Ensure peace in Darjeeling, allow development: Mamata

Kurseong (West Bengal), Oct 23 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Wednesday urged people to desist from organising shutdowns and maintain peace in the hills so the development process continued unhindered.

Banerjee said she wanted Darjeeling to acquire a prime place in the international tourism calendar.

"If there are only bandhs (shutdowns), then how can development take place? If Kanchenjunga (third highest peak of the world in the eastern Himalayas) smiles, I feel great. But if Kanchenjunga cries, then I feel pain," Banerjee told a gathering of the Lepcha community in this sub-divisional town of the Darjeeling district.

The chief minister said many tourists are willing to come to the hills if there is peace.

"But if issues are raised every three or six months and life is brought to a standstill with shutdown calls, then tourists get afraid," Banerjee said at the rally after attending a meeting of the Lepcha Development Council (LDC).

The LDC was created by the Mamata Banerjee government earlier this year to weaken the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) after it upped the ante for a Gorkhaland state to be made out of Darjeeling and parts of Jalpaiguri districts.

While expressing her indebtedness to the Lepchas for inviting her to the hills in August when the GJM announced a shutdown, Banerjee exhorted the people to maintain peace.

"I have only one request to you. Quarrel as much as you want with me. But keep peace in Darjeeling. Help us in making Darjeeling beautiful."

"Allow me to usher in development. Do not think that since there was no development in the past, nothing will happen in the future," she said.

Banerjee also sought support of the media in the hills in developing Darjeeling. "I urge the media to help me in making Darjeeling beautiful. Don't support me. But support development of Darjeeling," she said.

Without naming the GJM during her speech, the chief minister referred to the destruction of public property allegedly by Gorkha activists over the past few months.

"Whatever is built, don't destroy. We don't have much money. We have a huge outgo in repaying loans. My heart is filled with love for the hills. Don't break my heart... give me love so that we can return your love," she said.

Banerjee asked why she should be unwelcome in the hills when people of the hills also go to other areas.

"Don't you have to go to Siliguri for work? If you go to Siliguri, why can't I come to Darjeeling? Don't you go to Delhi, Kolkata, Bihar?" she asked.

Earlier, to cries of "Mamata Banerjee zindabad", the chief minister walked alongside top bureaucrats and Hill Affairs Minister Gautam Deb to the venue from the bungalow where she was put up for the night.

She is scheduled to address the Trinamool Congress' first political conference in the hills Thursday at the famed Darjeeling mall. Friday she will hold a meeting with the state assembly's GJM members.

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