Controversy has started brewing in West Bengal as well as within the ruling Trinamool Congress over a controversial comment by senior party legislator Ajit Maiti after he described the Kurmi leaders agitating for the Scheduled Tribe status as equivalent to the Khalistan movement leaders.
A video has gone viral, where Ajit Maiti, also the Trinamool Congress’ East Midnapore district coordinator, was seen making such comments during a public rally in the district.
“The Kurmi movement is a deliberate attempt to malign Trinamool Congress and the state government. Some of their leaders are behaving like those spearheading the Khalistan movement. These Kurmi leaders are getting the support of the opposition parties, especially from BJP,” Maiti was heard saying in the video.
Incidentally, the Trinamool Congress MLA’s observation on this count comes after the Kurmi community have started their “All Wall to Kurmi” unique campaign in the three tribal-dominated Jangalmahal areas scattered over the three districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia. Through this campaign, they have given a message to all political parties that the walls of the properties of the community members cannot be used for political campaigns for the forthcoming panchayat polls scheduled this year.
In the video, Maiti was also heard asking his party men to defy this message from the community and continue with wall graffities.
According to Birendranath Mahato, one leading face of the Kurmi movement in the state, if such comments have any impact on the law & order situation in the tribal dominated belts of the state, then Maiti will be solely responsible for that.
BJP’s state president in West Bengal and the party Lok Sabha member, Sukanta Majumdar said that the Kumri community are themselves organising their movement on a particular issue and there is no question of BJP instigating them. “How can the ruling party legislator compare the Kurmi leaders with those spearheading the Khalistan movement. The Khalistan movement is a divisive move, which the Kurmi movement is not,” Majumdar said.
Now Maiti’s comment has posed immense embarrassment for Trinamool Congress leadership, which had already started the process of distancing itself from the matter as was evident in the statement made by party Rajya Sabha member Dr Santanu Sen. “This is his personal observation and is in no way the stand of the party in the matter. It is up to him to explain why he made such a comment,” said Sen.
The main grievance of the agitators is that the West Bengal Cultural Research Institute, a state government body that works for indigenous tribes, is yet to recognise the Kurmis as representatives of primitive tribes. They also alleged that the reluctance of the institute or the state government to send a comprehensive report in the matter to the Union government is holding back the process of recognition of the Kurmi community under the Scheduled Tribe category.
On April 11, there was a bipartite meeting between the leaders of the community and the state government at the state secretariat of Nabanna. However, the meeting failed to evoke any positive result. On that day only, the Kurmi leaders had threatened to go ahead with their agitation.
(The story has been published via a syndicated feed.)