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Clamour for Gorkhaland grows strong

Darjeeling, July 31, 2013 DHNS : 2:38 IST
The nod to carve out Telangana from Andhra Pradesh has intensified the debate over Gorkhaland, with the West Bengal government and the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) resorting to rhetorics on Wednesday.

While the GJM announced an indefinite strike from Saturday and asked tourists and students to leave by then, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee categorically stated that Darjeeling will continue to be an integral part of Bengal. “We will remain united,” she said, expressing displeasure over GJM chief Bimal Gurung’s decision to resign from the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA).

“We accepted his letter. He’s free to resign but the law will take its own course. We are not dissolving the GTA. It was set up through a democratic process last year and it will continue to function as it is. Anyone can resign in the middle of the process but that will not change things,” she told reporters at the state secretariat.

Banerjee further said a number of projects are in the pipeline for Darjeeling and adjoining areas, including power plants, roads, helicopter services and drinking water. Gurung sent his resignation letter to Governor M K Narayanan on Tuesday, which the latter forwarded to the chief minister’s office. The GTA was formally set up last year as an autonomous administrative region through elections.

“The situation turned this way because some central minsters have been calling the GJM leaders to Delhi and promising to turn Darjeeling into a Union Territory,” Banerjee alleged.

“Telangana was part of the Congress manifesto five years ago but they raised the issue only before the Lok Sabha polls. I condemn the attitude of trying to break the nation into pieces.”

GJM spokesperson Hadka Bahadur Chhetri, however, said: “It’s part of the GTA treaty that when the Centre discusses statehood, Gorkhaland will be considered.” While Gurung sat with party leaders to prepare a roadmap for future action, GJM general secretary Roshan Giri announced that tourists and students will have to leave the area by Saturday.

The hill resort is known for its public schools dating back to the British rule. With 45 residential schools having around 20,000 students, school authorities feel that two days are not enough.

Meanwhile, the three-day GJM strike continued to affect movement of vehicles as the GJM supporters tried to block the National Highway-31, which connects Bengal and Sikkim. A large numbers of police and paramilitary personnel have been deployed to keep national highways clear and prevent untoward incidents.

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