With competing political interests in Darjeeling hills, contiguous terrain and the Dooars each raising their own demands, the Bengal Government seems to have landed in a Catch-22 situation of sorts, according to North Bengal Trinamool Congress leaders.
Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has said they will never allow the new Gorkhaland Territorial Authority (GTA) to function under the North Bengal Development Council (NBDC). Pressure groups like Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad, which dominate politics in the neighbouring plains, have threatened to launch a fresh stir if a single mouja from the plains is ceded to the GTA.
On the other hand, GJM has reminded that there will be no GTA without the Gorkha-majority areas they have demanded from the plains. “We have told Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in no uncertain terms that the GJM will not accept function of the GTA under NBDC as our priorities are very different from that of the council,” senior GJM leader Roshan Giri said.
NBDC has been formed by the Chief Minister under the chairmanship of the North Bengal Development Minister Gautam Deb. Giri said the basic difference in ethnicity, economy, surroundings and needs of the people of the two areas “makes it imperative for the two bodies to function independent of each other”.
“We want to be in direct contact with the Writers’ Buildings and will not work through any via-media as that will hinder the development of the Hills,” said another senior leader, adding, “The people of the Hills want their pride to be restored and working under NBDC will hit the pride of the Gorkhas.”
On another note, Trinamool Congress’ frontal organisations in the tea belt of Dooars complained they had to face awkward questions from local groups — including tribals and Bengalis — who were against ceding lands from the plains to GTA.
“Locals resent the idea of including moujas from the Dooars and terrain into the GTA. They want a clear answer from the Government whether their area would go into the GTA,” said a North Bengal Trinamool leader from Alipurduar. The leader added that the party had recently suffered in terms of popularity in the tea belt, as also among Bengalis, who constitute about 50 per cent of the local population.
Even former RSP MP Joachim Buxla, who has joined the Trinamool, said people were asking awkward questions regarding Trinamool’s role in giving away the Dooars lands to the GTA. “CITU and INTUC are taking advantage of this and gradually staging a re-entry in the tea belt,” Buxla said.