Amid demands for a separate state carved out of West Bengal by some BJP leaders, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday said that she is ready to shed her blood but she won’t allow it to divide Bengal.
Addressing the party workers at Alipurduar, Mamata said that the BJP ahead of polls make ‘fake’ promises and after the elections, they ‘disappear’.
Lashing out at the saffron camp "for trying to fan separatism" in the state ahead of the general election in 2024, the TMC supremo maintained that all communities in north Bengal had been living in harmony for decades.
"With elections approaching, the BJP is fanning the demands of separate statehood... sometimes seeking Gorkhaland, and at other times a separate state of North Bengal. I am ready to give my blood but will never allow division of the state," Banerjee said, addressing a party meeting here.
The TMC later tweeted, "BENGAL STANDS UNITED. I will give my blood, but I will not let @BJP4India divide #Bengal according to their whims & fancies! You can threaten me, put a gun on my chest and still I will continue fighting for a united Bengal - our Hon'ble Chairperson @MamataOfficial in Alipurduar." Urging people to stay united, Banerjee listed various developmental projects for the area.
In an apparent reference to a purported video by Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) leader Jeevan Singha, threatening Banerjee with "bloodbath" if she opposed the demand for a separate Kamtapur, the feisty TMC boss said such threats do not intimidate her.
Reminiscing her days of struggle as opposition leader, the rabble-rouser politician said she had faced several such threats in her life.
"Some people are threatening me. They are saying they will kill me if I don't allow the division of Bengal. I don't care. I am not afraid of such threats," she said.
Urging people to stay united, Banerjee listed various developmental projects for the area.
"Earlier governments in Bengal had no vision for Coochbehar, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar or Darjeeling. After we came to power in 2011, we decided to take along people of all communities. I have personally made sure that development happens across regions and religions," she said.
North Bengal, with its eight districts, is economically important for West Bengal as it is home to money-minting tea, timber, and tourism industries.
The region, which shares an international border with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, is also strategically important for the country due to its Siliguri corridor, commonly known as 'chicken's neck', connecting the mainland with the northeastern states.
People there have witnessed several violent statehood movements since the early eighties by various ethnic groups such as Gorkhas, Rajbanshis, Koch and Kamatapuri communities.
Launching a scathing attack on the saffron camp over its support to those seeking a separate state of Gorkhaland, Banerjee said the BJP had been trying to create divisions between the people of the hills and the plains.
"Before elections, they said they would ensure the creation of Gorkhaland. But I will never allow that," she said.
BJP legislators from Matigara-Naxalbari constituency, Anandamay Barman, and Dabgram-Phulbari seat, Shikha Chatterjee, had spoken in favour of Union Territory for North Bengal.
BJP MLA from Kurseong, Bishnu Prasad Sharma, had also demanded separation of Darjeeling from Bengal.
BJP's Alipurduar MP John Barla had also stirred a hornet's nest last year after he sought a union territory by carving out districts of north Bengal.
The TMC supremo claimed that the saffron party, despite having bagged votes of north Bengal people, did nothing for the region.
"You people have voted for the BJP. But what did it give you in return? Nothing. Instead, they removed slum dwellers next to railway tracks. If they try to remove you, there will be protests. I will soon hand over land rights documents to refugees' families. No one can evict you," she said.
Once considered a stronghold of the Left Front, Alipurduar was clinched by the TMC in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. But the saffron camp gained ground in the area and won the Lok Sabha seat in 2019.
In the 2021 assembly polls, the BJP won all the seven assembly seats under this Lok Sabha segment.
Dubbing the BJP-led government at the Centre as "adulterated", the CM accused it of mismanaging the country's economy through decisions such as demonetisation.
"Earlier, it (BJP-led government) was 'Jumla Ki Sarkar'. Now it has turned into 'Bhejal Sarkar (adulterated government). What have they done for the country in the last eight years apart from increasing fuel and LPG prices. Demonetisation did not help in curbing black money," she added.
The BJP, while reacting to Banerjee's allegations, said the saffron camp doesn't support the division of West Bengal.
"But we feel there is a need for development in the north Bengal region. The people there have been deprived for a long time," state BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said.
(With inputs from PTI)