FROM BAD TO WORSE
The Darjeeling problem is getting more complex. It is getting complex because a pliant state government is bending over backwards to please the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, no matter how unreasonable its demands are. At the same time, the government would have the world believe that conceding the demand for a separate Gorkhaland is out of question. Yet it had no hesitation in agreeing to the name, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, for the proposed autonomous body that will administer the hills and the adjoining areas where the Nepalese are in a majority. The official recognition of the word, ‘Gorkhaland’, was rightly seen by the GJM as the first step towards the fulfilment of its demand. The ‘what’s in a name’ attitude of the Writers’ Buildings reflected either its inability or its lack of interest to take on the agitators. The government has not attempted to reject the assertion of the GJM that the GTA is just a temporary arrangement before Gorkhaland become a reality.
Now the government has gone back even further by appointing a fact verification committee to review Justice Shyamal Sen’s recommendations regarding the area to be administered by the GTA. The facts on the basis of which Justice Sen had recommended the addition of five mouzas to the hill subdivisions were made available by the government itself. So how can these be ‘verified’? The term, ‘verify’, suggests that the government does not agree with the recommendations. This has naturally pleased the GJM. It now knows that this government is a puppet in its hands and will remain by its side if the verification committee comes out with a report that is not wholly or substantially to its liking.
If the government seeks to assert itself, the GJM will launch a fresh agitation. The chief minister may claim that she has brought back smiles on the faces of the hill people and, hence, they will not support a new agitation, but that is wishful thinking. In her bid to appease the GJM, she has only made it stronger, first by agreeing to include the nomenclature, Gorkhaland, and now by proposing to verify the recommendations made by Sen. A great one for committees, she may appoint another one if the GJM expresses its reservations, once again. But how long can this continue?
At the same time, the government has announced the dates for elections to the GTA, taking as its basis the area that was under the authority of the erstwhile Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council. This may complicate matters further. Meanwhile, in seeking to please the hill leaders, it seems to be ignoring the tribals in the plains whose leaders have made it clear that they are in no mood to see any part of their land being brought under the purview of the GTA. It will be a mistake to take them lightly as the State cannot afford an area of discontent in a region where fissiparous tendencies have been noticed for long. The demand for a Greater Coochbehar or a separate Kamtapur may not be voiced with the same stridency as that of Gorkhaland but that does not mean that the protagonists are sitting idle. Any attempt to go beyond the hills while mapping out a Gorkha territory must be done with extreme caution.
The chief minister seems to be in undue haste to settle the issue. Instead of playing the game of one-upmanship, she should have gone through the suggestions of the previous dispensation. But to her, that would have amounted to towing the Marxist line, something she is averse to doing. She had to appear to the Gurungs and Giris as somebody who wanted to bring about change even if that meant creating a knotty problem. Now she is in a soup, with the Morcha increasing its pressure on her and the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad about to take up arms.