“WE HAVE BEEN LET DOWN BY WEST BEN­GAL”

Con­fi­dent that the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia will take care of the stand­off with China on its bor­der, Sikkim chief min­is­ter Pawan Ku­mar Cham­ling says he is more wor­ried about the price his state is hav­ing to pay for the Gorkha­land ag­i­ta­tion in West Ben­gal. Exc

India Today - - COVER STORY -

Q. You sup­port Gorkha­land and yet you seem to be the worst hit in the on­go­ing Gorkha­land ag­i­ta­tion.

A. For 32 years, we have been suf­fer­ing be­cause of the Gorkha­land ag­i­ta­tion, though the de­mand for a sep­a­rate state has noth­ing to do with Sikkim. The de­mand con­cerns Ben­gal and is be­ing raised by the peo­ple of Dar­jeel­ing, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Dooars. For nearly three decades of the Gorkha­land ag­i­ta­tion, we have suf­fered a loss of Rs 60,000 crore, whereas Ben­gal doesn’t seem to have suf­fered at all. Law and or­der in their area vests with Ben­gal. Who should bear this loss suf­fered by us? The Cen­tre or the Ben­gal gov­ern­ment? We have sup­ported Gorkha­land in the in­ter­est of en­sur­ing free move­ment of our peo­ple with­out any in­con­ve­nience on NH-10, which is our only life­line. Se­condly, Gorkha com­mu­ni­ties are In­dian ci­ti­zens whose con­tri­bu­tion to na­tion-build­ing is no less than of other In­dian ci­ti­zens. Thirdly, the Gorkha com­mu­nity be­ing In­dian ci­ti­zens are fully jus­ti­fied to ask for a state of their own. Q. Just be­cause you have sup­ported Gorkha­land, are ve­hi­cles reg­is­tered with the Sikkim gov­ern­ment be­ing de­lib­er­ately tar­geted?

A. I can­not say why, but the fact re­mains we have got no pro­tec­tion from the state (West Ben­gal) gov­ern­ment. Law and or­der is the state’s look­out and it has mis­er­ably failed to give us the nec­es­sary se­cu­rity. Our trucks are be­ing at­tacked, torched and goods are be­ing off­loaded and in some places po­lice have re­mained silent on­look­ers. As a small state, we had high ex­pec­ta­tion of a big state like Ben­gal. In­stead of pro­vid­ing pro­tec­tion to a small state, the West Ben­gal gov­ern­ment has re­mained a mute spec­ta­tor. I was com­pelled to move the Supreme Court seek­ing pro­tec­tion. Even af­ter the court’s or­der, I haven’t seen any pos­i­tive changes so far.

Q. By voic­ing your stand on Gorkha­land, you seem to have an­tag­o­nised Ma­mata Banerjee. She has gone on record say­ing the Gorkha­land ag­i­ta­tion is get­ting back­ing from un­de­sir­able el­e­ments—mil­i­tants and ex­trem­ist groups. A. The prob­lems of Dar­jeel­ing hills are not ours but the Ben­gal gov­ern­ment’s prob­lems, which they have to solve and can­not de­flect by blam­ing others. That is why we moved a res­o­lu­tion in the Sikkim leg­isla­tive assem­bly in 2011 for a sep­a­rate state of Gorkha­land. Why do you think we did that? De­mand for state­hood in the Dar­jeel­ing hills is 107 years old. It reached this stage only from 1986. Be­cause of the Dar­jeel­ing prob­lem, Sikkim has al­ways been the big­gest suf­ferer and un­less and un­til it is solved, Sikkim will never get jus­tice. If move­ment on NH-10 was fully free with­out risk to loss of life and prop­erty, we

“Till the Dar­jeel­ing prob­lem is solved, Sikkim will never get jus­tice. That is why we sup­port the de­mand for a sep­a­rate Gorkha­land”

would never have be­come the suf­fer­ers. How am I re­spon­si­ble for in­flam­ing their feel­ings? We have re­alised that Gorkha­land can be the only per­ma­nent so­lu­tion to the prob­lems Sikkim faces. Ours is a land-locked state and when­ever the Gorkha­land is­sue comes up, our life­line, NH-10, gets hit. Busi­ness, tourism suf­fer. There is no mis­un­der­stand­ing or ill-feel­ing to­wards Ma­mata Banerjee ji, at least from my end. She is a big leader and should un­der­stand our prob­lem. I can talk to her or write to her to clear the air.

Q. There is talk that the ab­scond­ing GJM leader Bi­mal Gu­rung is shel­ter­ing in Sikkim.

A. Why would I give him shel­ter when I am over­bur­dened by my own prob­lem? Sikkim’s con­cern is my con­cern and it is my ut­most pri­or­ity to help my state over­come losses.

Q. Ma­mata Banerjee is hold­ing the dams con­structed by the Sikkim gov­ern­ment re­spon­si­ble for Teesta los­ing its flow.

A. If we have con­structed two dams, she has also con­structed two on the Ben­gal side. Dams are not the cause. The Teesta is­sue is be­ing un­nec­es­sar­ily blown up. It flows from Sikkim and the funny thing is no­body both­ers to take us on board when it comes up for dis­cus­sion. Our opin­ion on the river should have been our in­her­ent right as a nat­u­ral owner. I’ll to write to the Cen­tre on this.

Q. How will the In­dia­China stand­off af­fect Sikkim?

A. We are 100 per cent con­fi­dent of the ca­pa­bil­ity of the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia to pro­tect us from any threat. Our peo­ple are like un­paid sol­diers de­fend­ing the mother­land. In 1975, Sikkim merged with the main­stream out of free choice and ref­er­en­dum of the peo­ple. This ex­am­ple of pa­tri­o­tism for the in­tegrity of the na­tion is un­par­al­leled in the world. My lead­er­ship fur­ther helped in the emo­tional and cul­tural in­te­gra­tion of the peo­ple of Sikkim with the na­tion.

Q. China is claim­ing a por­tion of Bhutanese ter­ri­tory. Does Sikkim fear any such threat? A. Any claim of por­tion of Arunachal Pradesh or Bhutan by a for­eign coun­try is not my ju­ris­dic­tion. The Gov­ern­ment of In­dia is fully ca­pa­ble of deal­ing with any un­to­ward sit­u­a­tion.

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