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GJM Chief Bimal Gurung Not a Criminal, Says CPI (M) Leader Ashok Bhattacharya

Amidst unrest in Darjeeling, CPI (M) leader and Mayor of Siliguri Municipal Corporation Ashok Bhattacharya says that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was the only one to blame for the current crisis in the Hills.

Sujit Nath | News18.com

Updated:June 15, 2017, 5:44 PM IST
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GJM Chief Bimal Gurung Not a Criminal, Says CPI (M) Leader Ashok Bhattacharya
File photo of Siliguri Municipal Corporation Ashok Bhattacharya.
Amidst unrest in Darjeeling, CPI (M) leader and Mayor of Siliguri Municipal Corporation Ashok Bhattacharya says that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was the only one to blame for the current crisis in the Hills. Speaking to News18's Sujit Nath, he condemned the raid on Gorkha Janmukti Morcha's (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung's residence and called for an immediate intervention of the center for tripartite Meet to ensure peace in the Hills. Here are edited excerpts:

Sujit Nath (SN): The GJM called for an indefinite strike in the Hills which is badly affecting the trade and tourism. What do you have to say on this current crisis?
Ashok Bhattacharya (AB): Whatever is happening in Darjeeling and other parts of the Hills today is because of Mamata Banerjee. There was no need to make Bangla compulsory in schools, especially in the Hills. This is a sentimental issue. Her recent official activities in the Hills have nothing to do with development. Now, the situation is out of control and the demand for a separate Gorkhaland has gained momentum. It was her untimely intervention that worsened things. I think there was a gross lapse in terms of planning by the Bengal government in dealing with the situation.

SN: Do you support GJM's indefinite strike which is hampering the economy of Hills? To start with, tourists are feeling Darjeeling fearing their safety.
AB: We strongly condemned the strike called by the GJM because it is affecting tea, tourism and timber industries. This is a very sensitive issue and it needs to be handled with care. Instead of flooding the Hills with para military forces, it's time for talks. This issue can only be resolved through talk and not by force.

SN: What must the state government and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) do to end this stalemate?
AB: There is an urgent need for a meet between the state government, Gorkha leaders and the central government. The state government should immediately ask the central government to intervene. Also, the central leadership should ask their ally, GJM, to shun violence in the Hills and convince them for talks. If the current situation persists, nothing can be achieved.

SN: Do you support GJM's movement for a separate state of Gorkhaland?
AB: We never supported their movement for Gorkhaland. This is practically and logically impossible. We have no idea why GJM leaders are so optimistic of the central government fulfilling their demand for a separate state. I personally think their demand is a far cry from reality. I think, this movement is going to take an interesting turn as far as BJP-GJM alliance is concern in the Hills. But yes, in a democratic structure, we have full right to put our demand forward.

SN: Today, there was raid at GJM Chief Bimal Gurung's residence and a large number of arms, cash was seized by the cops. What is your reaction?
AB: This raid was an attack on the freedom of democracy. Gurung is not a criminal. He is an elected representative and chief of Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA). They are free to fight for our demands and grievances. But the way police raided his residence is absolutely undemocratic. This was not required and done only to make situation worse in the Hills. Mamata Banerjee cannot wash her hands off this crisis. So many TMC MLAs were charge-sheeted by the CBI but they never raided their residence. There are ways to handle such kind of situation.
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