Chief minister Mamata Banerjee is trying every trick in the book to douse the fire in the Darjeeling Hills.
Apart from sending feelers to the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha to find out whether it would be open to the idea of greater autonomy under the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), the Trinamool Congress is preparing a political push to either convince or corner the GJM in the Hills.
Mamata is sending Trinamool all-India general secretary Mukul Roy to Siliguri on Friday to devise a way of resolving the crisis and wresting the initiative back from GJM.
Fresh from her landslide victory in the rural polls, the chief minister is in no mood to relent on the separate statehood issue.
“We will solve the problem. We’re ready to talk about more powers for the GTA, as well as solve problems in its day-today activities. We’ll also move politically. We’re in touch with our leaders in the Hills and will build up public opinion against the division of the state in the plains as well,” North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb told HindustanTimes.
“Dividing the state or even forming a Union Territory is unacceptable. Other than this, we’re ready to talk about anything under the sun,” he added.
But, so far, the GJM leadership is sticking with its singlepoint agenda of Gorkhaland.
“We can talk, but only about Gorkhaland. But we are for peaceful protests and want all political parties to heed our legitimate demand for a separate state,” GJM secretary Roshan Giri said.
Roy is expected to spend two days in Siliguri and hold parleys with the leaders of various organisations and factions in Darjeeling and its surrounding areas.
Sources revealed that the ruling party had arranged elaborate security in the Hills, including the deployment of central forces. On the other hand, the Trinamool is also trying to persuade a moderate faction of the GJM to sit for talks and refrain from violence.
The Trinamool will also try to rally tribal interests and other factions, including Nepalese, Bhutanese and Lepchas in the Dooars and Kalchini regions, against the division of Bengal.
Wilson Champamari, a tribal leader who joined the Trinamool, has already been made chairman of a task force to oversee tribal development in the area, while the party also has a good relationship with John Barla, a Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader who was formerly with the Adivasi Bikas Parishad.
The larger strategy involves a series of meetings throughout the state to highlight the issue of division, while pushing the line that the Congress is instigating the GJM to pursue the path of violence. The Trinamool believes that the GJM helped the Congress to do well in a number of seats in Kalchini, the Dooars, Dabgram-Fulbari and other areas of Jalpaiguri in the recently concluded panchayat polls.