Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has rushed North Bengal development minister Goutam Deb to pacify Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung, hours before GJM’s 12-hour bandh begins on Saturday.Deb is likely to meet Gurung either late on Friday night or on Saturday morning with a conciliatory message from Mamata.
Before leaving for Darjeeling, Deb told the media that problems in the Hills could be solved by talks, giving a hint that the state government is ready for reconciliation over the dispute that cropped up after it decided to set up the Lepcha Development Council.
Speaking to the media, Deb said, “There is no hidden agenda in the state government’s decision to set up the Lepcha Development Council.” The GJM was always opposed to the state government’s move to set up a Lepcha council.
The GJM wants a Lepcha Development Board instead of a council, which will be set up under the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration. The GTA had already decided to set up a Lepcha Development Board 2 months ago,
According to Gurung, people in the Hills are angry with the government and it would be difficult for the state government to douse the fire.
On Friday, addressing a martyrs day programme at Sipchu in the Dooars where three GJM supporters were killed two years back, Gurung said, “The state government by deciding to set up the Lepcha Development Council has done injustice to the GTA and the Hills people. If the state government meddles everywhere in the Hills then what was the need to set up the GTA.”
Asking hill people to get ready for an intensified movement, Gurung indicated that he might resign as the chief executive of the GTA on February 17.
According to him, lakhs will turn up at the GJM’s meeting in Kalimpong to protest against the state government’s ‘divide and rule’ policy.
He also said that the GJM and the GTA has nothing against the Lepchas but is only opposing the state government’s interference in the Hills. A GJM team also met representatives of Lepcha Rights Movement who are on a fast till death in Kalimpong from Thursday.
Meanwhile, travel and tour operators of North Bengal have demanded that tourism be declared as emergency service and be kept out of the purview of the bandh.
The GJM’s 12-hour-long strike on Saturday is likely to paralyse Darjeeling hills and Sikkim as the party has decided to strictly impose the bandh along the National Highway 31A between Sevoke and Rangpo, which falls under Kalimpong sub-division of Darjeeling district. Locals have lately been living in fear of a fresh spell of unrest in the Hills.