Gorkhas, Rajbanshis unhappy with Amit Shah visit
Section of Gorkhas and Rajbanshis, the two major ethnic communities of north Bengal, have expressed disappointment with Union home minister Amit Shah’s visit as they did not receive any concrete commitments from the BJP leader.
The Gorkhas are seen as the driving force behind the BJP’s success in the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat since 2009 while the Rajbanshis are believed to have strengthened the party in the plains of north Bengal.
“However, none of our issues were even talked about by the Union home minister,” said Navin Sharma, a businessman from Darjeeling.
The BJP’s core promises to the Gorkhas are finding a permanent political solution for the hills where sections have been demanding statehood, and granting tribal status to 11 Gorkha communities. The Sharmas are one of these communities, which want to be included in the list of Scheduled Tribes.
The only thing that Shah offered to the Gorkhas on Thursday was assurance.
“Trinamul is trying to change the demography of north Bengal. We want to make it clear that the GTA (Gorkhaland Territorial Administration) elections will not solve the problems of the Gorkhas. It is only the BJP that can come up with a permanent political solution for them in consonance with the Indian Constitution,” Shah said.
Anjani Sharma Bhujel, who had campaigned for Darjeeling BJP MP Raju Bista in 2019, said Shah’s statement meant little for the community.
Anjani, who had contested the Darjeeling Assembly seat as an Independent last year, reached the venue of Shah’s meeting wearing a T-shirt that read, “We want Gorkhaland.”
“We must continuously remind the BJP why our people voted for them,” said Anjani, who was heckled by BJP supporters at the venue on Thursday.
Biswas Chhetri, a student leader in Darjeeling, said: “Amit Shah said the GTA elections would not solve the problems of the Gorkhas but then what is the alternative he is suggesting?”
Most people in the hills, including Kurseong BJP MLA B.P. Bajgain, sees the permanent political solution as “separation from Bengal in whatever form”.
Like the Gorkhas, the Rajbanshis of north Bengal are feeling let down by Shah.
Community members pointed out that BJP leaders, including Shah and other central ministers, had made a number of promises such as opening a battalion in a central paramilitary force in the name of the Narayani Sena (the royal troops of Cooch Behar) and installing a memorial at the birthplace of Panchanan Barma, the most revered statesman of the Rajbanshis.
“Shah didn’t speak on any of these issues and was conveniently silent on our long-standing demand for statehood. It is evident that the BJP has failed to deliver on its promises, which we now believe were just political stunts,” said Bangshibadan Barman, a leader of the Greater Cooch Behar Peoples’ Association.
Sources said Ananta Maharaj, who heads the other faction of GCPA, is also unhappy with the BJP.
Ananta, who is known to have considerable clout among Rajbanshis and had supported the BJP in elections, did not attend Shah’s public meeting in Siliguri on Thursday, terming it a “political meeting of the party”.
Later however, he called on Shah at his hotel. “It was a courtesy call and he (Ananta) left after a few minutes,” a source said.