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Gorkhas, Rajbanshis & tribals float front seeking separate state of North Bengal | Political Pulse News

Just ahead of the Lok Sabha elections to be held early next year, different organisations of Gorkhas, Rajbanshis, and tribal groups have joined hands seeking a separate state of North Bengal.

The political parties and organisations which for years demanded separate states for Kamtapuris, Rajbanshis and Gorkhas recently formed the ‘United Front for Separate State’ demanding a separate state comprising eight districts of West Bengal.

The front, as its first step, plans to submit a memorandum shortly to President Droupadi Murmu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home minister Amit Shah.

A meeting of the Front was held in Siliguri on Friday and it was decided that a dharna will be held in Delhi on December 20. The Front will also hold mega rallies in Siliguri, Cooch Behar and Raigunj (Uttar Dinajpur) in January.

“Earlier, there were various movements for a separate state of North Bengal by different communities. Kamtapuris agitated for a separate state. The movement for Greater Cooch Behar state also took place. We agitated demanding a separate Gorkhaland state. This region has seen three movements. But now we have all joined hands with a demand for a separate state of North Bengal,” said Dipendra Niraula, coordinator of the Front and a central committee member of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (Bimal Gurung).

Festive offer

The Front has nine organisations, including the Kamtapur Progressive Party, the GJM (Bimal Gurung), the Kamtapur People’s Party (United), the Joy Birsa Munda Ulgulan, the SC/ST Movement Committee, the Progressive Peoples Party, the Akhil Bharatiya Rajbanshi Samaj, the Greater Cooch Behar Peoples’ Association and the Bhumiputra Unnayan Committee.

“You see, we held talks for the past one year and reached a common ground on the issue. It was in October that we came out with the Front. Neither the Centre nor the state government has listened to us and our pleas for years. We have been placing it separately. Now we are all together. There has been no development in North Bengal. There is no infrastructural development here. No developments in medical, economical or educational fields,” added Dipendra, speaking to The Express over phone.

The separate state will comprise eight districts, eight Lok Sabha constituencies and 54 Assembly segments.

The Front wants the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre to clear its stand on its demand in Parliament’s upcoming winter session.

Speaking over phone, Uttam Roy, spokesperson of the Front and leader of Kamtapur Progressive Party, said, “Many of the parties and organisations in the Front in some way or other supported the BJP over the years. But the BJP only gave us promises. Nothing was done for North Bengal. The winter session of Parliament will start soon. We will submit a memorandum to the President, Prime minister and the Union home Minister. We will wait for their response. We want them to respond before the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. Or we have other plans. We will hold a dharna in Delhi on December 20, followed by mega rallies in Siliguri on January 7, Raiganj on January 24 and Cooch Behar on January 28.”

United Front for Separate State spokesperson Uttam Roy said that they would soon hold a public meeting in a centrally located place in North Bengal, preferably in Siliguri, to send a clear message to the central government so that it takes a decision on the issue in Parliament.

The Front also plans to hold public meetings and rallies in North Bengal starting from Siliguri.

“Whenever we agitated for a separate state, there was opposition even from people in North Bengal. But this time, we all are united and there is no opposition to our demand from any faction in North Bengal,” said Dipendra.

These parties and organisations have a support base among the Gorkhas, Rajbanshis and tribal communities which have helped the BJP win seats in North Bengal since 2019.

It was in 2021 when BJP MP from Alipurduar, John Barla, raised a demand for a separate state of North Bengal. However, BJP state unit leaders clarified that it was not the party’s stand.

The movement for a separate state of Gorkhaland was first started by Gorkha National Liberation National Liberation Front (GNLF) founder Subhash Ghisingh through a violent agitation in the 1980s.

The demand resurfaced after Ghising’s trusted associate Bimal Gurung broke away from the GNLF and formed his own party Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM). In 2017, the issue once again flared up with a 104-day shutdown in Darjeeling hills and violent agitation. A number of cases, including sections of UAPA, were filed against Gurung and other leaders. Later, Gurung announced to support Trinamool Congress.

Kamtapuris, known as Koch Rajbanshis, a SC community of people of Cooch Behar district, agitated for a separate state of Kamtapur, comprising seven out of eight districts of North Bengal and four districts of Assam- Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Dhubri and Goalpara, Kishanganj district in Bihar and Jhapa district in Nepal. The demand was first raised in 1995 after the formation of Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO)– an armed militant organisation. However, the movement fizzled out in the early 2000s due to a leadership crisis and the arrest of several operatives of KLO and the All Kamtapur Students Union (AKSU).

The Greater Cooch Behar movement was started by general secretary of the Greater Cooch Behar People’s Association (GCPA), Bangshi Badan Barman. Since 1998, the GCPA demanded a separate state comprising seven districts of north Bengal along with the Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon and Dhubri districts of Assam. However, the movement never got momentum as no political parties in West Bengal supported the demand and there has been no major agitation since 2008.

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