Kolkata, Aug 21 (IANS) The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) Wednesday accused West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of going on a rampant arrest spree but asserted the crackdown cannot wipe out people's aspirations for a separate Gorkhaland state.
"The demand for Gorkhaland is an aspiration of Gorkhas and other hill communities. Instead of respecting this sentiment, the chief minister (Banerjee) has talked of being rough and tough and going on a rampant arrest spree," GJM supremo Bimal Gurung said.
After the GJM intensified its separatist movement by clamping an indefinite shutdown in the Darjeeling hills, the Banerjee regime has been arresting key Morcha leaders along with hundreds of supporters and activists to crack down on the movement. Central security forces have also been deployed in the region.
Gurung said arrests of GJM leaders were in violation of the 2011 tripartite agreement between the GJM and the central and state governments giving birth to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) - the autonomous hill development council.
"By not withdrawing pending cases against Morcha leaders, the government has violated the agreement. Every clause of the GTA says 'with the approval of the government' which proves that GTA is not autonomous," said Gurung.
Claiming that over 600 persons have been arrested so far which is "unprecedented", Gurung said: "Is this the respect the chief minister is showing to the hill people for peacefully voicing their aspirations?"
"People are willingly going to jail, but how many people can they arrest? It will be wrong for Banerjee to think that the aspirations of the hill people will be wiped out by merely arresting Morcha activists.
"The demand will only get stronger just as it has gone from strength to strength for more than 100 years. This is not a development issue but an identity issue that the chief minister must understand," said Gurung.
Gurung also welcomed Governor M.K. Narayanan's "announcement that he was ready to mediate".