Darjeeling: Chairman of Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) Binay Tamang has lambasted his arch-rival and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) supremo Bimal Gurung for spreading rumours about the Centre’s alleged decision for a tripartite talk to solve the Gorkhaland issue as per his demand.

“In order to make himself relevant and a party to the next meeting on Gorkhaland issue in Kolkata later this month, Bimal Gurung is deliberately spreading this rumour and has been trying to influence the people in Darjeeling hills,” Tamang said on Monday, describing the whole issue as nothing but a gimmick.

“We all know that Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has suggested tripartite talks only to discuss our demand for a separate State of Gorkhaland, requesting the West Bengal government to look into the possibility where representatives from the Union government, along with those from the State and the Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Council (GMCC), could take part,” Tamang said.

Tamang has challenged Gurung to come out of his hiding and prove his unquestioned supremacy within the GJM, according to our sources. Tamang, who is also the Chairman of the Board of Administrators (BoA) of the GTA, described Gurung’s sudden decision to withdraw the indefinite strike last week after 104 days, as “nothing but a political gimmick as he has lost all sympathy and confidence among the hill people for his anarchic behaviour”.

Accusing Gurung of “double standards”, Tamang said the same person had in fact strongly opposed his earlier appeal for lifting the strike even for a few days, and branded him a conspirator and expelled him from the party.

Meanwhile, Gurung has urged the Centre through different channels to ensure his participation and safety in the proposed next meeting on Gorkhaland. He has reportedly sought legal protection and an assurance from the West Bengal government that he would not be arrested after coming out of hiding to take part in the meeting. “These are all absurd propositions,” Tamang said, ridiculing Gurung’s desperate bid to avoid arrest. Tamang said the law would take its own course whenever required.

Gurung and several of his top aides, including his wife Asha, have been charged with the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for their alleged involvement in a series of incidents of violence and arson during the Gorkhaland agitation since 8 June. This has forced Gurung to go into hiding for nearly two months now.

Life in the hills has returned to normal in both the hill districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong following the withdrawal of the bandh (strike) on the opening day of the Durga Puja on 26 September after 104 days. All shops, malls and other business establishments like hotels and restaurants have open every day since then to welcome tourists and other visitors. A large number of vehicles have also started plying to and from Siliguri. Several small groups of tourists are arriving in the ‘Queen of Hills’ during the past few days to enjoy the unparalleled scenic beauty of the Himalayas as well as the warm reception from the local people.

Amid the festive atmosphere, there is no report of any untoward incident from anywhere although the security forces and the police are maintaining a close vigil everywhere. The district administration has, however, decided not to repair any damaged government building and office in the hills, which were ransacked and set on fire by Gorkhaland supporters during the past four months. Government offices will run from the residences of local GTA members and nearby unaffected community centres.

Hindusthan Samachar/Ankur Bhattacharya