TIME TO CLEAR THE CLUTTER
Fifth Column -Sumanta Sen
It is becoming a bit tiresome, this Darjeeling business. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leaders blow hot in the hills, come down to Calcutta, have a meeting with the chief minister, cool down and then, after a lapse of time, are in a threatening mood, once again.
First, they insisted that the hills should be administered by a nominated body comprising — obviously — people of their choice. Calcutta said ‘nothing doing’; so they agreed to go to the people. Then they demanded that parts of the Terai and the Dooars undergo elections for the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration. This was also turned down, and they agreed to stay restricted to the hills with the face-saving argument that, in any case, those parts of the plains would one day be included in the Gorkhaland that they are demanding.
And now they want elections to be held as early as possible. One can only wait to find out what new demand emanates from Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong. Of course, with the onset of summer, the tourist season is now approaching. Consequently, they may choose to temper their rhetoric lest that scares away visitors and, with them, the prospects of business.
What seems obvious is that the Bimal Gurungs and the Roshan Giris are today a trifle nervous. They are beginning to realize perhaps that they may not be able to give the hill people the Gorkhaland they promised. Thus the effort to keep up the charade of a fight. In this, they are following the footsteps of Subash Ghisingh, their one-time hero, whom they later termed traitor and hounded out of the hills.
What is worse for them is that the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is trying to return to the hills. The party has already held a public meeting in Darjeeling. Of course, the possibility of a total erosion of popular support is improbable. But then, it also may not take too long for the process to start. Hence they are nervous. And hence the desire for early polls so that others do not get the time to build on their existing bases.
There is another valid cause for their nervousness. While eyeing the Terai and the Dooars, the GJM had hoped that the breakaway faction of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad will be able to get the majority of the tribal people to make common cause with the hill people. But this has not happened. As a result, there is every possibility of the Nepalese in the plains asking why they had been led up the garden path. Such a question may find echoes in the hills as well. The situation is fluid and volatile.
Right now Calcutta may be enjoying the scene. But for how long? If the hills run out of patience, Calcutta’s joy may be short-lived. It is time for plain speaking, instead of harping on such themes as Gorkha aspirations and the state’s unity. That way, the people will know where they stand vis-à-vis the GJM and Writers’ Buildings.