Separatists are extortionists, says Mamata

Darjeeling, Oct 26 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Saturday dubbed separatists as "extortionists", a day after the under-pressure Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) reconciled with her government and announced it would work jointly with her for development.

"There are some who always indulge in the politics of divide and rule. They have no other work but to demand a new state every now and then. They have no other work but to clamour 'break up Darjeeling, break up Siliguri'.

"They do it only to extort money," Banerjee said at a government programme at Matigara near Siliguri of Darjeeling district, without naming the GJM - which has been spearheading the agitation for a Gorkhaland state in the northern Bengal hills.

"I have seen and taken part in many agitations, but I will never support any movement which leads to bloodshed. I always support movements which are constructive, which are for the welfare of the people," she added.

Banerjee blamed the erstwhile Left Front government for neglecting the development of Darjeeling hills, and enumerated a host of developmental projects initiated by her government for turning the region into a "tourism hub".

Observing that Darjeeling had more potential than even Switzerland as a tourist destination, she said her government was committed to developing infrastructure in the region with major emphasis on "tea-tourism".

The GJM had been on a warpath with the Banerjee regime after renewing its separatist movement late August following the Congress and the United Progressive Alliance's endorsement of a Telangana state by bifurcating Andhra Pradesh.

However, the Gorkha outfit following a meeting with Banerjee Friday extended an olive branch assuring it would cooperate with the government in developing the region.

While its agitations were marked by life-crippling indefinite shutdowns, the GJM now has assured to clamp a "shutdown to shutdowns".

"Now there will be a shutdown on shutdowns. In case of misunderstandings, we will sit across the table to sort them out with the state government and not allow it to reach the people," GJM legislator Harka Bahadur Chettri had said following the meeting attended by several top Morcha leaders.

"Gorkhaland is not in our syllabus now," Chettri had said Friday stressing the GJM's commitment of running the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration - the autonomous hill council.

Armed with more powers than its predecessor - the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council formed in the late 1980s, the GTA was created July 18, 2011 via a tripartite between the GJM and the state and central governments.

The GJM swept the GTA's maiden elections last year.

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