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GJM headed for split as cracks appear over Darjeeling bandh for separate Gorkhaland state

A day after Binay Tamang-led GJM faction announced suspension of bandh, a section owing allegiance to Bimal Gurung hit the streets in large numbers.

india Updated: Sep 01, 2017 23:53 IST
Pramod Giri
Pramod Giri
Hindustan Times, Siliguri
GJM,Darjeeling bandh,Gorkhaland state
Gorkhaland supporters take part in a mass rally at Mirik in Darjeeling on Thursday. (PTI Photo)

The 78-day-long shutdown of Darjeeling to press for a separate Gorkhaland state was enforced more vigorously on Friday with one faction of the Gorka Janamukti Morcha (GJM) defying calls by another to suspend the bandh for 12 days.

A day after a GJM faction led by Binay Tamang announced the suspension of the bandh, a more hardline faction owing allegiance to GJM supremo Bimal Gurung hit the streets in large numbers and ensured that the bandh in the hills of north Bengal was total, stoking speculation that the hill party was headed for a split.

According to an agency report, Gurung on Friday also removed party convener Binay Tamang from his post. Gurung has already convened a central committee meeting and there is talk that Tamang and his supporter Anit Thapa could be expelled from the party. The war of words has also escalated between the two groups, with Gurung accusing Tamang of trying to “derail the Gorkhaland movement in collusion with the West Bengal government”.

Curiously, on Friday evening, GJM assistant secretary Jyoti Kumar Rai told HT: “We are ready for talks with the state government on September 12. But the administration should create the atmosphere for the dialogue.” Rai said the decision was taken at the central committee meeting.

Gurung, currently on the run from the police, said the bandh in Dajeeling will see no let up, promising that even “cats and dogs will not be able to move”. Tamang also seemed to be girding up for a long fight, saying, “I am not thinking of floating a new outfit”.

“Binay Tamang matters little. Bimal Gurung has the last word on how the agitation will be continued and whether the indefinite shutdown will be lifted,” said GJM general secretary Roshan Giri.

With tempers running high, the police threw a security cordon around Tamang’s house, who mostly stayed indoors during the day.

“To expel me, Bimal Gurung and Roshan Giri will need the concurrence of the majority. They are acting in an undemocratic manner. If necessary, I shall take legal measures,” Tamang told a TV channel.

Meanwhile, effigies of Tamang and his supporter Thapa were burnt in different areas of the hills.

Differences between the two factions have widened in recent weeks over holding negotiations with the West Bengal government. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee in the last week of August said she had received a letter from Tamang requesting talks, but Gurung said he wanted discussions only on Gorkhaland.

Tamang’s faction held talks with Banerjee on August 29, but Gurung insisted they should walk out if Gorkhaland was not on the agenda. Banerjee has steadfastly opposed the bifurcation of her state and the creation of Gorkhaland.

“We are ready for talks with the state government on September 12. But the administration should create the atmosphere for the dialogue,” assistant secretary of GJM, Jyoti Kumar Rai, told HT. The decision was taken at the central committee meeting on Friday.

Though Gurung by far is the most influential GJM leader, Tamang has pockets of influence. A recent rally addressed by him in Kurseong was attended by thousands of people with about 30 of the 93 GJM central committee members in attendance.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), seeking to make inroads into West Bengal, criticized Banerjee for her inability to end the Darjeeling agitation. “Instead of pushing forward a constructive dialogue, the chief minister tried to engineer a split in GJM, and pushed the situation to a more critical point in the hills,” remarked BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha.

First Published: Sep 01, 2017 18:58 IST