Says Darjeeling is not outside West Bengal, but the heart of West Bengal

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asserted here on Monday that the State would not be divided even as the leadership of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) maintained that the tripartite agreement for the setting up of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) was not a compromise on its demand for a separate State.

“There is nothing to fear. Bengal is not being divided,” said Ms. Banerjee at a ceremony where a memorandum of agreement for the new body was signed. She was addressing her political detractors, who have raised apprehensions that the setting up of the GTA was a step away from granting statehood to the region.

GJM president Bimal Gurung made no mention about the future of the statehood demand in his speech. But, talking to journalists later, he said the setting up of the GTA should have happened earlier, although he was happy that it had worked out now.

Asked about the demand for a separate State, he said: “That remains to be done….We'll do it; it will happen if it has to. We have to take this [the GTA] forward and get the work done.”

However, Ms. Banerjee did not mince words while emphasising that statehood cannot be granted to the region. “Darjeeling is not outside West Bengal. Darjeeling is the heart of West Bengal,” she said. “Darjeeling and Siliguri are like two sisters. The hills are my sisters and the plains are also my sisters.”

Ms. Banerjee said the nomenclature of the GTA, particularly the inclusion of the word “Gorkhaland” was being unnecessarily politicised by some, particularly the Left Front.

“Some people are objecting to the word Gorkhaland…..To them I'll say that it was the previous government [the Left Front government] that had agreed to the word Gorkhaland after a tripartite meeting on August 17 last year. Only the words “Regional Authority” had been replaced [from the name proposed then].”

She also sought to clarify her stand on the GJM's demand for inclusion of the Gorkha-dominated areas in the Terai and Dooars within the territorial jurisdiction of the GTA.