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Forum formed for statehood fights

A meeting of the new organisation in progress in Cooch Behar on Wednesday. Picture by Main Uddin Chisti

Cooch Behar: A group of political leaders, social workers and representatives of different associations and forums announced an umbrella body to resume movements for separate states and socio-economic development of people in north Bengal.

On Wednesday, they held a meeting at Rabindra Bhavan here and announced that GARUF - Gorkha Adivasi Rajbangshi United Front - had been formed in Siliguri June 22.

"We want to strive together to achieve the demands raised by different communities in north Bengal, whether in the hills or Cooch Behar. We also want a comprehensive socio-economic development of tribal people, Gorkhas and Rajbangshis, who have been living here for generations," said Raseeka Chhetri, the president of the organisation.

She said September 12 was an important day for Cooch Behar residents as this was the day when, back in 1949, the administration was transferred from the royals to the Government of India as per the merger agreement.

"Such a joint platform was necessary so that we can stand in support of each other so that our demands like conferment of statehood status to Cooch Behar as per the merger agreement, is met. We are lining up a number of other programmes," said Bhabesh Chandra Burman, a leader of the Greater Cooch Behar Peoples' Association (GCPA).

In the past couple of years, the Bengal government constituted development boards for hill communities and e Rajbangshis and two language academies to placate their grievances and to rein in demands for statehood.

Bangshibadan Burman, a GCPA leader, was given the charge of a board for the Rajbangshis.

Bhabesh, when mentioned about these decisions, was critical of the state.

"The state is playing divisive politics by offering benefits to a section of leaders and trying to dilute our demands. We do not want any such boards or academies but the status of statehood," he said.

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