Meet the ‘Gandhian’ women leading the Gorkhaland stir in Darjeeling
The women’s wing of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha are leading the protests and say they believe in non-violenceUpdated: Jun 20, 2017 21:53 IST
A movement for a separate Gorkhaland state is sweeping the Darjeeling hills and women are at the forefront of the protests.
Thousands of slogan-shouting women led by the Gorkha Janmukti Nari Morcha confronting police and paramilitary forces is now a common sight. The Nari Morcha, the women’s wing of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), is headed by party chief Bimal Gurung’s wife, Asha. Most of the members of the group are housewives, who say they believe in Gandhi and non-violence .
“Women power is more effective than any other form of violence and we believe that the Nari Morcha can achieve more in pressurising the Centre to fulfill our dream of Gorkhaland,” said Pratibha Rai, a senior women’s wing leader.
With most frontline leaders, including Bimal and Asha Gurung, having gone into hiding after police raids at the GJM office, the foot soldiers of the women’s wing are leading the rallies.
“This is an emotional agitation and a people’s movement,” said Pratibha. “The Nari Morcha is always in the forefront during any peaceful demonstration or rally, as we do not believe in violence and never will.”
The hills have been gripped by violent clashes that have claimed three lives and injured scores. Angry protesters have torched vehicles and ransacked property but violence has dwindled ahead of all-party talks on Tuesday.
Most Morcha leaders may have gone into hiding but they are constantly guiding the Gorkhaland supporters.
“Women from different communities in the hills are mentally, physically and emotionally connected to Gorkhaland and we have thousands of active members across the hills and in neighbouring Dooars,” said Pratibha.
The women protesters have also flummoxed security forces, says a Darjeeling-based journalist.
“Women protesters are more vociferous on their protests and more effective in the manner in which they protest, as it attracts more media attention and wider coverage,” said the journalist who does not wish to be named.