Morcha activists block Chawkbazar during the strike. Picture by Suman Tamang
Darjeeling, Feb. 9: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung today demanded a public apology from Mamata Banerjee “for having hurt the hill people”, the comments coming on a day the party held the first dawn-to-dusk strike in Darjeeling since the change of guard at Writers’.
“Mamata Banerjee must publicly apologise for having hurt the people of the hills,” Gurung said at Chawkbazar in Darjeeling town.
On January 29, the chief minister had said during a government programmes in the hills that “Darjeeling is a part of us”, a comment whose timing and choice of venue had come in for criticism.
No untoward incident was reported during the strike.
The immediate trigger for the Morcha chief’s comments seemed to be north Bengal development minister Gautam Deb’s presence in the hills during the strike. “He has come to Darjeeling to foil our bandh…. Time has come to wave black flags at him,” Gurung said.
Dismissing chances of talks with the government, Gurung said: “The government is hurting us every day. Our relation with the state government has been strained and it will not mend easily. In such a situation, we will not talk to the state government. We will continue our struggle for Gorkhaland.”
Deb did not step out of the government guesthouse, Richmond Hill, during the strike. In the evening, he went to Kalimpong to meet Lepchas fasting for peace. “I have come to express solidarity with the Lepchas,” he said.
Deb iterated his willingness for talks. “We are ready to talk to anyone. All issues can be resolved by sitting across the table. We want peace in the hills. Let there be development,” Deb said.
The Morcha had called the strike to protest the government’s decision to form a Lepcha development board under the backward classes welfare department.
The Morcha saw in Deb’s visit an effort to “create a divide” between the Gorkhas and the Lepchas.
Gurung today renewed his appeal to the Lepchas to call off their fast.