Mamata rules out Bengal's division, Darjeeling on the boil

Kolkata, July 31 (IANS) Slamming the Congress on Telangana, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Wednesday ruled out division of her state, even as life in the Darjeeling Hills remained paralysed for the third day in response to a shutdown called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) demanding the creation of 'Gorkhaland'.

A day after the Congress Working Committee and the United Progressive Alliance approved the carving out of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh, the GJM announced it will call on union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde to press for the creation of a separate state of 'Gorkhaland' in north Bengal.

The GJM wants parts of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts of northern West Bengal to be made part of the proposed Gorkhaland.

The GJM launched an indefinite shutdown in Darjeeling Hills from Saturday while its chief Bimal Gurung Tuesday resigned as the chief executive of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) - an autonomous and elected hill development council. But Banerjee said there was no question of dissolving the GTA or dividing the state.

"There is no question of dissolving the GTA. It was formed through a tripartite agreement. Moreover, the GJM had agreed to it. The elections to the GTA were duly held and its representatives elected and the hill council had started functioning," said Banerjee, adding "Darjeeling is part and parcel of Bengal...There is no question of division".

Attacking the Congress on the Telangana issue, Banerjee said it smacked off "divisive politics".

"I am not averse to Telangana, it is their prerogative. But what if other states start making similar demands? Will the Congress allow all these demands and break the country into pieces? It is most unfortunate for the country when those who have responsibility behave irresponsibly," Banerjee said.

"Why has this decision been taken at a time when the general elections are approaching? The Congress, in its manifesto five years back, had committed Telangana formation, but why has this decision been taken now when the elections are knocking on the doors? Simply because it will add a few more seats?" she said.

"I condemn this attitude and am shocked at the decision. For political purpose and vendetta, our constitutional obligations should not be jeopardised."

Banerjee also accused a section of the central leadership of disturbing peace in Darjeeling by promising it a status of union territory.

"A few central ministers, I am sorry to say, had called a few of the GTA leaders to Delhi...Later, the GTA leaders have reported that a few of the central leaders asked them to start a movement there promising grant of union territory status.

"A union territory bypassing the state, is it so easy? Is it a lollypop in a child's hand? I will remind the central government that it has a responsibility to not disturb peace in Darjeeling," said Banerjee.

The chief minister said she has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking if it was right or wrong on the part of those central leaders to do so.

Countering Banerjee, GJM general secretary Roshan Giri told IANS: "She (Banerjee) has the right to say whatever she wants, but 'Gorkhaland' was never a part of Bengal. Creation of Gorkhaland will not be by division of Bengal, but only reorganisation of the state."

The GJM held an emergency central committee meeting in Darjeeling Wednesday and announced that the rest of its members in the GTA would resign.

"Soon the other GTA members will resign. We will go to Delhi Friday and meet the home minister and others with our demands," said Giri.

The GJM has asked people to stock provisions and told tourists and students to leave for the plains by Friday.

The Gorkhaland movement has left many dead over the past two decades, besides affecting the region's economy based on tea, timber and tourism.

On July 18, 2011, a tripartite agreement was signed between the GJM and the state and central governments for setting up the GTA, 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 in July 2012.

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