GTA gets new chief in GJM's Benoy Tamang

Darjeeling, Sep 27 (IANS) Benoy Tamang, a leader of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and now behind bars, was Friday unanimously elected chief executive of the autonomous hill council - the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).

Tamang, the GJM's general secretary, is currently lodged in Jalpaiguri Central Correctional Home after he was arrested Aug 22 in connection with old cases.

A court Thursday had rejected his bail plea.

Tamang's name was passed at a meeting of GTA members here.

"We proposed his (Tamang) name for the post and he was chosen unanimously during a meeting by the GTA members," said GJM general secretary Roshan Giri, who, along with the top Morcha leaders including party chief Bimal Gurung, participated in the meeting.

Gurung, the first chief executive of the GTA, resigned from the post last month when the outfit decided to step up the movement for Gorkhaland following the Congress-led UPA's endorsement of Telangana.

The GJM which has termed the GTA as an "interim arrangement" and said it "would be repealed at an appropriate time", refused to admit the appointment of its new chief was a climb down from its stand of achieving a separate state.

"Gorkhaland is our only demand and we will not sit quiet until we achieve it. The appointment has nothing to do with our demand for Gorkhaland. As for the GTA, we still maintain it would be repealed when the right time comes," said Giri.

The GJM-led Gorkhaland Joint Action Committee (GJAC),a forum of pro-Gorkhaland parties which has been carrying out an intensified separatist movement in the Darjeeling hills, Sep 10 suspended its agitation till Oct 20 in deference to the appeal by Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde to facilitate tripartite talks.

But it had set a condition that the talks have to be convened by Oct 20.

Following hectic parleys by the GJM with the central leadership, Shinde earlier in the month assured the Gorkha outfit of tripartite talks over the issue.

Armed with more powers than its predecessor - the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council formed in the late 1980s - the GTA was created July 18, 2011 via a tripartite between the GJM and the state and central governments.

The GJM now runs the GTA after sweeping its maiden elections in July 2012.

The Mamata Banerjee-led state government has maintained a tough stand on the issue ruling out division of the state. The government has cracked down hard, arresting nearly 1000 Morcha leaders and activists.

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