Q&A: BIMAL GURUNG

India Today - - STATES -

On the run to es­cape prose­cu­tion by Ma­mata Ban­er­jee’s gov­ern­ment, de­posed Gorkha Ter­ri­to­rial Au­thor­ity (GTA) chief BIMAL GURUNG says he is bid­ing his time till he can re­new the Gorkha Jan­mukti Mor­cha (GJM) ag­i­ta­tion for Gorkha­land. In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view from his hide­out, he spoke to ROMITA DATTA about his plans. Ex­cerpts:

Q. You are in hid­ing and Bi­nay Ta­mang has taken con­trol of the GJM and the GTA...

A. Ta­mang isn’t even in con­trol of his own life and views. He’s a pup­pet whose strings are be­ing pulled from Kolkata. I am not in hid­ing, but merely keep­ing a low pro­file un­til the tri­par­tite talks promised by the Cen­tre. The peo­ple are with me, even the state in­tel­li­gence re­ports say ‘70 per cent’ sup­port me.

Q. There’s an­other Lok Sabha elec­tion around the corner... A. I have never done pol­i­tics to be in power. The GJM was formed to ful­fil the dreams of our peo­ple and I re­main com­mit­ted to that. Let the talks be­gin and cre­ate an at­mos­phere

for democ­racy to re­turn to the hills.

Q. There is talk that you could float a new party, or do you claim to be the real GJM?

A. I don’t claim any­thing. Bar­ring the few propped up by Kolkata, ev­ery­one knows I rep­re­sent the GJM. It’s too early to say who we will sup­port. Right now, we are with the BJP.

Q. What are your con­di­tions for sup­port­ing the BJP?

A. We haven’t de­cided whether we will con­test the elec­tions alone or in an al­liance. Our cen­tral com­mit­tee will de­cide that. As for me, I am here so that the re­gion’s poor chil­dren—be it Gorkha, Adi­vasi, Ra­jbong­shi, Ben­gali, Bi­hari or any other com­mu­nity—don’t suf­fer the same fate as when I was young.

Q. Is there a way to bro­ker peace with the state gov­ern­ment? A. We were never at war with the West Ben­gal gov­ern­ment. We are two po­lit­i­cal en­ti­ties with dif­fer­ent opin­ions on Gorkha­land. Di­a­logue is im­por­tant in pol­i­tics. We are ready

for tri­par­tite talks with the Cen­tre and the state gov­ern­ment. It is the lat­ter that has de­clined talks.

Q. Ma­mata has made peace with Sikkim. Have you lost a friend in chief min­is­ter P.K. Cham­ling? A. Ma­mata Ban­er­jee may be friends with Cham­ling, but the peo­ple of Sikkim and Dar­jeel­ing are a fam­ily. Sikkim has al­ways sup­ported us in times of need.

Q. The state ac­cuses you of mis­ap­pro­pri­at­ing GTA funds...

A. They con­ducted three au­dits but found noth­ing. We haven’t mis­used a sin­gle ru­pee of what­ever lit­tle was granted to us. I want the CAG to do a spe­cial au­dit. I’m sure they will find mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of funds since the board of ad­min­is­tra­tors was formed, not be­fore that.

Q. But the hills are now peace­ful... A. The hill peo­ple have al­ways strived for peace. The vi­o­lence was un­leashed by var­i­ous agen­cies of the West Ben­gal gov­ern­ment. Even to­day, thou­sands, fear­ing ar­rest, haven’t been able to re­turn to their homes. This is not peace. This is like the ‘si­lence of the lambs’. It’s like the Emer­gency. Peo­ple are be­ing ar­rested for com­ments on Face­book. The Dar­jeel­ing re­gion sits in the cross-sec­tion of four coun­tries. Ro­hingya refugees and il­le­gal mi­grants from Bangladesh are be­ing set­tled here. The state is play­ing with fire, even the cen­tral gov­ern­ment is aware of it.

Q. Have you had any feel­ers from the Tri­namool Con­gress? A. (laughs) There has been no at­tempt by the TMC gov­ern­ment so far to scale down ten­sions. The TMC is just a po­lit­i­cal party that may or may not be there to­mor­row, just like the CPI(M), which un­leashed ter­ror in 1986. What I’m try­ing to say is, friend­ships can hap­pen only if all of us re­spect each other’s val­ues.

INDRANIL BHOUMIK/GETTY IM­AGES

WAIT AND WATCH GJM leader Bimal Gurung in a file photo from 2017

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