Adding fuel to Hill fire

Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling has suddenly lent his support to the Gorkhaland movement of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), for no apparent or convincing reason. He has written to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh pleading that “creation of Gorkhaland state will also restore permanent peace and prosperity of the region. . . . The past three decades of agitation for the statehood demand in the neighbouring hills has claimed over 1000 lives and caused incalculable loss of property.”  It is intriguing that he neither has nor criticized the leaders of the movement who are responsible for the destruction of life and property in the last 30 years. Rather, he has supported the division of a neighbouring State and submitting to the violence and anarchy let loose by the Gorkhaland supporters.
To cope with the deteriorating situation in Darjeeling, the West Bengal Government had asked for a few more companies of central para-military forces. The Union Home Ministry has flatly turned down the request because it thinks sending more forces will only raise the intensity of violence. This is strange logic. Police and para-military forces are meant to control violence and bring back normal life. This is the first time the Centre has said that sending forces will give rise to more violence. The GJM will certainly interpret it as the Centre’s veiled support for their movement for a separate State. Recently, the State BJP chief supported the Gorkhaland demand. When this caused a furore in the State, the party’s national president Amit Shah said the party had not taken any stand on the separate Gorkhaland issue. Why this ambivalence? And why the party is not making its stand clear when the hills are burning?
The Gorkhaland movement is ruining the economy of the district. Tourists have stopped coming. Hotels, restaurants and shops are suffering losses. Many tea gardens have been closed. The labourers working there have lost their jobs. Tea is one of our biggest foreign exchange earners. So the impact of the movement will be on our tea exports also. Then there is another dimension. If Gorkhaland is conceded because the Gorkhas have a distinct ethnic identity and language, the demand for a Kamatapur State for the Koch people in north Bengal will be revived. The Santhals inhabiting large tracts of the two Medinipurs, Birbhum, Bankura and Purulia, generally known as jangal mahal, may be tempted to make a demand for a separate State.  The Centre must stand firmly against the vivisection of West Bengal.

Monday, 26 June, 2017