Two parties which are known to have considerable clout among the Rajbanshi population of north Bengal have renewed their demand for a separate state and drawn up plans to launch an array of political activities in the region.
On Monday, leaders of both the Kamtapur Progressive Party (KPP) and the Kamtapur People’s Party (United) (KPP-U) said they had been fighting for the separate state for more than 25 years and wanted the Centre and the Bengal government to take a prompt decision on the issue.
“We sent a memorandum addressed to the Prime Minister on Monday. We were supposed to organise a rally of around 15,000 people but cancelled it because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Let us make it clear that we will not settle for anything else as we have seen how arrangements like the DGHC and the GTA have failed to meet people’s aspirations in the Darjeeling hills where movements were organised for Gorkhaland state,” said Apu Barman, a central committee member of the KPP.
Ever since Mamata Banerjee was voted to power in 2011, she has taken a series of initiatives to meet some of the old demands of the Rajbanshi population. Her efforts had helped her get most of the prominent political faces of the community on board.
However, in the past few months, leaders of a number of Rajbanshi organisations and parties have started reiterating their old demand of statehood, which Trinamul opposes in principle.
Subhash Barman, secretary of the central committee of the KPP-U, said: “The BJP has always been in favour of smaller states and created a number of new states. Leaders of the party assured us that our demand would be looked into. It is high time that the Centre makes a move. The state government should realise that the separate Kamtapur state is one of the old demands of north Bengal and it should be met in the interest of the people,” he said.
Jayanta Roy, the BJP MP of Jalpaiguri, has come up with a new proposal — an autonomous council for Rajbanshis on the lines of a similar body in the neighbouring Assam.
In Assam, the Kamtapur Autonomous Council was formed in 2020 with jurisdiction across the entire undivided Goalpara district, barring areas under two other autonomous councils in the district.
Roy, who had recently been to Golakganj in Dhubri district of Assam to attend an event organised by the All
Koch Rajbanshi Students’ Union, said talks could be initiated with Rajbanshi associations and parties in north Bengal for the constitution of a council.
“We have to bring all these organisations together and then initiate a dialogue. The demand for a separate state might not be met right now but an autonomous council can always be created for the region. Such a council can help in the socio-economic development of the Rajbanshi population here,” said Roy.