Across India, ongoing agitations get a fillip and dormant demands get new life

The decision of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to divide Andhra Pradesh and create Telangana has sparked protests for statehood across the country. Dormant demands for separate provinces have re-emerged, and reluctant State governments are battling new fires.

In West Bengal, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), fighting for a Gorkhaland state, shut down Darjeeling for the third consecutive day. Additional security personnel had to be deployed. The GJM has said there will be no bandh in the hills for the next two days to enable students and tourists to leave, but there will be an indefinite closure from Saturday. GJM chief Bimal Gurung had resigned as chief executive of the Gorkha Territorial Administration on Tuesday.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee ruled out the State’s division and said: “Darjeeling is a part and parcel of West Bengal. There is no question of division.” She slammed the UPA government for “setting the country ablaze when elections were knocking at the door,” for the sake of getting a few more seats.

In Assam, violence erupted in support of a Karbi Anglong state, with attacks on the houses of a Congress MP and MLA, a district party office, and vehicles. This led to police firing. Agencies have reported that 20 people were injured, leading the administration to impose a curfew and call in the Army. The demand for Bodoland has also resurfaced forcefully, with Bodoland Territorial Council chief Hagrama Mohilari announcing a rally in Kokrajhar on August 4.

Even as the east flared up, the debate on the size of, and rationale for, a State as big as Uttar Pradesh took centre stage in Delhi and Lucknow. The previous Mayawati government had proposed splitting Uttar Pradesh into Purvanchal, Bundelkhand, Awadh Pradesh, and Paschi Pradesh, and this was ratified by the Assembly. She reiterated that the BSP was in favour of smaller States. Union Minister Ajit Singh of the Rashtriya Lok Dal revived his party’s traditional demand for Harit Pradesh, and asked the people of western Uttar Pradesh to prepare for a movement. BJP leader Uma Bharti pressed for Bundelkhand, while Congress MP Jagdambika Pal said eastern Uttar Pradesh deserved to be a separate State.

But the ruling Samajwadi Party is opposed to any division. In the west, the movement for Vidarbha got a fillip. Vilas Muttemwar, Congress leader from Nagpur, urged his party’s leadership to cede the demand since its case was ‘older and stronger’ than Telangana. The BJP has reiterated its support for Vidarbha on the grounds that it favoured smaller States. The Shiv Sena has however opposed the demand.

Confronting the surge in demands, Congress leader Digvijay Singh said that each region has to be dealt with separately. “The decision on one State cannot be the reason for giving other regions Statehood.”

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