Kolkata, Dec 6 (PTI) A BJP MLA from Kurseong has written to party president J P Nadda, seeking separation of Darjeeling from West Bengal, months after a similar demand made by the saffron camp’s Alipurduar MP John Barla had stirred a hornet’s nest in the state.
Bishnu Prasad Sharma, in his letter, sought to remind Nadda of the top leadership’s promise of finding a permanent political solution for the Hills.
Barla had demanded a union territory for north Bengal districts earlier in the year, sparking a debate in the state, with the ruling TMC accusing the saffron camp of fanning separatism.
Sharma, on his part, claimed people of the Hills, which witnessed several violent movements over statehood, don’t want to be a part of West Bengal.
“Yes, I have written to our party’s national president requesting him to honour the promise of a permanent political solution made during 2019 Lok Sabha polls and the 2021 assembly polls. It is because of that promise, people of the Hills have voted for the BJP since 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
“For them, a permanent political solution means freedom from the clutches of West Bengal — be it in the form of a separate state or a union territory,” Sharma told PTI on Monday.
Asked if the state BJP leaders are on the same page as him, Sharma said the demand had nothing to do with the party’s Bengal unit.
“The state government, the Centre, and stakeholders of the hills have to sit and decide what could be done. And I have written to our national president in this context,” he said.
The ruling TMC, however, ruled out the possibility of separating Darjeeling from Bengal, calling the MLA’s proposition as “insane and unreal”.
“There is no question of dividing Bengal. The BJP has been trying to fan separatism and plotting bifurcation of Bengal for political reasons. But we will never allow that to happen,” state parliamentary affairs minister Partha Chatterjee said.
Echoing him, TMC leader Krishanu Mitra wondered whether the Bengal BJP supports Sharma’s views.
“Does the @BJP4Bengalleadership support its MLA from Kurseong, Bishnu Prasad Sharma’s demand for the disintegration of West Bengal and creation of a separate state? If not, then will the BJP expel him? @KunalGhoshAgain,” Mitra tweeted.
The West Bengal BJP leadership refused to comment on the matter but maintained that it was against any division of the state.
“We are not aware of any letter, but we are against any division of the state,” a BJP leader said.
The demand for Gorkhaland was first made in the 1980s, with the Subhas Ghisingh-led GNLF launching a violent agitation in 1986, which dragged on for 43 days, resulting in the deaths of hundreds.
The movement led to the formation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council in 1988.
After the TMC took over the reins of Bengal in 2011, the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) was formed with GJM supremo Bimal Gurung as its chief. But peace was short-lived in the region as Gurung rekindled the agitation in support of Gorkhaland in 2013 and engineered a 104-day-long strike in 2017, accusing the TMC government of trying to “wipe out” Gorkha identity.
The issue of separate statehood of North Bengal was raised again by Barla in June this year as he sought the creation of a union territory.
In the month that followed, Barla was inducted in the Union ministry as MoS for minority affairs.
With its eight districts, including picturesque Darjeeling, North Bengal is economically and strategically important for West Bengal as it houses the money-minting tea, timber, and tourism industries, besides accommodating the Siliguri corridor, commonly known as ‘chicken neck’, which connects the mainland with the northeastern states.
The region that shares international borders with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh has witnessed several violent statehood movements since the early eighties by various ethnic groups such as Gorkhas, Rajbanshis, Koch and Kamatapuri communities.
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