Gorkhaland Demand: Tremors in Hills
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, accompanied by minister for PWD Arup Biswas, on 14 June 2017 had held an unscheduled meeting with Governor Kesri Nath Tripathy at Raj Bhavan in Kolkata to discuss the present situation of unrest in Darjeeling. The present secretary of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) has been replaced by C Murugan, who till the time of taking the position was the managing director of West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation. The situation in Darjeeling has not changed over the last few days with tension brewing up more in the hills of the state.
Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung has already announced that their party will further intensify the movement of Gorkhaland with more protests and strikes in the hills. The prime reason for this movement is the demand for a separate Gorkhaland in Darjeeling. The main cause for such a demand is the increased imposition of Bengali on people in the Hills. Bimal Gurung has also urged the tourists not to visit Darjeeling so as to avoid inconvenience during this time of the movement. The Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), an ally of the ruling Trinamool Congress, has also supported the demand for a separate state. Few more hill parties have extended their support to GJM . In fact, on 13 June, 2017, they unanimously passed a resolution demanding a separate state.
Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF)
The GNLF was formed by the late firebrand leader Subhash Ghisingh. In the 80s, he had led a violent movement for a separate Gorkhaland. As a result of this movement, the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) was formed. Initially, the present chief of GJM, Bimal Gurung was part of GNLF. But he moved out of GNLF and formed the GJM in 2007. Today, GJM is a dominant force in the hills.
The situation at present
Bimal Gurung, to intensify the movement for Gorkhaland, has already called for indefinite bandh of the government and GTA offices from 12 June 2017 and the intensity will further aggravate if the demand is not met. Rallies are being taken out. Most shops near Chowkbazar and Mall Road in the hill town have remained closed since the announcement of the bandh. The supporting GJM members have marched to several government offices to stop people from reporting to work. Some supporters had also turned violent pelting stones at the police when they were stopped. They also stocked weapons to resist and attack the police. There are reports of GJM supporters firing at police.
- Police patrolling and security alerts have increased in the trouble-stricken areas to subside any violence.
- Police pickets and barricades were placed in front of the government and GTA offices.
- More police patrolling in various entry and exit points of the hills.
- A sizeable number of women police personnel, including Rapid Action Force (RAF) are also deployed in many areas.
- The central government has also sent 600 paramilitary personnel to help the state government to control the violence-hit area.
An uphill task to meet the demand
National political parties are in a fix with the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland. The parties like the Congress and the Left are opposed to the idea of formation of a new state from West Bengal but are finding it difficult to support the people of the hills. These two parties are not keen to join hands with the ruling Trinamool Congress. Union Minister and BJP’s MP of Darjeeling S S Ahluwalia has urged the Union Home Ministry to set up a committee of experts to look into the demand. He has requested the home ministry to make a careful study of the advantages and disadvantages of the demand for a separate state, not only of the Gorkhas but also the demands of Adivasis and others including Rajbongshis. He also wants Mamata Banerjee to withdraw her government’s move to make teaching of Bengali compulsory in all government schools across the state. He is the first BJP leader to take one step forward in the demand for Gorkhaland. However, BJP’s West Bengal unit is opposed to the idea of a separate state. BJP party members have also stated that they are against atrocities committed on the people of the Hills by the West Bengal government. The state government cannot impose its decisions without taking the support of the Gorkhas and no force can be used in Darjeeling. But, the demand for a separate state is not a feasible one as the area is too small. It is now the duty of the Center to find a solution to the problem. It is time for all parties to come forward to restore peace and the government should start negotiations at the earliest to diffuse the crisis.