As the sensational demand made by some BJP MPs for carving out a Union Territory in North Bengal leaves two sets of people, organizations and political platforms, those for it and those against it, a noted historian has said that any such “childish” move to divide Bengal would invite grave turmoil in the region.
While a section of people associated with different organisations and political platforms have indirectly supported Alipurduar MP John Barla’s demand of a separate North Bengal state or Union Territory for this region on the issue of deprivation as well as lack of national security in the region, several other groups have decided to oppose the demand.
As former state tourism minister and senior Trinamul Congress leader Gautam Deb tweeted a report published in The Statesman titled “Despite row, Barla sticks to N Bengal UT stance,” a historian in North Bengal, Ananda Gopal Ghosh, said that if political leaders try to separate North Bengal “childishly,” its consequences could be “terrible.”
Notably, Mr Deb has tweeted: “Such atrocious comments from (BJP) leaders, who are rarely seen on ground, simply re-establishes the fact that BJP is nothing but an anti- people’s party.” “Time for BJP leaders to think beyond divisive politics because Bengal stands united,” he added. Asked to comment today, Dr Ghosh said: “Many days ago, I had thought of a separate state of North Bengal.
But the present situation has changed. Who are demanding a separate state raising the issue of deprivation, they will have to substantiate it by furnishing data. Where is the data?” “What does South Bengalcentric development mean? Are Purulia Bankura or Jangal Mahal better off than North Bengal districts, where there are five universities and four medical colleges and several development boards and academies to meet the ethnic crises. There is no need for a separate state,” he added.
“If political leaders try to separate North Bengal childishly, its consequences, however, can be terrible. As North Bengal is connected with different countries, the decision to form a separate state is not a child’s play,” Dr Ghosh said.
Speaking in a discussion programme organised by The Himal World, a popular news portal in North Bengal, Alipurduar MP John Barla yesterday kept on arguing in favour of a separate North Bengal state, “as demanded by different organisations since the past many days.” Backing up his proposal for a separate North Bengal state or UT, the tribal leader, Mr Barla, raised questions on national security centering the ‘chicken neck’ region, “continuous atrocities” and post-election violence, and “non-cooperation of the state administration” in implementing development programmes from the MP’s local area development fund.
However, in the discussion programme, Mr Barla’s arch rival, Birsa Tirkey, the president of the Akhil Bhartiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad (ABAVP), countered arguments of Mr Barla. Interestingly, Mr Tirkey, who is close to the Trinamul Congress now, highlighted the present development programmes of the state government for the Adivasi people of North Bengal and said: “There is no need to separate North Bengal from the West Bengal map.”
Notably, Mr Birsa was dead against the demand for Gorkhaland as the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha under the leadership of Bimal Gurung started a movement for a separate state, comprising the Terai and Dooars region. Significantly, chief of the Greater Cooch Behar People’s Party (GCPA), Banshi Badan Barman, indirectly supported the demand for a separate state. “On the basis of a merger agreement inked on 12 September 1949, Cooch Behar was categorized as Class ‘C’ state, and it covers almost the whole of North Bengal, except a few places, including Malda.
So we don’t have objection to the separation of North Bengal. But we think if it is executed in the name of North Bengal state, the son of the soil will be deprived and outsiders will rule the new state.” Notably, Kamtapur People’s Party, during it movement for a separate state, had demanded a large part of Malda district. Recently, after the poll results, a video purportedly released by the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation, has gone viral, highlighting Ananta Maharaj, who was, according to sources, close to the BJP.
In the video, a purported KLO leader not only criticizes the former chief ministers, Jyoti Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, but also the present CM, Mamata Banerjee. Very interestingly, speaking in The Himal World discussion programme, Sandeep Limbu, a representative of the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), an alliance partner of the BJP, also indirectly supported the ‘proposed’ North Bengal state, but stressed on the need to execute a ‘Permanent Political Solution’ for the Hills and adjoining areas, something that the BJP has long promised for the Gorkhas.
However, Prakash Gurung, a representative of the GJMM, Bimal Gurung faction, vehemently criticised it’s former alliance partner, the BJP, and said the party had not fulfill its commitments. “Now the new idea of a separate state is nothing but to dilute the hundred years’ demand for Gorkhaland,” he said.