Situation in Darjeeling gets more interesting with Gurung managing some political support

The political situation in the north Bengal Hills is getting more interesting by the day with attempts now being made by the local BJP leadership there to rope in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) president Bimal Gurung also seems to have scored a few brownie points through his four-day hunger strike that ended on Sunday evening after he was admitted to hospital. This was evident from a protest rally brought out by the GJM supporters, demanding treatment for their leader. The popular refrain was: “A warrior can’t give up his life in this manner. He has to stay alive to carry on the fight.”

While there were rumours that Gurung has withdrawn his agitation, GJM general secretary Roshan Giri claimed otherwise. “He is continuing with his hunger strike. He hasn’t eaten anything. The doctors have administered drips as his condition deteriorated. After all, he is a diabetic and may go into shock,” Giri said.

Another crucial development on Sunday was a meeting between the BJP leaders like Darjeeling MP Raju Bista, MLA Neeraj Zimba and Giri. This could be an indication that the BJP wants to renew ties with the GJM. The two parties had parted ways in 2020 after Gurung entered into an alliance with the Trinamool Congress. Now both the GJM and the BJP (along with its alliance partner GNLF) are on the same plank, demanding cancellation of the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) elections, slated to be held on June 26. On Sunday, the BJP leaders also called upon West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, who was on a visit to Darjeeling.

“This is going to be a tightrope walk for the BJP leadership in Delhi. The GTA was formed in 2012 through a tripartite agreement between the Centre, state and the GJM. The MHA certainly has a say on whether the situation is conducive in the Hills for the elections. However, the Trinamool will go all out to lambast the BJP and the Centre for stalling what the party maintains is ‘development and restoration of democracy in the Hills’, if there is any intervention from the MHA. On the other hand, the BJP will gain political mileage among the Gorkha population if the election gets stalled. After all, Gurung has raised two vital issues close to the hearts of the Gorkhas. The state government is in no mood to address any of them,” a veteran politician in Darjeeling said.

The GTA replaced the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), but a large section of Gorkhas continue to believe that its formation was a sham. Even after a decade, several important departments have not been transferred to the GTA. Despite having a semi-autonomous body of their own, the Hills people have to depend on the state government. Gurung’s other demand is for transfer of 396 Gorkha-dominated mouzas in the Terai and the plains to the GTA. The Gorkhas believe that this is a valid claim as the GTA needs to be population-based to meet the aspirations of the people.

“A Gorkha from the Terai or plains should also be under the GTA. Why should the GTA be only for the people in the Hills? These are festering wounds. Unless taken care of, outbursts — like the one that occurred in 2017 for a separate state of Gorkhaland — are possible. Mere elections with a promise to restore democracy will not help,” a GJM leader said.




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