Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) president Bimal Gurung on Wednesday warned that the movement for a separate State could turn violent.
“People are ready to face bullets. We may die but will not give up our demand for Gorkhaland,” he said, even as he once again directed his ire at West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for asserting that the hills were an inseparable part of the State.
Reiterating his displeasure over Ms. Banerjee’s remarks at the Uttar Banga Utsav in Darjeeling on Tuesday, he said he had advised North Bengal Development Minister Goutam Deb before the event that there should be no reference to the statehood issue, as it was sensitive, particularly at a time when developments in Telangana had raised expectations in the hills.
“This was the understanding. Can one have faith in her words [after this]?” he said at Bijanbari, about 35 km from Darjeeling.
Mr. Gurung criticised the “sudden” holding of the event in Darjeeling without him being informed of it till the previous evening. He is the Chief Executive of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).
“Such things happen only in a dictatorship. Can she do the same in Delhi, in Bangalore [without informing the local authorities concerned]? One should keep to one’s own place,” he said.
Elaborating on Mr. Gurung’s warning of the agitation turning violent, GJM assistant secretary Benoy Tamang told The Hindu over the telephone from Bijanbari that the GJM chief had made it amply clear that the next phase of the movement could be violent as the government might resort to repressive measures.
“Tuesday’s developments in Darjeeling had only precipitated matters for the GJM leadership that has called for a ‘final struggle’ for Gorkhaland. Which course our movement will take will be announced by Mr. Gurung at a rally at Sukna on March 10,” he said.
“Our president has also taken serious exception to the Chief Minister meeting representatives of the Lepcha community in the Kalimpong subdivision where she assured them that a separate development council will be set up for them. Mr. Gurung views it as an attempt to divide and rule, which cannot be accepted,” he said.
“The Gorkhaland movement has been a democratic one till now. But the State government has shown no signs of honouring our democratic movement; neither has it respected the spirit of the GTA,” Mr. Tamang said adding that all the GJM members of the body could resign “anytime if the situation so warrants.”
Exercise restraint, says Mishra
Expressing concern over the recent strife between the West Bengal government and the GJM, Leader of Opposition in the State Surya Kanta Mishra said here on Wednesday the “honeymoon between the two is over, at least for the time being.”
Commenting on the developments in Darjeeling, where Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee had asked people not to raise pro-Gorkhaland slogans at what was a State-organised event, Dr. Mishra appealed both to the GJM and the government to “exercise restraint” so that the situation did not take an “unfortunate” turn.
“We would urge the Chief Minister to have a more cautious approach on this sensitive manner,” Dr. Mishra said, adding that Ms. Banerjee should not have unnecessarily exacerbated the situation.
Stating that the people of the hills had been denied the “self-rule” they were promised in the GTA, Dr. Mishra said it was not Ms. Banerjee’s prerogative to make announcements in the region.
Dr. Mishra said the Left parties had been demanding an all-party meeting to solve this issue. “The State government should hold discussions with all parties, including GJM, on this issue,” he said.
State Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya also echoed the need for an all-party discussion on the issue.