Darjeeling impasse: Centre ready for talks, Mamata isn’t, says Bengal BJP president
Mamata Banerjee is not interested in tripartite talks on the Darjeeling crisis and wants to brand hill party leaders as terrorists, Dilip Ghosh alleged on Wednesday even as he was shown black flag by hill people.
Had chief minister Mamata Banerjee agreed to sit for talks, the NDA Government would have ended the impasse in Darjeeling hills long ago, Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said in Kalimpong on Wednesday as he set out on a three-day tour of the north Bengal hills.
“The chief minister is keen to project the agitators as anti-nationals. She slapped cases under anti-terror law after a couple of explosions. Bombs go off every day in every district of Bengal but anti-terror law is not applied anywhere,” said Ghosh. Interestingly, he did not name the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and its chief Bimal Gurung who, along with top leaders of the party, have been booked under sections of the anti-terror law, UA(P)A.
With the Bengal government backing expelled GJM leaders Benoy Tamang and Anit Thapa and putting them in charge of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), it became apparent that rival factions in Darjeeling’s largest political force are being supported by the Trinamool and BJP. “Dilip Ghosh is here to offer support to the trouble makers,” quipped Trinamool district president and tourism minister Gautam Deb.
Black flags and “go back” slogans from workers of GJM and other parties demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland greeted Ghosh and other BJP leaders when they reached New Jalpaiguri station on Wednesday morning and proceeded to the hills. The absence of S S Ahluwalia, the BJP Lok Sabha MP from Darjeeling, added to the grievance of the people. “Why have these shameless people come here now? They did nothing when we cried for help,” said Harka Bahadur Chhetri, president of the Jan Andolan Party.
Ghosh brushed aside allegations that the Centre did nothing to address the demand for statehood. “It was the Atal Behari Vajpayee government that brought the Couvery water dispute to an end. The Narendra Modi government solved the problem posed by enclaves along the Indo-Bangladesh border. The Centre wants to solve the Darjeeling crisis. But it can’t be done unless the state government takes part in the process,” Ghosh said in Kalimpong later in the day.
Ghosh is the first BJP leader to visit the north Bengal hills after a record 104-day-long bandh organised by 17 hill parties and organisations was called off on September 26. The shutdown was lifted by GJM after Union home minister Rajnath Singh issued a statement last week saying he had instructed the Union home secretary to hold talks on “all related issues” on the Darjeeling impasse. In the statement, Singh urged Gurung to restore normalcy.
“I have asked the home secretary to convene an official level meeting in the home ministry within a fortnight to discuss all related issues,” said the statement on September 27 paving the way for tripartite talks on the vexed question.
Since Rajnath Singh did not mention the statehood issue in his statement, Ghosh, too, kept silent on the demand for Gorkhaland. “The Centre is ready to hold talks on all issues and the state has to take part in it as well. But Mamata Banerjee has refused to participate in any discussion,” he claimed.
During his tour Ghosh will be meeting BJP workers in Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong and other places. He may visit Sikkim as well. Asked whether he would meet Bimal Gurung, the BJP state president said, “He is in hiding. I don’t know whether he can meet anyone. I have not come to meet anyone in particular. But if someone wants to talk to me, I am ready.”