Chief minister Mamata Banerjee lashed out at the BJP on June 14 for trying to divide Bengal and vowed to protect the geographical integrity of the state at any cost. In a state that has witnessed bifurcations twice—in 1905 (revoked later) and 1947—with catastrophic consequences, the charge of attempting to engineer a third bifurcation can become a weapon with which she can, possibly, destroy the BJP in West Bengal.
Her angry reactions came following news reports that two BJP Lok Sabha MPs from north Bengal have demanded separation of north Bengal to make it a separate state or a Union territory. The demand was raised during a meeting at Alipurduar MP John Barla’s home on June 13. Jalpaiguri MP Jayanta Roy, who was present at the meeting, reportedly backed Barla.
The issue is all the more sensitive because north Bengal has already witnessed three separate statehood movements, all of them with some violent phases, for the proposed states of the Darjeeling-centric Gorkhaland and the Cooch Behar-centric Kamtapur and Greater Cooch Behar. The BJP had an alliance with leaders of factions of all these movements.
“What does making it a Union territory mean? Keeping it under surveillance like Kashmir? Gagging? Suspension of rights? Whose interests are they serving by trying to splinter Bengal? They are shameless despite such a blow (electoral),” an angry Banerjee said. BJP’s state unit president Dilip Ghosh tweeted that dividing Bengal was not on the party’s agenda and that the TMC was spreading lies using “agencies and the media”.
But Barla repeated his demands twice, this time publicly, once during an interview to Nepali-language media in north Bengal on June 17 and later while answering newspersons at a party event on June 19. Barla argued that apart from decades of neglect, resulting...