(From left) Keshari Nath Tripathi, Pranab Mukherjee, and Mamata Banerjee at the programme in Chowrasta  on Tuesday. Picture by Suman Tamang

Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, July 12: President Pranab Mukherjee today patted Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee for her “tremendous effort” to integrate the various ethnic groups and described Darjeeling as a place that desires to “live together, work together and move forward”.

Mukherjee today spoke of India’s diversity in terms of ethnicity and praised Mamata Banerjee at Chowrasta, the heart of Darjeeling where in 2013 the Bengal chief minister had to face Gorkhaland slogans.
The President was today accorded a state reception at the public square by the state government and among the dignitaries on the dais was Bimal Gurung, the chief executive of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), who founded the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in 2007 with the avowed goal of separation from Bengal.
Mamata Banerjee, however, has dealt with the Gorkhaland movement firmly and over the past five years formed seven development boards for various communities, which Gurung had alleged was aimed at dividing the hill people on ethnic lines.
Today, Mukherjee termed India’s diversity as its strength and said: “I read in newspapers, I heard in the government papers and reports the tremendous effort done by her, the chief minister, to bring integration among various ethnic groups, sub-groups, cultural groups, sub-cultural groups and provide a sense of opportunity for their self development.”
Mukherjee’s address seems to hint the various cultural boards that Mamata has recently formed. Members of the Tamang, Sherpa and Lepcha communities performed for the President before his speech.
The President described Darjeeling as a “mini-India” and a “great melting pot.” “Darjeeling is mini-India and a great melting pot of culture, of various cultural tastes, ethnic tastes and at the same time (has) a desire to live together, to work together, to move forward,” said Mukherjee.
Patting Mamata, the President concluded his speech, saying: “You are doing well, carry on. God bless you.”
Earlier, Mamata said it was a proud day that the President had come to Darjeeling. “I am most happy that we are giving him a state reception in Darjeeling of all places in Bengal.”
Laying stress on development, Mamata said: “We want development for Darjeeling. We want good for Darjeeling.”
Mamata today gifted the President a photograph that she had personally taken of the Darjeeling hills. Bimal Gurung, too, gifted the President, Bengal governor Keshari Nath Tripathi and Mamata busts of the Buddha.
Mukherjee, who was scheduled to fly in by helicopter along with the governor from Bagdogra to Darjeeling, had to take the road because of bad weather in the morning.
The chief minister greeted Mukherjee at Raj Bhavan around 1.30pm, with Indranil Sen, state minister of information and cultural affairs, singing Rabindra Sangeet.