On Tuesday The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) sent yet another strong message to chief minister Mamata Banerjee, saying it would go to any extent to oppose the state government’s alleged meddling in the affairs of the Gorkhaland Territorial Adminstration (GTA). It’s emissaries waved black flags at north Bengal development minister Goutam Deb and even attacked his car in Kalimpong.
On Saturday, GJM chief Bimal Gurung made it clear that the time had come to take up arms against state ministers visiting the Darjeeling hills. Deb, who had gone to Darjeeling on Friday, to try and come to an agreement with the GJM, was ignored by the party and forced to return to Siliguri on Saturday without meeting the leaders.
On Tuesday, hundreds of GJM supporters in Kalimpong took to the streets with black flags, and even lay on the road and battered his car while he was on his way to Siliguri.
Deb had gone to Kalimpong as Mamata’s emissary, to meeting agitating Lepchas who have been on a fast unto death since Thursday, demanding the setting up of a Lepcha Development Council (LDC) under the state government.
He appealed to Lepcha agitators to withdraw their hunger strike and the state government would soon form the council. He also promised that the Lepcha language would soon be taught at primary schools in the Darjeeling hills.
The hunger strike under the banner of Lepcha Rights Movement was immediately lifted. More than 300 Lepchas were on a fast till death as hundreds of others were on a relay hunger strike to express their solidarity.
The GJM is opposed to the state’s decision to set up the LDC under the Bengal government, demanding that the Lepcha Development Board be set up under the GTA.
On Tuesday, Deb had a smooth ride when he reached Kalimpong, but ran into trouble on his way back, at the outskirts of Kalimpong town. However, he was unhurt inside the car and removed from the melee after a few minutes.
Later, talking to reporters, Deb said, “The incident was a minor one.” Although the minister did not blame anyone, he said that some people are trying to disturb the peace and development in the Hills. “The state government will always remain with the Hill people and continue to carry out development,” the minister said.
Binay Tamang, assistant secretary of the GJM, reiterated the party’s stand, saying, “By meddling in GTA affairs, the state government is desperate to disturb the peaceful social fabric of the hills. The GJM is not against the Lepchas but is only opposing the state’s interference in GTA affairs.”
The state government has decided to set up the LDC under the department of backward classes development, which has already been transferred to the GTA.
Lepchas are indigenous tribes of the Darjeeling hills and their population is believed to be more than one lakh.