Violence In Darjeeling: Rooted In Politics Of Local Polls

– Brigadier CS Thapa

Violence In Darjeeling: Rooted In Politics Of Local Polls

The hills of Darjeeling are in turmoil and the sufferers are the common people who have to bear the stick end of the state. Is violence a political tool and is the current violence choreographed by all for political gains? Who started the violence is known but was there a motive or a hidden agenda, analysis points out there is a motive.

It is a known fact that the last civic polls held during the month of May’17 in Bengal, TMC won four out of the seven polls, and also made inroads into the Mirik constituency of the hills. The second known fact is that the BJP emerged as the second force in the civic polls and is gradually getting stronger and stronger. In fact, the BJP has its eye on assembly elections of Bengal due in 2021. State BJP president DilipGhosh had said that 2018 Panchayat elections in West Bengal would be the ‘quarter-final’ while the 2019 LokSabha poll would be the ‘semi-final’ before the Assembly election in 2021. Ghosh had exuded confidence that the party would put up a strong fight against TMC in the Panchayat election and asked party cadres to fan out in districts to strengthen the organization at the grassroots level.

The last elections for Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), a semi-autonomous bodytasked for development of the hills, were held in 2012. They are now due in July/August 2017. GorkhaJanmuktiMorcha which is spearheading the struggle for Gorkhaland has a brute majority in the hills of Darjeeling.

In the last civic polls the GJM held on to three municipal bodies -- Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong, but lost the elections of Mrik to TMC. GJM is also the partner of BJP for the Darjeeling parliament seat. This is an uneasy alliance – BJP BJP wants to emerge as a strong force in Bengal, and GJM wants a state separate from West Bengal. The situation could not be more complicated. Thus to kill two birds with one stone, the language issue is pushed up but not pressed by the TMC, the hills erupt in violence, both the BJP and the GJM are put on the back foot and the TMC may well be already laughing all the way to the vote bank.

If the BJP sides with GJM to whom they have given an understanding in the revised election manifesto to sympathetically view the demand of Gorkhaland, the BJP can forget Bengal 2021 state elections, where TMC emerges as the winner. Mamata’s party is already causing splits within the GJM and creating development boards to accommodate dissent.

To save his stronghold, BimalGurung is running from pillar to post. The emotive chord of Gorkhalandhas been once again struck by BimalGurung, and the people have rallied behind him. For how long are the political class going to play with civil society and the emotive issue of Gorkhaland, which is the essence of Gorkha identity.

Meanwhile, a word about the intelligentsia, which has shown double standards in their analysis of the current agitation.Bows and arrows andkhukris, a traditional wear, have been shown as weapons. Bullets are being fired on Gorkha people but there is no hue and cry; while pellet guns in J&K had made national headlines.

But violence is not the way out; it will only lead to more violence.The way forward is dialogue but that does not seem to be the overarching plot in this scheme of things. The Gorkhas will sooner or later have to go alone, as it is not politically expedient to grant them a state. A way needs to be found to bring back normalcy, and the Gorkha identity issue needs to be sorted out.

The identity is ingrained in Gorkhaland.Thus it’s back to who came first, the chicken or the egg. In the meanwhile the ham handedness of the state government needs to be controlled. Strong arm tactics will raise more resentment. State needs to preserve Gorkhaculture, way of life, language and sort out the identity issue.