UN­REST IN ‘GORKHA­LAND’

The hill dis­tricts are again on a col­li­sion course with Ma­mata’s regime

India Today - - INSIDE - By Romita Datta

The de­mand for a sep­a­rate Gorkha­land, which en­com­passes the hill dis­tricts of Dar­jeel­ing, Kalimpong and Kurseong and parts of Terai and Dooars in the plains, is a re­cur­ring chant by the Gorkha Jan­mukti Mor­cha (GJM), with pres­i­dent Bi­mal Gu­rung crank­ing it up when­ever the go­ing gets a bit tough for him.

Pla­cated for a while (as his men­tor and Gorkha Na­tional League Front chief Subhash Ghis­ing was in 2005) with the cre­ation of a semi-au­ton­o­mous coun­cil—the Gorkha Ter­ri­to­rial Ad­min­is­tra­tion (GTA)—in July 2011 af­ter the Tri­namool Congress came to power in the state, Gu­rung is on the warpath again. Chief Min­is­ter Ma­mata Ban­er­jee’s move to have the GTA ac­counts au­dited is the most re­cent provo­ca­tion.

The state gov­ern­ment had re­leased Rs 3,000 crore to the GTA at the time of its in­cep­tion in 2011, but the or­gan­i­sa­tion has main­tained no ac­counts of ex­pen­di­ture or both­ered with fur­nish­ing util­i­sa­tion cer­tifi­cates. Ma­mata has been aware of the large-scale fi­nan­cial ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties by GTA mem­bers since 2013-14, but her sud­den de­ci­sion to put the au­dit team on their heels is be­ing seen as a ma­noeu­vre to iso­late Gu­rung.

The CM views Gu­rung as an ad­ver­sary be­cause it is with his sup­port that the BJP has been win­ning the Dar­jeel­ing

Lok Sabha seat since 2009 (the GJM’s sup­port is based on the BJP’s com­mit­ment to the cre­ation of Gorkha­land as a sep­a­rate state).

The re­cently con­cluded mu­nic­i­pal­ity polls in the hills have once again gone in favour of the GJM, which won three—Dar­jeel­ing, Kurseong and Kalimpong—out of the four mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, giv­ing Gu­rung all the more rea­son to flex his mus­cles. Smart­ing from the GTA au­dit or­der, he found his chance to hit back when Ma­mata an­nounced the in­tro­duc­tion of Ben­gali in school cur­ricu­lums in the hills. Though it is still op­tional, it fit­ted well into Gu­rung’s plans in stok­ing the fires among the Nepali-speak­ing Gorkhas.

On June 8, as Ma­mata was pre­sid­ing over her first cabi­net meet­ing in the hills at the Raj Bha­van in Dar­jeel­ing, thou­sands of GJM sup­port­ers came out onto the streets. They pelted stones and crude bombs, set fire to po­lice jeeps and state buses, stop­ping dan­ger­ously close to hold­ing the CM and her cabi­net hostage.

Nearly 10,000 hol­i­day­ers were stranded in the city, forc­ing the CM to req­ui­si­tion the army

MA­MATA’S MOVE TO HAVE THE GTA AC­COUNTS AU­DITED IS THE MOST RE­CENT PROVO­CA­TION

to bring the sit­u­a­tion un­der con­trol. Typ­i­cally, though, Ma­mata her­self opted to stay in Dar­jeel­ing to re­as­sure the stranded tourists.

But the ag­i­ta­tion con­tin­ued. Gu­rung gave a call for non-co­op­er­a­tion with the gov­ern­ment from June 12. How­ever, with an eye on lo­cal liveli­hoods, the trans­port and ho­tel in­dus­tries were ex­empted along­side schools and emer­gency ser­vices. “The mor­cha has a sin­gle-point pro­gramme, Gorkha­land for the Gorkhas,” says Roshan Giri, GJM gen­eral sec­re­tary.

In a telling move, Gu­rung has writ­ten to Union home min­is­ter Ra­j­nath Singh, ap­pris­ing him of the TMC gov­ern­ment’s high-hand­ed­ness. The word in Dar­jeel­ing is that Delhi will push for tri­par­tite ne­go­ti­a­tions, but Ma­mata has al­ready re­jected the pos­si­bil­ity. She is in­stead con­sid­er­ing book­ing the GJM lead­ers for van­dal­is­ing pub­lic prop­erty and ar­son while also us­ing the GTA au­dit to ex­pose the cor­rup­tion of Gu­rung and other Gorkha lead­ers. Clearly, the bat­tle lines are be­ing drawn.

HOL­I­DAY HELL The army was out in Dar­jeel­ing as the GJM protests turned vi­o­lent

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