ALIEN IDEA – for the Gorkhas, Adivasis or for Bengal ?!!

Compulsions of populist politics can make leaders do unpredictable things. Even his own followers must have found Bimal Gurung’s latest call for a new status for Darjeeling rather incomprehensible.

The tribal people whom he wanted to win over to his side, however, have refused to be taken in by his ploy. If the people of the Dooars and the Terai do not want to be part of any set-up that would have Darjeeling as its centre, it is because they see no benefit from it for themselves.

In fact, the tribal people of North Bengal see Mr Gurung’s proposal as a threat to their own aspirations. They have their own grievances and want a council under the Sixth Schedule to take care of them.

It is debatable whether any such council is the right answer to their problems. But the ethnic and other demographic factors in the Dooars and the Terai make the people in these areas very distinct from the people in the hills.

Mr Gurung has clearly made a proclamation without realizing the fallacy of it. Worse, he has made his own people confused and his neighbours suspicious about his territorial ambitions.

It is not difficult, though, to understand what prompted Mr Gurung to suddenly raise such an unrealistic idea.

He has been negotiating with the Centre and the West Bengal government for a new set-up for the Darjeeling hills. The talks had proceeded on the basis of his own argument that this set-up would be an interim arrangement till December 31, 2011.

Both New Delhi and Calcutta had refused to accept his demand for the inclusion of large parts of the Dooars and the Terai in the proposed interim set-up for Darjeeling. But the differences had not closed the negotiations, nor did they prompt Mr Gurung to raise the demand for a separate state at this stage.

If he has suddenly changed track, it definitely has much to do with the events in Darjeeling following the brutal murder of Madan Tamang, president of the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League.

The popular outrage over the killing seems to have unnerved Mr Gurung. Tamang had openly opposed any idea of an interim set-up and demanded Gorkhaland instead. He had to pay with his life for this, but a dead Tamang could continue to pose a threat to Mr Gurung’s control over the masses.

The call for a Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh is thus primarily Mr Gurung’s ploy to keep his flock together. He would do better to see reason and return to the talks table.

DEMON IN THE HILLS – dissention just for dissention sake or singing and dissenting to Bengal’s diversive fiddle ?!!

By Sumanta Sen in the Fifth Column

When the kukris brought down Madan Tamang, it was not a man who was opposed to a separate Gorkhaland who died, but a man who was a born dissenter.

As fiercely a champion of the interests of the hill people as anybody else, the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League president was always quick to find faults with those around him, and never hesitated to dissociate himself from them.

Particularly when he suspected that self-interest was being placed ahead of the cause.

So he became bitterly critical of Subash Ghisingh, got close to his rivals in the Gorkha National Liberation Front who later formed the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, and then turned against them, as in his perception they also were taking the hill people for a ride.

Such a man as Madan Tamang was dangerous. At a time when the GJM is hard-pressed to convince people that it is not letting them down, Tamang’s words could not have been music to the Morcha’s ears.

Of course, the GJM has never brooked criticism, and has even tried its best to throw the critics out of the hills. Tamang refused to oblige, he stayed put at Rhododendron Dale and never hesitated to speak his mind.

In the atmosphere of violence that has been created in the hills over the past couple of years, it came as no surprise that Tamang would be physically eliminated. It was the only way in which he could be silenced. And silenced he had to be, since the GJM perhaps believed that his party would no longer be the same once Tamang was removed. His death brought back memories of all kinds.

The assassination took place near Keventers, and one immediately recalled the long hours of conversation on the terrace of that establishment, in the course of which Tamang would speak on subjects ranging from politics to literature and the environment. Once he had spoken of a strange reptile he had seen in the bushes in the outskirts of Darjeeling and which he had promised to show.

That never came about, but his abiding interest in the flora and fauna of the hills was very much there to be seen.

And when he pressed for inclusion of the Nepali language in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, it was evident that he was not just playing a political game. His love for the language and Nepalese culture sprang from the innermost core of his heart.

As he breathed his last, leaders of the GJM lamented that Tamang had not taken note of the emotionally charged atmosphere. In other words, while claiming that they are heading a peaceful, democratic movement, the Bimal Gurungs and the Roshan Giris do not want to see anybody swimming along a course not charted by them.

They would do well to remember that the atmosphere used to be less emotionally charged when the Gorkha League was in the forefront of things. Other political forces had no problems in functioning then.

Their offices and the houses of their leaders had never been torched that has become the rule ever since the arrival of the GJM, and earlier, when Ghisingh ruled the roost.

A Deo Prakash Rai or a Madan Tamang had little in common with a leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) like Ananda Pathak, but they had not burnt down his house and library in Kurseong as the GNLF hoodlums had done.

In the last few years, Tamang was seeking, along with others, to bring together all anti-GJM parties on a common platform. His assassination may halt any effort to put into operation the needed process. This should please the GJM, but only just.

Demons have a habit of finally devouring their creators, and the demon of fear and destruction in the hills may do just that.


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