BENGAL’s OPINION: Fire rages in the hills – Darjeeling talks founder on GJM obduracy – depends on which side of the psychological border one is on, elections vs territory ?!!
From The Pioneer Edit Desk
September 13, 2010, 10:42:39 AM: Performing a balancing act requires dexterity and concentration; the three parties to the ongoing talks with the excitable Gorkha Janamukti Morcha over the eventual fate of Darjeeling have shown a certain clumsiness.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, the negotiations for a solution have fallen through after reaching a point where it seemed that an agreement was almost final. The point at which things have come unstuck is illuminating. It indicates a deeper malaise.
Free and fair elections of the multi-party kind that is the hallmark of India’s vibrant democracy cannot be held in Darjeeling — according to the obstreperous GJM (just like a Bengal fishmarket, a cultural rub-off ?!!). Nor can the two other parties to the negotiation ask for the inclusion of persons in the proposed council of the Gorkha Regional Authority who are not approved by the GJM.
In other words, the GJM is claiming for itself squatters rights (*?!! not Bengal’s depraved & corrupt rule in India as hegemonist and colonialist, when the areas in question never belonged to Bengal in the first place ?!!) — just as the Gorkha National Liberation Front had done earlier.
Any exercise undertaken thereafter to make the Gorkha Regional Authority representative of the multiplicity of opinions and voices and groups becomes infructuous because the GJM has declared that it will not allow it.
The strong-arm methods of the GJM have been on display for a long time now — banning the GNLF, sending Subash Ghising, the founder the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, into exile, disallowing his wife’s cremation in Darjeeling, driving out former municipal councillors and DGHC members of the GNLF from the hills, denying to other parties the right to be politically active, the murder of Gorkha League chief Madan Tamang. The list is longer and includes GJM members taking over the properties of those who have been hounded out of the hills.
The two sticking points to any discussion on restoring normalcy in Darjeeling are these two issues — territory and elections.
While the territorial claims of the GJM are inadmissible in their entirety because it includes the Terai and the Dooars as well as Siliguri as part of the proposed ‘Gorkhaland’, the interim arrangement that was being hammered out for constituting the Gorkha Regional Authority created space for non-GJM persons.
The interim arrangement also planned for holding elections to elicit the mandate of the people. In the wake of recent events, which are clearly indicative of the erosion of Mr Gurung’s popularity though not his capacity to exert menacing authority, his unwillingness to share power is further affirmation, if one were required, that the legitimacy of the GJM to negotiate as the sole representative of all the people in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong is in doubt.
Power without the mandate of the people is in grave violation of the Constitution that promises to respect the right of every citizen to elect his or her own representative. A denial of that right at any point for any reason is unacceptable.