Gorkha options shut down
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), spearheading the agitation for a Gorkhaland state in West Bengal, is in a fix. Trapped in its own labyrinth of indefinite shutdowns, the outfit can’t seem find a way out. And the central government isn’t making it any easier with its calculated silence.india Updated: Sep 02, 2013 01:46 IST
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), spearheading the agitation for a Gorkhaland state in West Bengal, is in a fix. Trapped in its own labyrinth of indefinite shutdowns, the outfit can’t seem find a way out. And the central government isn’t making it any easier with its calculated silence.
This is despite the fact that a month has gone by since the GJM revived its agitation following the UPA government’s decision to carve out a Telangana state from Andhra Pradesh.
Unfortunately for the outfit, its month-long shutdown has failed to deliver results. While the West Bengal government, headed by Mamata Banerjee, has cracked down on the agitation, the Centre has been displaying indifference. The result is that the GJM is unable to call off the shutdown even though it is causing a lot of hardship to the very people demanding Gorkhaland.
The latest phase of the stir began with a three-day shutdown from July 29. Much to the dismay of the GJM, the state government, instead of offering to hold talks, rushed central forces to the Darjeeling Hills to quell the agitation. The GJM retaliated by calling an indefinite shutdown from August 3 but soon a public interest litigation had the Calcutta high court asking the state what steps it was taking to restore normalcy in the Darjeeling Hills.
Armed with the high court order, the state issued a 72-hour deadline to call off the shutdown. The GJM reacted by giving the shutdown a new name — Janata Curfew — on August 13 and 14, whereby the public would remain indoors. When the high court observed this was just a name game, the GJM began finding more names for what for all practical purposes remained a shutdown.
While the agitation continued under different names, the GJM declared it wouldn’t participate in talks with the state government. “The Centre has to intervene. We will not talk to the state. This is not a matter pertaining to the state. The Darjeeling Hills do not belong to West Bengal, it belonged to Sikkim and Bhutan. The state has to resolve this issue,” said GJM president Bimal Gurung.
This only infuriated the volatile chief minister and the state began cracking down harder and arresting more GJM people. From July 29 till now, the state has arrested more than 800 GJM leaders and supporters.
On the administrative front, the state issued a no-work-no-pay order, affecting state government employees who form a large chunk of the GJM support base in the Hills.
More disappointments were in store for the GJM. Following Banerjee’s letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, asking the Centre not to interfere in the Gorkhaland issue, the GJM was not invited to meetings in New Delhi to discuss three other statehood demands from the eastern region that involve claims on Darjeeling, the nerve-centre of the Gorkhaland agitation.
Political observers feel that with the 2014 Lok Sabha elections round the corner, the UPA government will not antagonise Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress.
Amid all this, the people are getting restive. “The very people agitating for Gorkhaland are suffering. We are not in favour of the bandh. But the situation is abnormal, compelling the GJM to continue with it,” said a spokesperson of the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists, a constituent of the Gorkhaland Joint Action Committee.
In this scenario, it looks like the GJM will be the one to blink first.