Affirming that Darjeeling is part of West Bengal and it is inseparable, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday accused the GJM of imposing an autocracy in the hills by forcibly organising shutdowns and warned that such action would not be tolerated.
By asking the people to stay indoors in the name of agitation, the GJM is pursuing an "autocratic" style of governance even after the GTA was formed as per its wishes, the chief minister said here during a felicitation by the Lepcha community.
"Autocracy is going on in the name of the agitation stalling the development of Darjeeling. They are asking the people to remain indoors. It is as if the king is asking his people to stay inside. It cannot be tolerated," she said at the programme attended by several thousands, mostly Lepchas.
She warned, "You are free to go to Delhi. You are even free to go to Obama, if you wish. But Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong are part of West Bengal and will remain so. There is no question of separation."
She was apparently referring to the camping of top leaders of GJM in Delhi in a bid to meet central ministers and Congress and BJP leaders with the single-point agenda of statehood.
"We have given you GTA as you had wanted. What more do you want?" Banerjee wondered and urged the GJM to participate in tomorrow's scheduled meeting of the GTA to find a successor to its president Bimal Gurung who had resigned as the chief executive in the wake of the announcement of the decision to form Telengana.
Asking the hill party to withdraw the bandh to facilitate a return to normal life so that tourists can come back, she charged that GJM workers were stockpiling food for themselves and keeping the poor unfed in the name of the bandh.
She accused them of terrorising the people so that no one came to receive food at the centres opened by the state government, and of indulging in arson, destruction of property as well as stalling development including the 100-day work programme.
"They are not allowing the people to get food. I have seen a woman crying like anything to get food for her children from the shop opened by the state government at Kurseong but she like others was prevented," the Chief Minister said.
Pointing to the Lepchas present in the programme, she said, "Lepchas are the original inhabitants. They had suffered a lot economically. But they are not asking for a separate Lepcha land."
The chief minister announced several government sops for the Lepchas including employment to 5,000 youths from the community in the police force.
The Chief Minister, who had reached Kalimpong last evening to a warm welcome from the Lepchas, was accorded the felicitation at a stadium (Mela ground) by the community which ignored a steady drizzle and walked long distances in the absence of transport to attend the programme.
The felicitation was given by the Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association in acknowledgement of the chief minister's initiative to form the Lepcha Development Board.
However, the non-Lepcha residents of the hill town numbering around several thousands mostly stayed indoors in response to the GJM's "Ghar Bhitre Janta" (people inside homes) programme.
As Banerjee arrived at the stadium from the Kalimpong circuit house, leaders of the Lepcha community welcomed her with "khadas" (traditional white scarf) greeting her with the traditional Lepcha greeting of "achuley".
She shook hands with the Lepchas who bestowed her with the title "Kingchum Darmit" (Goddess of Fortune).
There was an overwhelming presence of security forces, including state police personnel and those from the central forces at the function.
Mamata said, "It is unfair to subject the people to hardships in the name of bandhs and shutdowns which are going for a month. I am pained. I wanted to do a lot for the development of Darjeeling."
In the naming of stopping distribution of food by the state government through special centres, the GJM was depriving the economically weaker sections of the people in the Darjeeling hills, she charged.
The chief minister warned of action against ration dealers in Darjeeling hills who have kept their shops closed.
With the state having issued a no-work-no-pay order, affecting state government employees who form a large chunk of the GJM support base in the Hills, Banerjee warned that if they continue to remain absent, action would be taken and new recruitments would be made in their place.
She announced setting up of a Lepcha Cultural and Heritage Centre at Kalimpong to the applause by the people present.
She also announced that state government would give Rs ten lakh for a community centre and library for the Lepchas.
Besides, Lepcha language would be introduced as a subject of government primary schools in Darjeeling from the next academic session.
He said that there would be employment of 5,000 people from the Lepcha community in the police force, she said amid cheers from the Lepchas.
She claimed that more than 50,000 Lepcha people gathered at the stadium for the programme.
West Bengal Chief Secretary Sanjay Mitra, Home Secretary Basudeb Banerjee and the Director General of Police Naparajit Mukherjee were present at the function.