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Hill poet anniversary jab at CM

Darjeeling, July 13: A promise made by the chief minister three summers ago that stayed unfulfilled today bared the change in relations between the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the state government.

The Morcha wasted no time in pointing out that Mamata Banerjee had not kept her promise of a state-wide celebration of Adi Kavi Bhanu Bhakta Acharya’s 200th birth anniversary that was today.

In 2011, two months after Mamata Banerjee came to power in Bengal, she sent an emissary to Darjeeling on the 197th birth anniversary of Bhanu Bhakta, whom hill people revere.

In the letter that theatre personality Bibhash Chakraborty brought to Darjeeling on July 13, 2011, Mamata had written: “I am pleased to announce that the 200th birth anniversary of Bhanu Bhakta in 2014 will be celebrated in the state with due respect and enthusiasm.”

Exactly a year later, Mamata herself went to Kalimpong in July 2013 and garlanded a picture of the Adi Kavi. Her relations with the Morcha were good then and there was hope in the region with the new set-up of the GTA about to take charge.

“I couldn’t come last time on this occasion but had sent my representative. This time I planned my North Bengal tour in such a way that I can be here on this occasion,” Mamata said at the event.

“We just finished year-long celebrations of 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore and we are celebrating 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. I want the birth anniversary of noted Nepali poet Bhanu Bhakta Acharya… in a similar manner and I assure you we will celebrate at all the block levels,” she said.

Today, on the 200th birth anniversary of Bhanu Bhakta, Morcha leader and GTA Sabha member Binay Tamang said: “She seems to have forgotten her promise but we will never forget our luminaries.”

Bimal Gurung, the Morcha chief and chief executive of the GTA, was present at the event at Gorkha Rangmanch Bhavan but he did not speak.

Between 1985 and 2011, no Left government marked the birth anniversary of Bhanu Bhakta, perhaps wary of Subash Ghisingh’s disinterest in the poet.

The government’s move to mark the anniversary of the late poet was revived because of Mamata, who then often said she would make the hills like “Switzerland”.

But her hill bonhomie ended on January 29, 2013, when she told a public meeting in Chowrasta that Darjeeling “is a part of us”, triggering protests.

More statehood protests by the Morcha followed after the former UPA government decided in favour of forming Telangana. In order to stop the Morcha agitation, ten GTA members and hundreds of the hill party’s supporters were arrested last year.

In the Lok Sabha elections, the Morcha was miffed that Trinamul had fielded Sikkim-born footballer Bhaichung Bhutia for the Darjeeling seat, and not a local face. It supported the BJP, a party which favours the creation of smaller states, but which has spelt out nothing clearly on Gorkhaland.

Today, Speaker Biman Banerjee said the birth annivarsary of Bhanu Bhakta was observed in the Bengal Assembly. Tamang today did not say anything about statehood, probably because it was a GTA event.