Kolkata: Key leaders of the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) are set to start a political movement against the status quo, after stepping down from the West Bengal government’s board for civic and economic development of Darjeeling.

GNLF president Mann Ghising, along with Mahendra Chhetri and Ajoy Edwards, on Friday stepped down from the Hill Area Development Committee, which was created after last year’s 104-day shutdown ended with the dominant Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) split down the middle.

While chief minister Mamata Banerjee handed the reins of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) to GJM leader Binoy Tamang, she created the Hill Area Development Committee and invited Ghising and other GNLF leaders to run the body. As the chairman of the committee, Ghising had the position of a junior minister in the state.

“The aspirations of the Gorkha community cannot be fulfilled by the committee," said Edwards. Having quit the committee, the GNLF will revive the demand for talks with the government on greater political autonomy.

The committee was aimed at “economic development", but it needs “a permanent political solution", said Niraj Zimba, the spokesperson for the GNLF. The party has already written to the state government seeking talks over greater autonomy for the Gorkha community. Back in 2008, a constitution amendment bill was introduced to include Darjeeling under the sixth schedule.

The bill had the approval of the state and the parliamentary standing committee, according to Zimba. It needs to be revived and passed by the parliament, he said, adding that the demand for autonomy is the only constant in the hills of Darjeeling.

No committee or board has ever fulfilled the aspirations of the Gorkha community and there were reservations even within the GNLF about the latest committee formed by the chief minister in November 2017, said Zimba. “Our doors are open to everyone who supports our demand or has a better solution." The GNLF wants the state to hold talks with all stakeholders.

Government officials in Darjeeling see the GNLF’s move as an attempt to gain political ground, at a time when the GJM is divided and the faction led by Binoy Tamang is focusing only on economic and civic development of the hills.

The GJM is not pushing for Gorkhaland immediately, and the GNLF sees an opportunity to revive the political demand for autonomy, said a top official in Darjeeling, requesting anonymity. But the GNLF on its own may not immediately have the political strength to pressure the state government to revive talks over autonomy, the official added.

GJM’s Tamang declined to comment on GNLF’s “internal matter". After having restored peace in the hills, the party is now focusing on development, said Tamang.

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