Darjeeling: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who returned to the Darjeeling area after eight months, on Wednesday accused the neighbouring state of Sikkim of deliberately fueling unrest in the north Bengal hills.
Claiming that many people wanted to tarnish Darjeeling's image as a world-famous tourist destination, she said any form of disturbance there comes as a boon to Sikkim, another popular tourist spot.
"I love Sikkim. But people from there deal out cash to help create disturbances in Darjeeling. We want Sikkim to stay well. Then why do they try to create unrest in Darjeeling? If Darjeeling sees unrest, Sikkim gets the benefit. I think you people should think about it sometimes," Banerjee said at a public meeting here.
"Darjeeling has a worldwide fame for its beauty. Many people around us want that fame to be destroyed. If the tourists go to Sikkim, it is good for them. If there is unrest in the Darjeeling, it is a benefit for Sikkim but a loss for Darjeeling," she said.
Banerjee also alleged that there are some foreign countries as well as forces inside Darjeeling, which do not want it to do well, and "try to buy people with cash and direct them to start strike and do violence here.."
She also said that even Darjeeling stays closed, it hardly impacts the rest of Bengal as the place is in one corner of the state but it is people of the hills who suffer the most.
About the prospect of employment and industrialisation in the region, the Trinamool Congress supremo said there would be an industrial hub in Darjeeling, focusing to build tourism and IT industry if peace is maintained.
"(GTA board of administrators chairman) Binay Tamang told me there should be an industrial hub here. I also want the same. All kinds of industries would not thrive in Darjeeling. But there can be tourism industry and IT industry. I will talk to the industrialists and try to bring something within March-April. I want the IT industry to come here because it instantly opens up the scope for jobs.
"The industrialists are scared that if the violence erupts again what would happen? ...I will not interfere in any of your internal matters. But you should control the situation in Darjeeling for the sake of your own future," she said.
The picturesque Darjeeling Hills simmered with violence over the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state for most of 2017. Accusing the state government of imposing Bengali language in local schools, the hill parties led by Gorkha Janamukti Morcha revived the statehood demand and held a complete shutdown in the hills for 104 days, longest in the history of the movement.