OPINION: Conceding Gorkhaland – Congress is playing a dangerous game – long time coming … and peacefully so ?!!
From The Pioneer
By Shikha Mukerjee
Forwarded by Gorkhs Daju
The sixth round of tripartite discussions for carving up a separate space for the ethnic Gorkhas of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong has ended inconclusively, at least officially.
Unofficially, though obviously, the direction in which discussions on Darjeeling are headed with the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha reinstated once again the recognised and consequently legitimate face of a long-standing demand with a pedigree that stretches back decades for a separate State of Gorkhaland, it is obvious that the West Bengal Government’s formal efforts to stop the virtual if not technical carve-up of the State seems doomed.
By taking the discussions forward, the Union Government, against the formal protest of the West Bengal Government, made an intervention that has far-reaching consequences.
The Congress has a gameplan and the UPA Government is working in accordance with that plan. In West Bengal that plan includes politically pulverising a feeble regime led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and robbing it of the last vestige of authority.
The danger in this plan is that the impact extends beyond the borders of West Bengal and the fate of the CPI(M). An interim solution that is based on carving out a separate space for the Darjeeling Gorkhas that stops short of creating a separate State will nevertheless be a rupture that effectively detaches Darjeeling from West Bengal.
The break-up, however it is framed, will be a political decision of the Congress rather than a considered decision of the Union Government. With demands for separate Statehood in Telangana and Vidarbha on the boil, the impact of the Congress regime’s intervention in Darjeeling will not remain confined to West Bengal.
Not all the demands for separate statehood are based on the sort of differences that exist between the hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and the plains. But that cannot be a reason to deny legitimacy to aspirations of people living in ‘distinctly’ different areas, even if the areas share a common language but separate histories and cultures.
Carving out a separate Darjeeling region to settle political scores is a potentially reckless gambit. A separate Darjeeling region also effectively cancels out the commitment to plurality — unity among diversity.
Quite apart from inciting other regions to stake their claims, it undermines the relationship of the Union Government vis-à-vis the States, denying to the State and its Government the legitimacy to resist separatist movements and demands. In the context of Darjeeling, any party in New Delhi that finds it politically profitable to exploit a separatist demand in an Opposition-run State can hereafter do so, irrespective of the claims, history and sentiments of the larger population.
The prospect of a regime change, especially one such as the end of 34 years of CPI(M) rule in West Bengal, is being perceived as presenting an opportunity for all political actors; the plunging popularity of the party has rendered the State Government’s authority ineffective.
Therefore, the merit of any argument or action is rendered meaningless by every agency with an axe to grind; be it Mr Bimal Gurung, the Maoists, the Peoples Committee Against Police Atrocities or the regular parliamentary parties. A pattern is beginning to emerge: Wherever there is a political vacuum, as happened in Darjeeling after Madan Tamang’s murder, there are vested interests waiting to exploit the situation. In Jhargram, since political parties have become inconsequential, a so-called people’s resistance has emerged. This presents an opportunity for political parties to rake in the advantage, because the CPI(M) is no longer able to lead, despite being the dominant party for so long.
Till the formal invitation to the sixth round of talks was conveyed to the GJM chief, Mr Bimal Gurung, he was a leader of dubious standing. His fall from grace was a result of the GJM’s plummeting credibility, a natural corollary of the direct link between the barbaric killing of Madan Tamang, leader of the All-India Gorkha League in broad daylight by persons said to be connected to the GJM.
So strongly believed was the connection that Mr Gurung and his cohorts fled Darjeeling and their return, though marked by bluster, was an uneasy assumption of power.
Therefore, the invitation to the tripartite meeting effectively legitimised Mr Gurung’s status as sole arbiter of Darjeeling’s future. This distinction is all the more striking because the discussion was held despite the West Bengal Government’s opposition. In other words, the State Government’s legitimate concern vis-à-vis the situation in Darjeeling was disregarded by the Union Government.
In doing so, the Union Government has signalled that even if the interim solution stopped short of granting separate statehood it was as good as doing just that. Mr Gurung has staged a comeback, holding the administration to ransom and also the people. His capacity to dictate terms has been strengthened by the State Government’s timid response to his blustering and by the gutless response to the Union Government’s provocation of calling a tripartite meeting.
The solution to the unrest in Darjeeling has become larger than the question of the rights of ethnic groups to a space that they can call their own. It has revealed the serious limitations of the UPA in handling a volatile problem because short-term political gains rather than long-term solutions are guiding its actions. It has also exposed the pitiful state of the CPI(M) in what is widely believed as its last days in power in West Bengal.