National security adviser Ajit Doval is in the hills since Saturday on a “family tour”.
Some observers of hill politics are looking at the visit with keen interest at a time some BJP legislators are demanding a separate state of north Bengal, apart from a permanent political solution for the Darjeeling hills.
Doval reached Makaibari tea garden in Kurseong on Saturday. Darjeeling MLA Neeraj Zimba, who had won on a BJP ticket, greeted Doval at Bagdogra airport.
“He (Doval) just said that it is a family tour,” said Zimba.
Zimba added that he would not speak much on the issue. “I have been cautioned and cannot speak much on this,” the MLA added.
Asked how he came to know about Doval’s visit, Zimba said that his presence at the airport was a “rare coincidence.”
Zimba had last year also claimed in a public meeting that Doval had held two meetings with Mann Ghisingh, president of Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) as a result of which the party decided to write a letter to chief minister Mamata Banerjee requesting “for a high-level intervention” during the height of the Gorkhaland agitation in 2017.
Siliguri protest rally
On Sunday, Bangla Pakhha, an organisation based in Siliguri and Jalpaiguri, organised a rally in Siliguri to send a “clear message” that they were against any division of Bengal.
The timing of the rally, some sources said, was linked to Doval’s visit.
The organisation launched a tirade against BJP legislators.
“BJP MLAs and MPs from the region raise their voice for the division of Bengal stating north Bengal is deprived of development. Unfortunately, we have never seen them getting vocal on issues like establishing an AIIMS in north Bengal, a central university or improving the railway network of the region like in other parts of the country,” Ashish Saha, the office secretary of the organisation's Siliguri unit said.
He added: “All we wanted was to send a clear message that our organisation is against divisive politics and we won’t allow any division of Bengal.”
The rally in Siliguri started from Jalpai More and after covering SF Road, Hill Cart Road, Sevoke Road, all prominent thoroughfares of the city, ended near Panitanki More.
In Darjeeling, too, members of the Gorkha Rashtriya Congress (GRC), went to Makaibari on Monday to try and meet Doval.
The GRC wants the merger of Darjeeling with Sikkim.
“We could not meet him (Doval) today (Monday) but we have submitted a memorandum to his officers. We are hopeful that we might meet him tomorrow (Tuesday) before he leaves Kurseong,” said Subodh Pakhrin, a GRC senior leader.