Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has called for talks with the leaders of statehood movement in Darjeeling, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha claimed in a statement today. The talks are meant to ease the unrest in the hills which started after Gorkha leader Bimal Gurung surfaced in Kolkata last month.
In a statement, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha or GJM — the organisation spearheading the Gorkhaland movement — said its leader Binoy Tamang has been invited for talks on November 3.
The return of Mr Gurung, wanted by the Bengal police, has spread unease in the hills. The former leader of the GJM had gone underground in September 2017 after a policeman was killed in a clash, allegedly with his supporters. He was charged in several cases, including under the tough anti-terror law UAPA.
His return and his switch of loyalty from NDA to Trinamool Congress have triggered opposition questions about escalation of the statehood movement in the hills and the political motives of Mamata Banerjee. The BJP and the Congress have asked if the Chief Minister is ceding Gorkhaland.
A possible division of the state — divided first during the British rule and then during Independence – is an emotive issue in Bengal. Mamata Banerjee has vowed not to allow it a third time.
The matter is expected to get a political spin ahead of next year’s elections in the state.
Bengal BJP’s Sayantan Bose has questioned Mamata Banerjee’s plans when the BJP and the Prime Minister had not conceded to the Gorkhaland demand, “Does it mean that, to stay in power, Mamata Banerjee has decided to divide Bengal?” asked Mr Bose.
In the press release he cited, Mr Gurung had said that he wished to see Mamata Banerjee as Chief Minister again and “will do my best to get her all the seats in North Bengal in the 2021 elections”.
“In the Three years I have been in Delhi, I have seen the BJP. They have not kept any of their promises to us. Mamata Banerjee has always kept her commitment so I want to join her in 2021,” the statement read.
The Gorkhaland movement, started by Subhash Ghising in the 1980s, flared up in 2017 after Mamata Banerjee had made Bengali compulsory in government schools. The area saw vehement protests and an indefinite shutdown that lasted more than 100 days. In October 2017, a police search party that raided a GJM hideout inside the Tukvar forest, were allegedly fired upon. Police said sub-inspector Amitabha Malik was killed and four police personnel were severely injured.