West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee (with paper in hand) with Gorkha leaders
A new accord between West Bengal government and a Gorkha group has given hope to the Darjeeling region, Church people say.
"This is a positive move from the new chief minister and we hope she will end the problem of the hills," said Father Alexander Gurung, public relations officer of Darjeeling diocese.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday signed the accord with leaders of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM, platform for Gorkha people’s liberation).
It ended the 15-year-old unrest in the Darjeeling region, once a famed tourist spot.
Banerjee clinched the deal 17 days after assuming office. She had overthrown a Marxist-led government that ruled the state for 34 years.
The new chief minister promised to address all issues hindering the hill district’s development. She also decided to reconstitute the Darjeeling Hill Council with administrative and financial powers.
Father Gurung, who also looks after the diocesan pastoral center, wants the government to resolve local people’s needs.
“There should not be any political interference or vested interests playing spoil-sport in the developmental projects,” he said yesterday.
The diocesan priest also wants Banerjee to address the acute water shortage in the hills and develop infrastructure to boost tourism.
Father Gurung said the Church welcomes the chief minister’s proposal to set up educational institutions in the region. Since the chief minister also holds the health portfolio, she should improve facilities in the local government hospitals, he added.
Jesuit Father Joseph Victor, who coordinates the social work of the Jesuits of Darjeeling province, hailed the accord as praiseworthy.
However, he sees a rough road ahead in its implementation.
Banerjee, he pointed out, has created a “more conducive atmosphere for dialogue and negotiations, but the genuine spirit behind the settlement should reflect on the territorial issues.”
Development has a chance if the Gorkha people, the majority, are magnanimous to ethnic minorities living contiguous to the hill district, he added.
Darjeeling district has some one million people, mostly Gorkha.
GJM, founded in 2007, has demanded separate statehood for the hills.
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