The Telangana wind could fan the Gorkhaland fire. At a point when the government is on the verge of arriving at a settlement with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) over the Gorkha crisis, the sudden vigor in the Telangana movement could well cast a shadow on the ongoing negotiations for the formation of an autonomous administrative body for the Darjeeling Hills in West Bengal.
The GJM has been agitating for a separate state since October 2007. Following a bipartite meeting between the state government and the GJM in Kolkata on June 7, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had declared that the Gorkha crisis has been resolved in the form of a new administrative arrangement for the hills.
Banerjee had further announced that a Memorandum of Settlement would be signed between the Centre, State and the GJM for the formation of the administrative setup and that it would be signed in a tripartite meeting to be held within June 2011.
The tripartite meeting is yet to see the light of day. Contrary to this, the Centre now claims that some of the clauses in the administrative arrangement are unconstitutional, hence would requires a nod from the legal cell.
Political Observers feel that the dillydallying of the inking of the MOS could result in a political vacuum in Hills. Coupled with this, the sudden rise in the Telangana tempo could jeopardize the plans for a new administrative arrangement. The Hills could once again revert back to the Gorkhaland path.
36 Congress MLAs including 11 ministers tendered their resignations from Andhra Pradesh Assembly on Monday to force the Centre to bend to their demand for separate Telangana state. Following on the heels of the MLAs, 10 Congress Lok Sabha MPs and 1 Congress Rajya Sabha MP from the Telanga region submitted their resignation in Delhi.
The GJM has preferred to adopt a cautious stand on this development. “We will have a Central Committee meeting soon to discuss on this development. Only after the meet can we be specific on our future course of action and our stand” stated Harka Bhadur Chettri, GJM Spokesperson, carefully evading the question.
Adding to this Roshan Giri, GJM General Secretary stated “We are keeping a close watch on the Telangana developments.” However the Hill opposition parties have not failed to pull up the GJM on this sudden development.
“If Telangana is constituted, Gorkhaland has to be constituted too. The GJM should learn a thing or two from the sacrifices made by the Telangana leaders (MP and MLAs.) The GJM MLAs should immediately place a “Gorkhaland” Bill in the Bengal Assembly” stated Govind Chettri, Spokesperson, Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxist (CPRM).
Pratap Khati of the All India Gorkha League stated “Telangana is possible as they are all united and since. In the case of Gorkhaland, Bimal Gurung the GJM President is a counter leader. He is least concerned about Gorkhaland. Those who claim that Gurung can deliver Gorkhaland are either ignorant or have vested interests.”
Interestingly the Gorkhaland and Telangana movements share an unseen relationship, influencing each other at times. The GJM has time and again used the Telangana movement to boost up their own agitation, specially when the party (GJM) has witnessed political lows.
The Srikrishna Committee report on Telangana seemed to have more impact on Gorkhaland politics than in the proposed area of Telangana itself. Though the Report failed to amuse important stakeholders TRS, TDP and the BJP; kilometers away the GJM interpreted it as a positive step in the creation of Telangana. The GJM then had lost no time in announcing a series of agitational programmes.
However the Telangana movement has not been supportive of the Gorkhaland cause. TRS chief K Chandrasekhara Rao in an interview had stated “I am against Gorkhaland.” He had stated that one cannot have a new state on an international border at a time when the country is grappling with insurgency in north east and militancy in Kashmir.
He had further added that while the demand for Telangana comprises of 10 districts out of the existing 23 of Andhra Pradesh, Gorkhaland comprises of a single district of West Bengal, that too with the people of the plains divided.
Recently the UPA Government had tried to work out a compromise formula for Telangana. The Congress had suggested a Gorkha pattern autonomy for Telangana (on the lines of a new administrative arrangement for the Hills).
However this proposal further angered the Telangana activists, unwilling to settle for anything less than a separate state. “People will come out on to the streets against any compromise formula other than the formation of the state” stated Dr Prithviraj, of the Students Forum for Telangana.