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Updated: March 13, 2013 03:13 IST

Mamata terms Gorkhaland movement ‘separatist’

Marcus Dam
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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. File Photo
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. File Photo

Indication of strained relations between government and GJM

The Darjeeling hills may have got a reprieve with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leadership calling off its agitation there this month but Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s observation on Tuesday that a “separatist movement” in the region “will not go down well with the people” is a reminder of strained relations between her government and the GJM.

“The demand for a separate State [Gorkhaland] is not just legitimate but also constitutional and reflects the aspirations of the people,” retorted GJM general secretary Roshan Giri.

“It cannot be described as a separatist movement,” he told The Hindu over telephone from Darjeeling.

Ms. Banerjee raised the hackles of the GJM leadership less than two months ago when, at a public function in Darjeeling, she asserted that the hills were an inseparable part of West Bengal.

This time around Ms. Banerjee, who is on her first visit to north Bengal since then and which, as per the schedule so far, does not include a trip to Darjeeling, was more guarded. She told journalists at Bagdogra that the movement would affect tourism and the local economy would suffer just when things are picking up in a region neglected for long.

Ms. Banerjee underscored the need for unity “between the hills and plains” even as she pointed out that she would be happy if both Darjeeling and the Dooars were “smiling.”

“We have no problems with any such unity; our statehood movement does not undermine it,” said Mr. Giri. Ms. Banerjee’s emphasis on the Dooars was particularly significant, as the GJM, that enjoyed substantial support among the Gorkhas there, was claiming the region to be part of its proposed State of Gorkhaland.

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