It all started from a small internal meeting of BJP leaders in North Bengal. In the meeting, Alipurduar MP John Barla sought a separate union territory comprising north Bengal districts in the Junglemahal region of the state and its neighbourhood areas.
Barla has demanded a separate North Bengal state or Union Territory in a statement, “North Bengal has always been deprived and now our men are insecure due to Rohingyas coming in and crossing the border. Nobody is stopping this. I’m only conveying this demand of the people.
Barla’s statement again brought back ideas of separatism in North Bengal. However, the statement was not endorsed by the party’s state leadership, which clearly said that it was not in favour of Bengal’s division.
After Barla, separatist leader and Kamtapuri Liberation Organisation (KLO) Chairman Jiban Singha also released a video in which he is seen agreeing to the demand for a separate state.
The ruling TMC responded to the BJP leader’s demands and accused the saffron party of dividing Bengal by launching the #BengalStandsUnited campaign on social media. The Trinamool Congress said the BJP is a party that only brings in the division and accused the party of stirring a separatist movement.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has responded to the demand stating that she would not allow any part of Bengal to lose its freedom and be dependant on New Delhi.
While the BJP has reiterated that the party does not support Barla’s demand, the party however stressed on lack of opportunities and deprivation in North Bengal.
Days after Barla, Bankura MP Saumitra Khan from Bishnupur also raised a similar demand on Monday. Khan claimed that the Junglemahal area has barely witnessed any development over the years, and demands of locals could be met only after the area is carved out of Bengal and accorded the status of a state. “I think a Junglemahal state, consisting of Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram, and parts of Birbhum and two Medinipur districts, along with some other areas, should be carved out to meet the demands of employment and development. John Barla has voiced the grievances of people in north Bengal. I am also doing the same for the people in my area," Khan said.
After the West Bengal election results, North Bengal has emerged as a focal point with several leaders accusing the TMC for neglecting the region. In his latest statement, Khan said that the TMC dispensation has given key ministerial responsibilities to leaders in the metropolis, while those from Junglemahal and north Bengal faced neglect.