1980s, with the Subhas Ghisingh-led GNLF launching a violent agitation in 1986, which went on for 43 days and led to the death of 1,200 people in the hills.
  • The movement culminated in the formation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council in 1988, following the intervention of then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu.
  • Several political parties have over the years promised the people of the hills a separate state and implementation of the sixth schedule, which grants more autonomy to a region.
  • The separate statehood demand gained momentum yet again in 2007 after the formation of the GJM, under the leadership of Bimal Gurung, who was once a trusted aide of Ghisingh.
  • After the TMC took over the reins of the state in 2011 by ending the 34-year Left rule, the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) was formed with Gurung as its chief.
  • But, peace was short-lived in the area as Gurung led an agitation in support of the statehood demand, first in 2013, and then engineered a 104-day-long strike in 2017, accusing the TMC government of trying to "wipe out" Gorkha identity.