Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) faction chief Binoy Tamang on Tuesday expressed satisfaction over the outcome of his meeting West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee but maintained that any association with “fugitive” Gorkha leader Bimal Gurung was improbable.
Asserting that “Bimal Gurung is a closed chapter” in Darjeeling, Tamang, who an ally of the TMC since 2017, said he, along with his colleague and Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) chairman Anit Thapa, discussed “several issues” related to the development of the Hills.
“Who is Bimal Gurung? We are not giving him any importance. He is out of my syllabus. Not our subject. Bimal Gurung chapter is closed. None of the TMC leaders has spoken on this. We did not discuss Bimal Gurung at all. “We have not discussed any issues related to Bimal Gurung. He is a fugitive and law will take its course. We talked about matters related to infrastructure development in the Hills. It was a fruitful meeting,” he said while addressing a press conference.
Banerjee, along with Chief Secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay and state ministers Aroop Biswas and Firhad Hakim, held an hour-long closed-door meeting with Tamang and Thapa. The state government is yet to come out with a statement on the meeting.
Tamang, who has been opposed to the proposal of Gurung’s return to the Hills, said the people of the Darjeeling don’t want him back. “There are so many cases against him. He has more than 100 cases against him. He has UAPA charges against him. He is a proclaimed offender, his property has been attached. None is above law. We will not share any political or administrative platform with Bimal Gurung and Roshan Giri even in the future,” he said.
“Our focus is on the development of the hills. Gorkhaland is a dream of Gorkhas. Gorkhaland was sold as an election issue by hill leaders. We will not resort to arson in the hills in the name of Gorkhaland,” he also said.
He added, “All matters were related to peace, normalcy in the Darjeeling hills and North Bengal. Discussed pending issues on GTA and development. Additional funds are to be given to us also. For Mirik lake, beautiful and water purification was also discussed.”
Bimal Gurung, who had been in hiding for three years, resurfaced in Kolkata on October 21 and pledged support to the TMC, after having quit the NDA, triggering discontent among the Tamang faction which had always backed the Mamata Banerjee party in the past. Rallies were taken out in the Hills by the Tamang faction opposing Gurung’s entry since October 22, prompting the fugitive leader’s loyalists to organise counter-rallies welcoming him. Currently, Gurung is putting up in Kolkata along with his trusted aides.
Criticising the development as “dirty politics”, the state unit of the BJP said the ruling TMC was trying to disturb peace in the Hills. “This is nothing but dirty politics to disturb the peace. We condemn such politics… Just to win a few seats, the ruling TMC is pushing the Hills towards instability,” BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said.
The TMC, however, refuted the charge as baseless and said it was the BJP which had tried to create unrest in Darjeeling. “The BJP had tried to foment trouble the Hills. We brought back peace,” TMC MP Sougata Roy said.
The picturesque Darjeeling had repeatedly witnessed violent agitation over the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland, the latest being in June 2017, when the Hills saw a 104-day-long strike over the issue. The strike also led to a split in the GJM, with Binay Tamang, once a deputy to the outfit’s supremo Gurung, taking over the reins of the party and expelling the boss.
Although the GJM faction led by Gurung had continued to align with the BJP, the other camp, headed by Tamang, joined hands with the ruling TMC in the state.