Even as Darjeeling is in turmoil with the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) paralyzing normal life in the hills, several parties met in Midnpore town on Friday to launch a movement for a ‘Greater Jharkhand’ state.
The parties that met in Midnapore are Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Jharkhand Party (Naren), Jharkhand Bikash Morcha, Jharkhand Anushilan Party, Jharkhand Disham Party and All Jharkhand Students Union. Significantly, all these parties are based in Bengal.
Their principal demand is that the districts of Purulia, West Midnapore and Bankura – the districts that comprise jangalmahal in popular parlance – should be merged with Jharkhand. The parties would visit New Delhi later this month to place their demand.
“We demand that a state should be made keeping the culture and the people of the area in mind. Our culture and traditions are the same as those of the Jharkhand state. This is a common agenda of all the Jharkhand parites, and therefore, we decided to start the movement in a democratic way, by forming a forum,” said Chunibala Hansda, leader of Jharkhand Party (Naren) and chief guest of the meeting.
It was clear that the centre’s decision to grant statehood to Telengana and the launch of GJM’s movement to realize Gorkhaland was a trigger for the proposed struggle.
This new demand is supposed to create more headaches for the Mamata Banerjee government that is already trying to contain the GJM demand for a separate state.
The districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia hold immense significance as these form the hotbed of Maoist activists since 2008.
Two other movements demanding Kamtapur and Greater Cooch Behar are also simmering in North Bengal. If the demand for Greater Jharkhand gathers steam, it would also mean the opening up of a new geographical frontier for the embattled state government.
Mamata has already asserted that she will not allow slicing out Darjeeling from Bengal at any cost. It is expected she will adopt a similar hardline towards Greater Jharkhand too.
“This is not a new issue and was first raised in 1956. But now we are going to set up a united forum to launch a bigger movement. On August 28 we will place our demand after meeting the President, prime minister and home minister,” Ajit Mahato, a Jharkhand Bikash Morcha leader and convener of the forum, told HT.
“We want Greater Jharkhand state to save our culture, because it will not survive in Bengal. The Bengali culture has been imposed on us. So we want Greater Jharkhand now,” said Ajit Mahato.
The issue of saving the tribal culture from the grip of Bengali ‘cultural oppression’ is also likely to touch a raw nerve with the chief minister who has taken personal interest to announce measures such as teaching alchiki language in jangalmahal school.
She has also announced the setting up of Sidho Kanu Birsha University in Purulia and Bankura district where graduation courses in alchiki language will be introduced.
The forum also demanded that the State Reorganising Committee (SRC) should be formed in a new way and the commission would take the necessary steps to recognize their demand.