Bandh returns to Hills on Feb 9 — first in 2 years

Irked by govt's move to set up Lepcha council, GJM calls for stir.

Bandhs are all set to return to the Hills after a 21-month gap with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha on Wednesday announcing a 12-hour general strike in the area on February 9 in protest against the state government's decision to set up a separate development council for Lepchas.

Terming the state government's decision to set up the new council as arbitrary, GJM president Bimal Gurung reiterated that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was applying the "divide and rule policy on the people of the Hills".

"The state cabinet on Tuesday gave nod to the setting up of the council for Lepchas without consulting the GTA. We protest against such arbitrary action and will observe a 12-hour strike in the GTA area, which includes the three sub-divisions of Darjeeling district," Gurung told mediapersons in Darjeeling.

The GJM is also irked with the nomenclature used by the government for the Lepcha council — Mayel Liang Lepcha Development Council. As "Mayel Liang" means "My Land", the GJM sees it as an attempt by the government to sow the seed of division in the Hills.

The Lepchas constitute about 20 percent of the Hills' population.

Gurung also threatened to move Supreme Court against the government's decision. "How can the government declare the Lepcha development council? It is against the GTA Act. If it is needed, we will move to the apex court over the issue," he added.

North Bengal Development Affairs Minister Goutam Deb, meanwhile, held a meeting with Mamata at the Writers' Buildings along with the leaders of Adivasi Bikas Parishad (ABP). He later declined to make any comment on the bandh called by the GJM. Noting that he was unaware of the latest development in the hills, Deb said: "Let me review the situation first going back to north Bengal. We are for unity, harmony and peace both in the plains and hills. We can't make happy those persons who want to see the Hills crying."

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