The usual “Mamata Banerjee Zindabad” was replaced by Matanchi Rangkup.
Achuley (hail the children of God) as chief Minister Mamata Banerjee arrived to a ghar bhi tra janta (Public inside homes) called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM.)
Only the Lepchas lined both sides of the Reshi Road to welcome the chief minister.
The chief minister’s trip to Kalimpong witnessed a marked difference with the residents of the town missing owing to the GJM diktat of staying indoors.
The 14km stretch from the National Highway 31A to Kalimpong town was lined with security personnel and groups of Lepchas, an indigenous tribe of this region, dressed in traditional attire, waiting to welcome her along with the Hill TMC supporters.
At around 5pm the CM’s cavalcade arrived amidst a wild frenzy of “Achuley.” The chief minister got down from her white SUV a number of times to accept the “Khadas” (traditional scarves) from the Lepchas and exchange greetings.
Braving both the GJM diktat and the steady drizzle the Lepchas had turned out in good numbers to welcome their “Kingchum Daarmit” (Goddess of Fortune) an honorary title that Mamata will be conferred at the Mela Ground in Kalimpong on Tuesday for playing the pivotal role in the formation of the Lepcha Development Board.
Both the board and the felicitation of the chief minister has not gone down well with the GJM at the time when the Hills are in the grip of an agitation and an indefinite bandh in demand of Gorkhaland. The GJM has alleged that the state has embarked on a divide and rule policy playing the Lepcha card.
However, the Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association (ILTA) has claimed that the board would in no way be a deterrent to the formation of Gorkhaland.
They further claim that though being the indigenous tribe of this region, the Lepchas were neither consulted nor represented during the formation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) in 1988 and later the present Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).
ILTA claims that there are around one lakh Lepchas in the Darjeeling district.
Whatever discomfort the closed shutters caused the CM was made up by quite a large turnout of the Lepcha populace.
The CM headed straight for the Circuit House in Kalimpong where she held a series of administrative meetings.
After the meeting, North Bengal development minister Goutam Deb visited the Mela Ground where Mamata will be felicitated at 11:30am.
Talking to HT, Deb said the month long bandh has emerged as a major deterrent to normalcy, peace and development in this region.
“Nowhere in India do children in the age group of 12 take part in rallies. People are slowly rising up against the bandh in demand of normalcy,” he added.
The minister added that the law would take its own course and that the state would ensure normalcy in the Hills.