Ben­gal must dump emo­tional op­po­si­tion to Gorkhaland

Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur) - - Front Page -

AV­ER­AGE BEN­GALI SEES CRE­ATION OF SEP­A­RATE STATE AS THE POS­SI­BLE LOSS OF THE HILL RE­SORT OF DAR­JEEL­ING TO THE NEW EN­TITY

was be­ing sub­sumed to the in­ter­ests of neigh­bour­ing Ben­galis. But just as they are ranged against Gorkhaland now, Ben­gal politi­cians in­clud­ing cur­rent chief min­is­ter Ma­mata Ban­er­jee, were op­posed to the move then.

The sim­i­lar­i­ties do not end there. Just as we Ben­galis are out­raged at the very thought of los­ing Dar­jeel­ing, we were equally shocked at the prospect of not be­ing able to visit our favourite hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion of Puri on Odisha’s coast. A decade and a half later, our mis­giv­ings about Puri have proven to be mis­placed. Tens of thou­sands of Ben­galis still visit the sea­side town round the year, rid­ing trains run by the East Coast in­stead of South­ern Rail­ways.

Like­wise, Dar­jeel­ing too will not lose any of its lus­tre if it is to be­come the seat of ad­min­is­tra­make tion for a new state. Bud­get Ben­gali tourists in all prob­a­bil­ity will con­tinue to make a bee­line for it.

So it is about time Ben­galis should set aside their emo­tional op­po­si­tion and weigh the de­mand for sep­a­rate Gorkhaland for what­ever its worth. Dur­ing its peak in the 1980s, the Gorkhaland ag­i­ta­tion had cost 1,200 lives. The re­vival of the protests since the past week has al­ready claimed sev­eral lives and is threat­en­ing to spi­ral fur­ther. All this and more it im­per­a­tive for Ben­gal and its lead­ers to have a re­think on the is­sue.

True, strong ar­gu­ments can be made both for and against the cre­ation of Gorkhaland. Gorkhas suf­fer from an iden­tity cri­sis among a sea of Ben­gali-speak­ing pop­u­la­tion and a new state will ad­dress their alien­ation. Dar­jeel­ing is some 600km from Kolkata and there is no harm in bring­ing the state ad­min­is­tra­tion closer to the peo­ple of the hills. More im­por­tantly, the new state, in­clud­ing Dar­jeel­ing, will re­main part of In­dia. It is not that the hills, Dar­jeel­ing in­cluded, will fall into some­body else’s lap.

The ar­gu­ments against the new state can be equally com­pelling. Nepali-speak­ing Gorkhas are present in huge num­bers but are not nec­es­sar­ily in ma­jor­ity in many of the ar­eas that pro­po­nents of state­hood want as their ter­ri­tory. Gorkhas are not the only voice to reckon with the hills of north Ben­gal and other com­mu­ni­ties such as the Lepchas and Ta­mangs may not be on board with the de­mand for Gorkhaland. Hiv­ing off Gorkhaland known for its tea, tim­ber and tourism will leave West Ben­gal fi­nan­cially poorer. Fur­ther­more, cre­ation of a new state may trig­ger more copy-cat de­mands else­where.

What­ever the pros and cons, re­draw­ing state bound­aries do not im­peril In­dia’s fu­ture, though it might serve a huge po­lit­i­cal setback for cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als in power in West Ben­gal. But po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions of a few should not colour the col­lec­tive view. The is­sue of Gorkhaland needs a prac­ti­cal so­lu­tion grounded in re­al­ity, not an emo­tional re­sponse. Let the talks be­gin.

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