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New South Bengal districts: Discontent in North Bengal

Political parties and various other organisations alike in this region have expressed their unhappiness over Miss Banerjee’s decision to carve out new districts only in South Bengal.

MANAS R BANNERJEE | Kolkata |

Amid massive criticism over the alleged teachers’ recruitment scam, following the arrest of industry minister and former education minister Partha Chatterjee by the Enforcement Directorate, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee yesterday announced formation of seven new districts only in South Bengal, a development that has thrown up another controversy in North Bengal. Political parties and various other organisations alike in this region have expressed their unhappiness over Miss Banerjee’s decision to carve out new districts only in South Bengal. While people took to social media to vent their dissatisfaction immediately after the announcement yesterday, the BJP today publicly criticised the same during a protest programme in front of the North Bengal University against alleged corruption in the education sector.

Siliguri organisational district BJP president Anandamoy Barman today came down heavily on what he said was deprivation of the people of North Bengal, where a demand for a separate Siliguri district has been a longstanding one of many people. “We have been demanding three more districts in North Bengal at present. Besides Siliguri, we demand a separate Islampur district by bifurcating North Dinajpur and another district in Malda where there are two Lok Sabha seats,” Mr Barman said. Significantly, addressing reporters today, Mr Barman did not hesitate to raise the sentiment of North Bengal for a “separate administrative setup” for this region. On the other hand, general secretary of the North Bengal People’s Party (NBPP) Animesh Chakraborty criticised the state government’s decision to create seven more districts in South Bengal from the administrative point of view.

“The state government has created new districts from the administrative point of view in places where the people have not demanded them. But people of North Bengal have been demanding an Islampur district as well as separate Siliguri district since more than a decade,” Mr Chakraborty said, adding, “We would launch an agitation, involving the people of Islampur and Siliguri.” Mr Chakraborty also said that the ruling Trinamool Congress has not paid attention to Abdul Karim Chowdhury’s demand for a separate district. Ratan Banik,a leader of the Brihattar Siliguri Nagarik Mancha (BSNM), which has been demanding a Siliguri district, written on his Facebook, “Again, Siliguri has not been considered as a district.”

According to a senior administrative official, the state government is in no position to consider Siliguri as a separate district because “Darjeeling as a district will lose its existence.” Notably, former president of the BSNM, Sunil Kumar Sarkar, who passed away only a few days ago, had told The Statesman recently: “We are fighting for a Metropolitan Magistrate Court (MMC) since 2012. BSNM has been demanding a separate Siliguri district and MMC for reforms in both administration and judiciary after the state has set up a Metropolitan Police Commissionerate.”

Reacting to the CM’s announcement of the seven new districts, one Usuf Ali today staged a protest at Chopra in North Dinajpur and threatened to continue his agitation, demanding a separate Islampur district. Mr Ali has been demanding a separate Islampur district for over a decade now. On the other hand, anti-TMC political parties in Murshidabad have started criticising the CM for abolishing the historical name, Murshidabad, and dividing it into three districts.