A day after the West Bengal Assembly passed a resolution against any attempt to divide the State, which was tabled by the ruling Trinamool Congress on February 20, pro-Gorkhaland forces in the Darjeeling hills called for a 12-hour bandh on February 23 in protest against the resolution.
Pointing out that the State’s class 10 Board exams will begin on February 23, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that her government will not allow the bandh to take place, and also reiterated her stand against any division of the State.
On February 21, Binay Tamang, elected member of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) and former Trinamool Congress leader, said: “When the resolution against the division of the State was being passed in the West Bengal Assembly, it was also said that the Darjeeling hills will remain a part of the State. In protest against this resolution, nine GTA members [out of 45] are on a hunger strike for 24 hours today….We appeal to all the residents of the hills to observe a bandh on February 23 from 6 am to 6 pm.”
He also thanked Neeraj Zimba, the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) MLA from Darjeeling, and Bishnu Prasad Sharma, BJP legislator from Kurseong, for “putting up a strong resistance on behalf of the people of Darjeeling in the Assembly”.
On February 20, when the resolution was being discussed, Zimba and Sharma had raised the demand for Gorkhaland. Zimba pointed out that Darjeeling was originally never a part of West Bengal, and sought a “demerger”.
Sharma said: “What is important is what the people of the region feel. The State government can hold tripartite meetings; set up the DGHC [Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council] or the GTA; but why can we not have a referendum?”
The other BJP MLAs, however, maintained a measured distance from the issue, claiming that the language of the resolution was “unclear”.
Although the top BJP leadership in the State has repeatedly stated that it was never in favour of any division of Bengal, a section of the party from north Bengal has been openly demanding it for several years now.
Addressing a public rally in Siliguri in north Bengal on February 21, Mamata Banerjee said: “I am saying it very clearly there will be no bandh. If there is a bandh, we will not support it.” The Chief Minister also said that she will not allow any division of Bengal. “There is no difference between north and south Bengal. We are all people of Bengal and Bengal will remain one. Those who are thinking of breaking Bengal, their illusions will be broken.”
The BJP has dismissed her stand against the ‘division of the State’ as nothing more than a political ploy to distract the people from her government’s failures.
Dilip Ghosh, Lok Sabha MP and national vice president of the BJP, said: “Mamata Banerjee sometimes scares people with the idea of CAA [Citizenship Amendment Act], sometimes with NRC [National Register of Citizens]; now she is trying to scare people with this idea of division of the State. She has made the State bankrupt and cannot pay the DA or the pension, so now she is trying to fool the people with the issue of division of Bengal. Who wants this division?”
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