Kalimpong (West Bengal), July 13: As the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) secured an absolute majority in the proposed Darjeeling hills governing body Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) even before the scheduled poll date, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Friday stressed on peace and democracy in the region.
Speaking at the birth anniversary celebration of Nepali poet Bhanubhakta in this sub-divisional hill town of Darjeeling district, Banerjee also called for unity between the people residing in the state’s hills and plains.
“Without Darjeeling, West Bengal cannot remain in peace. It is easy to politicise and divide and rule, but not easy to unite,” the chief minister said as she dwelt on the theme of unity.
The long-standing agitation on the demand for forming a separate state out of the northern West Bengal hills has led to loss of many lives over the past two decades, besides hitting hard the region’s economic mainstays of tea, timber and tourism.
On July 18 last year, a tripartite agreement was signed between the GJM, and the state and central governments for setting up a new autonomous, elected GTA, a hill council armed with more powers than its predecessor, the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) formed in the late 1980s.
The elections to the 45 GTA seats are scheduled for July 29.
However, the GJM has already won an absolute majority having bagged 28 seats uncontested, after candidates of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and independents withdrew from the fray accusing the GJM of letting loose a reign of terror.
Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress would take on the GJM in the remaining 17 constituencies.
The chief minister said her government would ensure that the development of the region was not affected.
She claimed that her visit to the hills did not have any political angle. “I have not even campaigned for my party candidates. We will not come here to take your land, or do business here, leave alone politics”.
Banerjee said year-long celebrations will be held by the state government to mark-the bi-centennial birth anniversary of the Nepali poet.