Representatives of the Kamtapur State Demand Committee — an apex body of 28 organisations of Rajbanshis based in north Bengal and lower Assam — have demanded that the Centre immediately initiate peace talks with Jibon Singha, the self-styled chief of Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO).
If not, they would resort to protests and refrain from voting the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls, they said.
“The BJP government at the Centre coaxed Jibon Singha for peace talks and he reached Assam in January. Since then, no talks have been held over the main demand for Kamtapur state. The Centre should immediately start talks. Else, we will launch a movement across north Bengal and Assam,” said Tapati Roy Mallick, committee convener, here on Monday.
In north Bengal, Rajbanshi backing decides results in at least five of eight Lok Sabha seats. Rajbanshis also have a support base in Dhubri, Bongaigaon and Goalpara in Assam.
“Earlier, we supported the BJP as its leaders were sympathetic to our demand (of statehood). However, in the past nine years, the (BJP-led) Centre did nothing.... That is why this decision. If required, we will field our own candidates in these (Rajbanshi-dominated) seats,” said Jyotsna Roy, a former KLO member in Jalpaiguri.
“We will wait till November and launch a movement. There will be general strikes and blockades on national highways and railway tracks. The Centre should include Kamtapuri (Rajbanshi) language in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution,” said Nikhil Roy, the chief of Kamtapur Peoples’ Party (United), a constituent of the committee.
Jayanta Roy, the BJP MP of Jalpaiguri, said: "Time and again, we said the state government has deprived north Bengal. As far as Jibon Singha is concerned, only the Union home ministry can comment on it."
Mahua Gope, the Jalpaiguri district Trinamul chief, accused the BJP of trying to fan tension by inciting certain organisations ahead of polls. "But such strategies won't work as people here are with Mamata Banerjee,” she said.