Differences between State Government, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha

“I will make the hills smile…. It is my challenge,” said Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in Siliguri on Thursday on her return from the Darjeeling hills where differences between the Trinamool Congress government and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha have come out in the open prompting the Opposition to say that her claims that “the hills are smiling” are far from the truth.

“Are the hills not smiling? Is Kanchenjunga not smiling?” she asked journalists, stating that had it not been so how could the State Government have organised the festivals that it has in the region.

But in reference to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s demand for a separate Gorkhaland, Ms. Banerjee reiterated her opposition to any division of the State.

Nor was she engaged in a “divide-and-rule” approach in the hills as was being alleged by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leadership.

The GJM leadership has expressed its reservations over her decision to set up a development council for the Lepcha community. In response she said: “Setting up a Lepcha Development Council is mentioned in the GTA agreement. We will also set up a similar council for the Buddhists in the hills,” she said.

Ms. Banerjee said GTA is a part of the West Bengal Government and has been set up as a part of a tripartite meeting between the Centre, State government and the GJM.

As for GJM’s demand for a separate Gorkhaland, she said: “Our government’s stand is very clear -- a united Bengal”.

When asked by journalists about GJM president Bimal Gurung’s warning on Wednesday that the Gorkhaland movement may turn violent in the near future, Ms. Banerjee said that her government would deal with the problem when it arises.

Both she and the GJM leaders were oath-bound and Constitutionally obliged to function in a democratic manner, she added.

“As a political party the GJM can organise movements… But when political parties resort to bloodshed that is a different thing. We cannot comprise on democracy,” she asserted.

On what she meant by being “rough and tough” (she had said so at an event in Darjeeling where people had raised pro-Gorkhaland slogans), Ms. Banerjee said that she wanted to stress that she wants development in the Darjeeling hills.

“There should always be a human face to development,” she added.

Ms. Banerjee said that the pro-Gorkhaland slogans are nothing new and people have raised it in the past as well.

“They (the GJM) may feel that if they do not raise the slogan the party will cease to exist,” the Chief Minister observed.