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Kamtapuris unite in cry for statehood, line up agitation after the Pujas

Mamata Banerjee’s government is likely to face yet another excited demand for separate statehood — this time from the Kamtapuris.

Last Updated: Aug 13, 2013, 10.48 AM IST
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Mamata Banerjee’s government is likely to face yet another excited demand for separate statehood — this time from the Kamtapuris.
Mamata Banerjee’s government is likely to face yet another excited demand for separate statehood — this time from the Kamtapuris.
KOLKATA/SILIGURI: Mamata Banerjee’s government is likely to face yet another excited demand for separate statehood — this time from the Kamtapuris in the foothills of North Bengal, who have decided to launch an agitation after the Pujas. The Kamtapur People’s Party and the Kamtapur Progressive Party merged on Friday to give more teeth to the joint movement.

Kamtapuris want the state to be formed out of six North Bengal districts — Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, North and South Dinajpur and Malda — plus a few districts of lower Assam.

“We will submit a memorandum to the Jalpaiguri district magistrate on August 21 and organise a gathering in the town to press for our demand. We want the Jalpaiguri district authorities to forward our memorandum to President Pranab Mukherjee and we also want to meet him to apprise him of our demand.

If we don’t receive any response from the Centre and the state government, we will go for a movement and, in all probability , we will launch the same after the Pujas,” Kamtapur People’s Party (KPP) chief Atul Roy told ET on Monday.

The plan is to block the national highway (NH34) which connects south and north Bengal. It will also try to block roads connecting North Bengal with Sikkim, Assam and the neighbouring Bhutan. The KPP also intends to lay a blockade at important railway stations in North Bengal, finally leading to an indefinite bandh. The responsibility for leading the statehood demand has been entrusted on Roy.

While the plains hold a potential to ignite in the days ahead, the agitation in the hills is showing signs of stress. The proposed one-day relaxation of the indefinite agitation on August 15 is now being extended to three days, although Gorkha Janamukti Morcha leader HB Chetri told ET after a party meet on Monday that the agitation has now gained the support of many political parties and, therefore, it was getting a wider popularity. Of course, the Trinamool Congress, CPM or the GNLF did not attend the meeting and those that did were marginal entities like the Communist Party Revolutionary Marxist, Gorkha Parishangh or Gorkha Task Force and the hill units of the Congress and the BJP.

The West Bengal Pradesh Congress immediately disowned its presence at the meeting and said the hill unit of the party had gone without its permission. “August 13 and 14 will be Janata Curfew days as announced. We will meet again on August 16 to decide our future course of action,” Chetri said. “We will not of course picket or use force, but we know that nobody will come out of their homes” said Roshan Giri, GJM general secretary. Chetri said that nobody from the GJM will be nominated for the CEO post of the GTA, one that has fallen vacant after the resignation of Bimal Gurung.

Meanwhile, the state administration is going about its job of picking up various elements in the hills on old and new cases. Including GTA councilor Kalyan Dewan and Gorkha Nari Morcha leader Geeta Chetri, 15 people were arrested in the last 24 hours, while total arrests so far have gone past 200. Meanwhile, the CPM’s Surjya Kanta Mishra demanded that the state government should convene an all-party meeting to end the Darjeeling stalemate, even though he felt that the ultimatum given by Mamata Banerjee might add fuel to the GJM’s statehood agitation.
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