Deb goes mum on CM hill trip

Siliguri, Jan. 17: North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb today declined to confirm if chief minister Mamata Banerjee would visit the hills on January 29 to attend the hill segment of Uttarbanga Utsav.

"The chief minister will be here on January 28 to inaugurate the festival. So far, I do not have information on her itinerary (after that) from her office," Deb said.

The minister's comment has come a day after the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha declared that it would revive its movement for statehood in the hills from January 20.

On Sunday, Deb had announced that Mamata would visit Darjeeling on January 29 to attend the hill segment of the fest and inaugurate a tourist spot in Lamahata and a bridge at Bijanbari.

Deb today said the Morcha's plan to resume the statehood movement was a conspiracy to hinder development in Darjeeling hills.

"In the name of a movement, a conspiracy has been hatched to hinder the ongoing development work in the hills. But such efforts cannot deter the development process taken up by our government and the GTA," he said.

"We feel peace will prevail in the hills and there will be no change in the situation."

Deb said other political parties were alleging that there was a "tacit understanding between Trinamul and Morcha", and it was not true. He may have implied to CPM leader Ashok Bhattacharya's statement yesterday. "We believe that Mamata Banerjee was the key person to provoke the Morcha to launch the movement and create tension in the region. Although the Morcha leaders have spoken about reviving their agitation, we are yet to confirm if it is only a blank call. We have to wait for some time and see the consequent events in the coming days, particularly when the chief minister is coming to the hills on January 29," Bhattacharya had said yesterday.

Deb today said: "The allegations made by some political parties are baseless," he said.

"They are trying to obstruct development in the hills by making such comments. We do not have any understanding with the Morcha. Whatever discussions have been held so far, were done at government levels and with the intention to restore peace in the hills and to form the GTA through a tripartite agreement," the Trinamul minister said.

The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad,a key player in the Dooars and Terai which has been spearheading a movement against Morcha's demand to include the region in Gorkhaland, today said they would not part with the area.

"We still adhere to our old stand that not even an inch of land in the Terai and the Dooars would be allowed to be included in the GTA or Gorkhaland. We… would oppose any movement or demonstration on their demand of including the Terai and the Dooars," said Rajesh Lakra, the general secretary of the north Bengal regional unit of the Parishad.

John Barla and his followers, who had tied up with the Morcha to support their demand for inclusion of Terai and the Dooars in Gorkhaland, have fallen silent.

"The situation has turned different after Roshan Giri's announcement yesterday. We are in a dilemma about the probable ramifications of the announcement. It might so happen that the Morcha, which is keen to revive their movement now would feel disinterested to contest or work for the panchayat polls. This can have a negative impact on our results," said a close aide to John Barla, leader of the dissident faction of the Parishad who later launched the north Bengal segment of the JMM.

According to Morcha sources, on January 20, the rally will start from the Darjeeling railway station at 10.30am and end at Chowk Bazar, where a public meeting to mark the resumption of the statehood movement would be held.

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