The ongoing Gorkha Janmukti Morcha-led agitation in Darjeeling hills for a separate Gorkhaland is a ‘deep-rooted conspiracy’, supported by insurgent groups of the north east and some foreign countries, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee claimed on Saturday.
Banerjee said the kind of ‘hooliganism and vandalism’, being seen during the unrest in the hills, can only be executed if there is a ‘terrorist brain’ behind it and the Centre should extend full help to the state to contain it.
“There is a terrorist brain behind this hooliganism and vandalism. Only a terrorist and not a common man can do this. We have got clues that this has terrorist connections. They (GJM) have connections with underground insurgent groups of the north east ... I request them (insurgent groups) not to extend any support to the GJM,” Banerjee told reporters at the state secretariat.
She said the GJM was being helped by some other countries too but did not elaborate.
“What is happening today is a deep-rooted conspiracy. So many bombs and arms cannot be gathered in a day... These have been gathered for a long time.
“From where are they (GJM) are getting their support? Their advantage is it (Darjeeling) is a hill area and there are borders with other states and international borders.
“They are using the national flag for vandalism, which they cannot do. I will request the central government not to encourage them to behave like this. If anything happens to any foreigner (tourist) it will bring bad name to the country,” Banerjee said.
She said in such a scenario, the Centre and the state must start talking on the matter.
“The Centre must extend its full cooperation to us.”
Rubbishing reports of firing by the police in Darjeeling on Saturday morning, Banerjee said, “This is absolutely wrong. There was no police firing. They (GJM) started firing. They are using arms, throwing bombs and indulging in vandalism in such a way ...
“I am sorry to say it has never happened earlier that my journalists friends have been kidnapped. Their lives are in danger. They (GJM) have evacuated foreign tourists from the hotels forcefully,” she said, adding that the activists were not obeying the Calcutta high court order that the bandh is illegal.
On GJM supporters setting fire to several government offices and damaging water supply lines, the chief minister expressed concern over keeping up the supply of provisions to the hills.
“We want to feed the people and I am worried how we will provide rations to the people in the hills.”
Referring to the Central Bureau of Investigation naming senior GJM leaders in the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League leader Madan Tamang's murder, Banerjee said its chief Bimal Gurung was a ‘corrupt leader’ trying to sell off the hills and hampering the development work taken up by the state government there.
She repeatedly urged the people of the hills not to pay heed to Gurung and withdraw the indefinite bandh.
“This way (bandh and violence) they (Gorkhaland supporters) have hampered development works in the hills for the last 50 years. I request them again not to continue agitating behind a veil of false allegations. Do not listen to Bimal Gurung. He is a corrupt leader. Hill is your right, protect it. If people stop visiting the hills, how will you run your families?” she said, adding that the state government will continue with its development work in the hills.
Banerjee said that the GJM has taken to violence because its term in GTA was coming to an end.
“You (GJM) have enjoyed five-year term in the GTA. Now when the term is about to end, you have started violence because you have lost your credentials,” she said.
Referring to the agitation against alleged imposition of Bengali, she said it was only an optional subject and not mandatory and GJM was spreading rumours to misguide the people of the hills.
Asked whether the state government was open to talks with the GJM, the chief minister said, “We have discussed so many times. But, they have to withdraw the bandh first and restore normalcy. Political party can talk to any other party. The state government can talk to any government agency, but the government cannot bear hooliganism,” she said.
On whether the government is likely to arrest any GJM leader, Banerjee said, “Law will take its own course. We cannot support hooliganism, vandalism. We cannot allow them to violate the national flag.”
The state government, meanwhile, held a meeting on Saturday with chairmen and vice chairmen of 15 development boards working in the hills, which have already constituted a committee to appeal to the people to maintain peace. The chief minister, other ministers, the chief secretary, home secretary were present at the meeting held at the secretariat.
The state government will hold an all party meeting in Siliguri on June 22 for peace in the hills.
“I want peace to be restored in the hills," Banerjee said adding that Tourism Minister Goutam Deb and PWD Minister Arup Biswas will take full care of the hills.