Compromising on Gorkhaland would create problems: Buddhadeb

Kolkata, Feb 6 (IANS) Rapping the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government for "mishandling" the Darjeeling hill issue, former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has said that compromising on the Gorkhaland matter would create severe problems.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) politburo member was speaking in the backdrop of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) announcing revival of its movement for a separate state of Gorkhaland out of parts of north Bengal centred around the Darjeeling hills.

Bhattacharjee alleged that the state government had blundered by inking the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) pact without the GJM dropping its demand.

"It was improper on the part of the state government to hold talks with the GJM by compromising on the Gorkhaland issue. The final draft mentions that the pact is being signed without the GJM dropping the demand for Gorkhaland. This is a big blunder," Bhattacharjee said in an interview to the Bengali news channel 24 Ghanta Tuesday.

"In contrast, when we signed the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council deal in 1988, we saw to it that they drop the demand for the separate state. Now they (the Banerjee government) has done the diametrically opposite thing," Buddhadeb said.

"Any direct or indirect compromise on the Gorkhaland demand would not do any good. It is a vital border area. The issues of the Dooars (foothills of the Himalayas) and Terai (the plains close to the hills) are also linked.

"One should not play with fire there. The sooner the government understands it the better it is. To bring about a long term solution one has to go deep."

Taking a dig at Banerjee for trying to deal with the hill problem in a hurry, he said: "It is not such a simple matter. One has to understand the demography."

He also questioned why the chief minister had decided to form a Lepcha Development Council in the hills without following the GTA treaty in letter and spirit by reserving seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

"This government is taking all thoughtless steps."

However, he affirmed that his party would lend support to Banerjee in solving the problem whenever she asks for it.

"Why shouldn't we? We won't be happy if there is a setback on the hill problem. We are concerned over what is happening. If there is problem in the hills then it will have its impact across the state."

A day after its activists raised pro-Gorkhaland slogans at a programme in Darjeeling where Banerjee was present, the GJM last week warned of "violence and bloodbath" if its demand for the separate state was not met.

GTA chief executive and GJM chief Bimal Gurung has also threatened that he would resign from the GTA post to devote full time in leading the Gorkhaland agitation.

The long standing agitation on the demand for forming a separate state out of the northern West Bengal hills has led to the loss of many lives over the past two decades, besides hitting the region's economic mainstays - tea, timber and tourism.

On July 18 last year, a tripartite agreement was signed between the GJM, and the state and central governments for setting up a new autonomous, elected GTA -- a hill council armed with more powers than its predecessor, the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council formed in the late 1980s.

The GJM now runs the GTA after sweeping its maiden elections last July.

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