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Bengal BJP chief shown black flags in Kalimpong

IANS | Darjeeling |

West Bengal BJP President Dilip Ghosh was on Wednesday shown black flags and ‘go back posters by the Jana Andolan Party (JAP) activists in Kalimpong as he, along with a party delegation, arrived in the northern West Bengal hills for a three-day visit.

Holding posters like “Go back… No more false promises”, the protestors here questioned the Bharatiya Janata Party’s silence on the issue of Gorkhaland and asked Ghosh to either make his party’s stand clear on the demand of a separate Gorkhaland state or leave the hills.

They also questioned local MP and BJP Minister S.S. Ahluwalia’s absence from the hills during the entire period of dispute and violence in the region.

“None of their leaders set foot in the hills during the dispute. The local MP has never come here to oversee the situation,” JAP chief Harka Bahadur Chettri said.

“I wonder how they dare to come to the hills now after staying silent during the entire 104 days of shutdown? They should make their stand clear on the issue of Gorkhaland or go back from here.”

This is the first time a BJP leader entered the north Bengal hills after the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha agreed to suspend its agitation and withdraw the shutdown. Ghosh will be in Kalimpong on October 4, in Darjeeling on October 5 and later visit Sikkim for a day.

Denying the allegation, Ghosh said the BJP’s stand on the hill dispute has always been clear and blamed the West Bengal government for refusing to come to the discussion table to sort out the problems.

“Our stand has been clear from the very beginning. We believe that all the demands and disputes in the hills should be sorted out through tripartite talks,” Ghosh said.

“The hill parties have a 17-point (charter of) demands but none of that has been fulfilled by the state government so far, which forced the locals to take the path of agitation.”

“Now the people of the hills have agreed to come to the discussion table. But the state government does not want the discussion to take place. That is why the people here have been constantly under attack,” he alleged.

Ghosh thanked the people of the hills for listening to the Centre’s appeal to withdraw the shutdown and claimed that a solution to the ongoing dispute would be found once the tripartite talks take place.

“It is good that the people of the hills have listened to the Centre and withdrawn the shutdown. I think the Centre is also taking necessary initiatives. We will certainly find a solution to the hill problems if the tripartite discussions start,” the BJP leader said.

Ghosh also termed GJM chief Bimal Gurung as the undisputed leader of the hills, but said the possibility of meeting him would be remote because Gurung continued to be in hiding as several cases have been slapped against him by the state government.

“There is almost no chance that I would meet him (Gurung) as there are several cases against him. But I will meet his other leaders and representatives,” he said.

Ghosh said he might go to Sikkim for a day at the invitation of the party President from that state if time permits.

A day before Ghosh’s visit, Gurung sent out an audio message from an undisclosed location, welcoming the BJP leaders to the hills and said the party should ensure the removal of Binay Tamang from the post of chairman of Board of Administrators for Darjeeling hills, appointed by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Accusing Ghosh and his party of backing the agitation in the Darjeeling hills, state Tourism Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Gautam Deb demanded that the BJP make it clear whether they are in favour of dividing Darjeeling for creation of a separate Gorkhaland.

“The BJP has been supporting Bimal Gurung’s agitation and fuelling the unrest in Darjeeling from behind. They should clearly say whether they are in favour of dividing Darjeeling or not,” Deb said.