Darjeeling, Aug. 21: The political battle over Gorkhaland is playing itself out on Facebook, but Mamata Banerjee and Bimal Gurung have at least opened a line of communication.
A day after the chief minister accused “that political party” in a Facebook post of resorting to agitations “every six months” and said “the ongoing political gimmickry is harming everybody” and impeding the development process, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Gurung took to the social networking site to take potshots at Mamata.
The president of the Morcha, which has refused to sit for talks with the state government, said Mamata “should respect the sentiments” of the people in the hills.
“If the Chief Minister respects the hill people she should also respect the sentiments of the people of this region. The demand of Gorkhaland is an aspiration of the entire Gorkhas and other hill communities. Instead of respecting this sentiment the Chief Minister has talked of being rough and tough. Instead of respecting the sentiments the chief minister is going on a rampant arrest spree,” Gurung wrote on Facebook.
While giving a 72-hour deadline to the Morcha to end its indefinite strike earlier this month, the chief minister had threatened stern action, saying she was “rough and tough”.
Gurung, who refused to speak to reporters and said he would post his comments on Facebook, accused the government of “violating” the tripartite agreement to form the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration. “The Government has also violated the tripartite agreement as she has not withdrawn the political cases against Morcha leaders from 2007-2011.”
The Morcha chief said the government had arrested “over 600 people” in the hills in the past 20 days “in old cases”. Since July 29, when the Morcha restarted its statehood agitation, 681 people have been arrested.
“Perhaps in the history of this region this is the first time that over 600 people have been arrested in 20 days that too in old cases. Is this the respect the Chief Minister is showing to the hill people for peacefully voicing their aspirations?”
Gurung said the “the sentiments of the hill people is not a law and order problem but a political problem”. The series of steps the government has taken in the past few days to curb the agitation has made it clear that the administration was treating the issue as a law-and-order problem.
In a bid to boost the morale of the hill people, Gurung said in his Facebook post: “The state machinery can arrest as many people as possible. People are willingly going to jail but how many people can they arrest? The demand is more than 100 years old and it will be wrong of the Chief Minister to think that the aspirations of the hill people will be wiped out by merely arresting Morcha activists.”
Referring to the chief minister’s comment yesterday that “development is suffering”, the Morcha chief said: “This is not a development issue but an identity issue that the Chief Minister must understand.”
Gurung welcomed the governor’s statement yesterday that he was ready to mediate if he was asked to. “We also welcome the Governor of West Bengal’s announcement that he was ready to mediate. We hope he takes the appropriate steps as early as possible.”