Tribal leader says growth, not GATA, is his priority
Kalchini (Alipurduar), Dec. 18: Tribal leader John Barla today said his priority was to work for the development of the adivasis after a section of community leaders cut short his speech in a meeting and demanded that he should spell out concrete proposals.
Barla said working for the tribals now preceded his pursuing the formation of the Gorkha Adivasi Territorial Administration (GATA), a set-up that seeks to include the Dooars-Terai region in an arrangement for the hills.
The dissident leader’s announcement comes a day after he was expelled from Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad for batting for GATA without the state committee’s approval. Local leaders of the Parishad today confronted Barla at a meeting here and wanted to know what his priorities were.
A commotion among the 150 odd Parishad and tribal trade union members could be heard from outside the Kalchini Athletic hall club soon after Barla began to speak. The media had not been allowed inside. Barla was forced to stop. The sound system was then switched off and the meeting progressed till 4.20pm.
Sources in the meeting said angry Parishad members wanted to hear from Barla about a movement that would benefit the tribals. “We have to chalk out our priorities. What is the aim of the Parishad? Is it GATA? Or is it the Sixth Schedule? We have been fleeting from one issue to the other. The Gorkhas have struggled for years. Why should we give up our struggle so soon,” said a member of the Progressive Tea Workers’ Union, an affiliate of the Parishad.
After the meeting, Barla, told the media there was some confusion among the audience about the way the movement was going.
“I will now work solely for the development of the adivasis living in the Terai and the Dooars and not concentrate on GATA. On December 21, we will have a meeting at Banarhat where we will discuss how the PTWU would proceed.”
Asked why Barla was called to a Parishad meeting when he has been expelled, trade union leader Basant Bhagwar said it had been planned much earlier. “Besides, he is a trade union leader as well. He is the chairperson of the joint action committee of the trade union of the Parishad and the Morcha.”
“We had convened the meeting to discuss the manner in which the other trade unions (Citu, Intuc) are causing confusion among the garden workers and eroding our support base,” he said.
Earlier during the day Barla had told that he was “not bothered” about his expulsion. “I am feeling relaxed. I have no immediate plans to form a new organisation. I plan to go to Delhi in the first week of January and meet Somji Bhai Damor, the president of the Parishad’s central committee. I will apprise him of the ground reality in the Terai and the Dooars,” he said.
On Friday, some adivasi leaders of the Dooars had threatened to form a new wing of the Parishad if Barla was expelled. It would be named the North Bengal Adivasi Vikas Parishad, they had said.