The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s decision to contest the July 29 elections to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration has doubtless brought a smile to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s face. But in order to keep it, she needs to play her cards prudently — at least from now. The region was on the boil for nearly three decades, driven by protests over the Gorkhaland demand. In more recent years, a series of shutdowns hit the region, that is largely dependent on tourism. For the Trinamool Congress leader, buying peace was an expediency after she came to power. Propelled chiefly by the new government’s headlong rush to prove a point, a tripartite agreement was signed among the GJM, and the West Bengal and Central governments. The deal provided for the GTA, replacing the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council that was formed in the late-1980s. While “keeping on record the demand of the GJM for a separate state of Gorkhaland,” the agreement provided for the formation of the autonomous and self-governing GTA through direct elections. The State government agreeing to acknowledge in that deal the essentially divisive Gorkhaland dream clearly amounted to appeasement. The government should not go down the placatory path anymore without giving due thought to the disruptive potential of the slogan. The whole process cannot be impervious and insensitive to the legitimate political and social aspirations of the people of the Dooars and the Terai in the Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts. If they do not want their areas to be part of the GTA, how could those sentiments be ignored outright?
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.
It is unbelievable that the high power committee led by retired justice Shyamal Sen who was entitled to resolve the contentious territorial dispute over the regions of Dooars and Terais have come up with such a lopsided verdict to decide the future of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration. Selecting five mouzas out of 396 mouzas is not only a shocker but it also reflects the cruel intention of the State Government which is being highly insensible to the demand of the people in the hills and the plains. If five mousas was to be doled out then there wasn’t any use of wasting ten months time by the high power committee. This recent development is a result of well organized plan of the state government. Like Mamta has opposed each and every good decisions of the centre and presented herself as a big obstacle to the UPA government’s progress it was obvious that she will do the same with the GJM’s stalemate in Darjeeling. Shyamal Sen is just a ploy of the state government because all he did is to abide by what Mamta Banerjee and her cronies asked him to do. It has taken everyone by surprise. The secessionist movement of Gorkhaland has always been compromised since long by our leaders in Darjeeling and repents afterwards. Perhaps this is the reason of over expectation from them by the masses. There is no difference between the movement of the past and at present because all they did is showed hopes for self rule and better prospects for life but failed to achieve it due to their blinkered vision and lack of efficient political leadership. When GTA accord was signed it didn’t overwhelm the pro Gorkhaland supporters with euphoria but it has rather made them upset and skeptic. The then it was crystal clear to predict the real intention of Miss Banerjee on undivided Bengal and GTA lollipop but our leaders in Darjeeling took a long time to understand that mistrust and betrayal which now seemed to have appeared.
Editorial Note: This cover story was published on June 2010 in the print edition of the Darjeeling Times magazine, a month after the assassination of Mr. Madan Tamang. It has been two years since that day and the Madan Tamang assassination case is still under investigation by the CBI. On the 2nd death anniversary of Late. Madan Tamang, we are sharing the cover story from two years back, what is sad is the fact that the urgency shown by our fellow Darjeelingeys in demanding justice back then, has ebbed out, and we the people of Darjeeling are back to being our old uninvolved, uncaring self.
“He represented the best in all of us… he represented what a Gorkhali should be… he represented the fierceness… the dedication… the fearlessness… the selflessness… the determination… and loyalty to the cause for which the Gorkhalis are renowned.”
This past month has been a month of considerable challenge and introspection for the Gorkhalis world over. The assassination of Madan Tamang has not only stunned Gorkhalis in India and the Indian media, but it has also generated considerable interest in the media world over. The very foundation of democracy in Darjeeling hills was rocked to the core, and the outpouring of public sentiment against the assassination of Madan Tamang was not only unexpected but also unprecedented in the history of the area.
Is there a case regarding Gorkhas seeking linguist minorities’ status?
The framers of the constitution of India decided on linguist states and not geographical states, yet linguist minorities in India are not given the same status and rights as religious minorities, which are vote banks. On the other hand there is reservation on caste based criteria which adds a whole new dimension to the social fabric of society. Currently English has emerged as the language of power and economics, while Hindi has become a popular language with nearly 51% of the population of the country studying the same as first, or second, language. All this has been at the cost of a large number of other languages. Around 20 years ago there were more than 148 languages yet today 94 main stream languages are left. Each time a language dies, so does it art, literature, culture, dance, drama, poetry, dress sense and clothes, cooking, in short its way of life. There is a growing need to learn English which provides jobs and is the language of power, left out are the regional languages. There are essentially adequate provisions in the constitution of India to provide protection to linguist minorities, yet the social milieu demands more emphasis on economic language and the other languages are dying out. There is thus a need to preserve various languages; on the other hand there is the urgency to economically progress, which all sections of society demand as their right.
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.