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CPI-M to use development to counter separatists

Pradip Kumar Chakraborty in Kolkata | August 29, 2005 11:41 IST

West Bengal's ruling Left Front major Communist Party of India-Marxist plans to counter separatist groups in northern part of the state by drawing up a blueprint for development of the region.

The state government is planning a string of development projects in the three North Bengal districts of Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling, coupled with action against the outfits.

"We have asked party district secretaries to draft the outline of the development work to be taken up in their areas. They will prepare the blueprints and carry out the projects.

Development will be our weapon against separatist forces," said CPI-M State Secretary Anil Biswas.

At a recent meeting with district secretariat members from the three districts, CPI-M state secretariat members, including Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacherjee, drafted a plan to counter Maoists, Kamtapuris and those asking for separate states with development.

The serial blasts in Bangladesh have strengthened the CPI-M's case for tightening security along the borders, from Nepal to Bangladesh, as also to step up development.

The Kamatapur Liberation Organisation is demanding a separate homeland for original settlers of Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar.

The KLO has been active mostly in North Bengal. But after the crackdown by the governments of Bhutan and West Bengal, their main leaders, including Jiban Singha, have shifted their base to Bangladesh.

The chief minister had raised this issue with Bangladesh Foreign Minister Morshed Khan and provided him Singha's Dhaka address and phone number.

The Bangladesh foreign minister, however, pleaded ignorance of the presence of Singha in Dhaka.

The Greater Cooch Behar movement has also surfaced, demanding a separate state.

"We have asked our key party members in the districts to identify areas where development work can be carried out... The final discussion will take place at the CPI-M state committee meeting," Biswas said.

A blueprint of the projects is being worked out taking into account core sectors like agriculture, education and industry.

Observers feel CPI-M's move to counter separatist groups and the Maoists also reflect the party's desperation to retain its support base these groups are trying to dent.

CPI-M is rather on the defensive in fighting separatist forces and the Maoists as its credibility for fighting for the poor is questioned after its failure to address to problems in backward North and South Bengal districts even after ruling for a record 28 years.

The main propaganda plank of these outfits is failure of the Left Front government to pull the people out of abject poverty.

The KLO has been trying to thrive on poverty in North Bengal while the Maoists have penetrated into the rural belt of the most backward districts of South Bengal.

In the tea plantations in North Bengal, CPI-M's the party's image has suffered badly in recent times.

"The target of attack of all these separatist forces is our party and its workers. These divisive activities are dangerous for democratic people. Therefore we have planned to launch movements in the three districts against these divisive forces," Biswas said.

Although the Gorkha National Liberation Front in Darjeeling was not officially described as a separatist force, it was apparent that CPI-M is not taking GNLF chief Subhas Ghising lightly, particularly in view of demand for Gorkha state raised by him. The CPI-M has failed to penetrate the support base of GNLF leader in Darjeeling hills.

"Attempts are being made to whip up separatist activities in Darjeeling by creating a rift between the people of plain and hill areas," Biswas said.

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