New Delhi, March 8 (IANS) With the Assembly polls in West Bengal slated for next year, the decades-old demand for the carving of a separate Gorkhaland from the eastern state has once again gained momentum.
The Gorkhas associated with the movement believe that only after the formation of a separate Gorkhaland comprising areas from Darjeeling hills, Terai areas of Siliguri and Duwas would pave the way for a permanent solution to the issue.
As part of the increased activities, BJP leader and Darjeeling MP Raju Bisht met with party national general secretary Ram Madhav.
Bisht also held a meeting with leaders of BJP allies — Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, Gorkha National Liberation Front, Gorkhaland Rajya Nirman Morcha, Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League and CPRM — on February 20 and discussed the formation of a ‘steering committee’ to purse the Gorkhaland demand with the Centre.
The BJP won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat in 2009, 2014 and 2019 due to its support to the demand.
Raju Bisht told IANS: “In the February 20 meeting, the Central government was urged to set up the committee comprising representatives of the West Bengal and central governments, and parties associated with the Gorkhaland movement to look for a permanent solution.
According to the BJP, the central government is serious about finding a permanent political solution to the problem of Darjeeling Hills, Siliguri’s Terai and Duwas areas, but the Mamata Banerjee government was yet to reply to a letter from the Home Ministry on their demands.
“Revenue of Rs 20,000 crore is received by the West Bengal government from Darjeeling and surrounding areas. But the state gives only Rs 400 to 500 crore for development of Gorkhaland area. So far, the Mamta Banerjee government has not even held panchayat poll here even though the Centre has sent Rs 1,500 crore for panchayats. In this way, the problems of Darjeeling and Siliguri areas remain,” rued the Darjeeling MP.
People living in the Darjeeling Hills say their culture is different from that of those living elsewhere in West Bengal. Also, they claim the state government is not serious about the development of the mountainous areas of Darjeeling. In such a situation, their problems can be resolved only by the formation of a separate state.
After the merger of Darjeeling in West Bengal in 1947, there was a demand in 1955 to form Gorkhaland. This demand was made by the All India Gorkha League to the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. In 1986 and 1988, there were violent movements for Gorkhaland spearheaded by Gorkha National Liberation Front.
In 2007 too, there was a movement for the separate state under the leadership of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. As a result, the Mamata Banerjee government established the Gorkhaland Territorial Authority in 2011 to ensure autonomy to Gorkhaland areas. This was done under a tripartite agreement between the Morcha, and state government led by Mamata Banerjee and then UPA government. Later, the Gorkhaland agitators felt that this did not help them.
In 2017, when the Mamata Banerjee government made Bengali language compulsory in West Bengal, another movement on Gorkhaland led by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leaders was launched. The Gorkhas claimed that the state government was trying to impose Bengali language on them. Several people were killed in clashes between police and protesters at that time.
(Navneet Mishra can be contacted at [email protected])