Although state BJP president Dilip Ghosh today said there was no agenda of his party to create a separate state or a Union Territory for North Bengal, the party’s Member of Parliament from Alipurduar, John Barla, said a separate state or a UT is “imperative in response to people’s demand.”
According to Mr Barla, seven BJP MPs from North Bengal will raise the issue in Delhi, talk to the central government and meet West Bengal Governor and others, including the President of India on this matter. Talking to reporters in Kolkata today, Mr Ghosh said his party does not have such an agenda. “But there is a practice to blame BJP. It is propaganda of the Trinamul Congress in connivance with a section of the media,” he said.
Following media reports on the matter, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also warned yesterday that she would not allow any division of Bengal. Secretary, West Bengal State Committee, SUCI (Communist), Chandidas Bhattacharya, on the other hand, strongly condemned the “mischievous attempt” to make North Bengal a UT.
“After the BJP’s defeat in the Assembly elections, the ruling party at the Centre is conspiring to separate North Bengal from West Bengal and turn it into a separate Union Territory. We strongly condemn this attempt,” Mr Bhattacharya said. “Everyone remembers that there were several attempts to divide West Bengal in the name of Gorkhaland, which the people of West Bengal could not accept,” he added.
Sources, however, said Mr Barla’s statements are “significant.” “It is just an initiation to raise the issue of a separate state based on the demand of the people belonging to four communities in this region,” a source said. On the other hand, a political observer said that as the BJP failed to come to power in Bengal, it can make plans to rule the northern part of Bengal, if it is a separate state, because several BJP MLAs have been elected from this region.
Asked to comment on the issue, Mr Barla said today: “North Bengal is still lagging behind. There is no real development. Though the CM is claiming that she has done a lot, workers in closed tea gardens are deprived of ration since they supported the BJP in the last Assembly elections. Hundreds of people have fled after the election results and they are still out of their homes. Local TMC leaders are demanding huge money from them for their return.”
“A section of the people has been demanding Gorkhaland. Similarly, another section has been demanding a separate Kamtapur state. Rajbanshi people are demanding a Greater Cooch Behar. The demand for Sixth Schedule status is still on. People belonging to other communities like Rava are struggling for their existence. Mamata Banerjee has not yet fulfilled people’s real demands and development. So I decided to raise the people’s voice as an MP and will raise it in an appropriate platform,” Mr Barla said.
Significantly, according to BJP’s Darjeeling MP Raju Bista, the “discrimination” meted out against North Bengal was not hidden from anyone.
“Whatever little development has happened in West Bengal has been South Bengal-centric. Despite North Bengal contributing a huge chunk of revenue, only a fraction is invested here. Our people living in tea gardens, cinchona gardens, forest villages, DI Fund land are yet to get their right to Parja Patta, the tea garden and cinchona garden workers have been denied fair wages for generations. Be it Congress, CPIM or TMC, all of these political parties have discriminated against the north,” he said today.
“Our education system is in a shambles, and we don’t have enough qualified teachers, while our school buildings are in disrepair. There is not a single specialty or super specialty hospital in the North. The AIIMS meant for North Bengal was taken to South by the TMC. There are hundreds of villages yet to be connected by roads, there is connectivity and network problems, acute drinking water crisis, lack of waste management and sewerage in all cities in the North.
People here feel abandoned by the TMC government,” Mr Bista, who is also the BJP’s national spokesperson, claimed. Meanwhile, the entire issue drew sharp reaction from the ruling TMC, with party Supremo Mamata Banerjee stating that she would not allow any part of Bengal to “lose its freedom and be dependant on New Delhi.”
“They should be ashamed after their humiliating loss in the elections but, instead, they are trying to divide Bengal. In whose interest are they trying to split Bengal?” PTI quoted Miss Banerjee as saying. According to the news agency, she argued that formation of a UT takes away people’s rights as it denies them of the benefits of statehood.
“I will not allow anyone to divide Bengal. UT means being at the mercy of New Delhi and losing all freedom. But I will not allow North Bengal or any other part of Bengal to lose its freedom and become dependent on New Delhi,” she said. CPIM leader Sujan Chakraborty also said “any attempt to divide Bengal again, after the 1947 partition, will be fought and opposed by the left tooth and nail,” according to the PTI. While blaming BJP for coming up with the idea to divide Bengal, Chakraborty told PTI, “The TMC supremo should also keep in mind that separatist forces like Kamtapuris, pro-Gorkhaland outfits should not be kept in good humour by her party.”