Speaking at a gathering of the tribal Lepcha community, considered the original inhabitants of the hills in northen Bengal, Banerjee appealed to the GJM to withdraw its agitation which has led to a virtual shutdown in the region.
"You must withdraw the bandh (shutdown) and ensure a return to normalcy in the hills. The tourists will come back and there will be prosperity only if normalcy is there," said Banerjee during the function at the Fair Ground in this Darjeeling district sub-divisional town where she was felicitated by the Lepchas.
"They (the GJM) are paralyzing life and development in Darjeeling. In the name of agitation they are imposing autocracy by forcing people to remain indoors. We won't tolerate this," she said.
Ridiculing the GJM for rushing to Delhi, she said: "Why only Delhi, you are free to even go to (US Pesident Barack) Obama if you want to. But Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong are inseparable part of West Bengal. They will remain with West Bengal. There is no question of separation."
Banerjee's comments came on a day GJM chief Bimal Gurung claimed that union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde has told a party delegation in Delhi that the central government will soon convene a tripartite meeting to solve the impasse over the Gorkhaland issue.
Banerjee said the hill development agency, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), was the right platform to usher in development in the hills.
She said the GJM should take part in the GTA meeting slated to be held Wednesday and help find a successor to Gurung who has stepped down from the post of the GTA chief executive.
Gurung put in his papers last month to concentrate on the renewed agitation for a separate state of Gorkhaland in the light of the Congress and the United Progressive Alliance endorsing Telangana.
Banerjee also accused the GJM of intimidating the people so that they did not collect food from the distribution centres opened by her government.
"They have even shut down educational institutions. What right do they have to rob children of a good education? Their (GJM leaders') children are studying abroad. And they (GJM) are also getting money from abroad," she said.
Later, Gurung countered Banerjee, saying his children studied in the country, and not abroad.
"And if she thinks we are getting money from abroad, she should ask her administration to prove it. She has the entire state machinery in her hands."
The chief minister was conferred the Lepcha community's highest honour 'Kingtsoom Daarmit, (Goddess of Fortune) by the Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association (ILTA) for her initiative to form Mayel Lyang Lepcha Development Board (MLLDB).
Raining sops on the community, Banerjee promised to absorb 5,000 Lepchas in the police force, and ensure Lepcha language was taught in the schools located in the hills.
--IANS (Posted on 03-09-2013)