The burning Hills

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) had a free run of the Darjeeling town on Thursday at a time when the Chief Minister and the entire State Cabinet were present. The widespread vandalism that the GJM indulged – or rather could indulge – in almost with gay abandon raises several questions. The first and most obvious is why the police and the Intelligence failed totally to know what the Morcha had planned, what was afoot. Second, the Trinamool Congress claims to have made inroads into the hills and won the Mirik municipality and seats in several other civic bodies in the hills. Why is it that the local leadership of the ruling party also did not have any inkling of what the Morcha had planned for during the Chief Minister’s presence? The third important question is, whether the Morcha had received any help, of any nature, from any ‘outside’ force of which the Intelligence was totally in the dark. It is also a moot question how the leaders of the Morcha could give the slip to the police and escape from the town after creating utter lawlessness.
The GJM could work up public fury by carrying on a totally false propaganda that the State Government had made Bengali a compulsory subject in the schools, despite the prompt official clarification that Bengali was not compulsory but optional. That the Morcha succeeded in its propaganda implies that there is a communication and credibility gap between the local people and the civil administration. This gap needs to be closed speedily so that the Morcha cannot whip up public feelings by taking recourse to false propaganda in future.
There may be other political forces working secretly and silently which will not hesitate to resort to any dirty tricks to queer the pitch for the Chief Minister and her party in the hills, even by supporting the demand for a separate Gorkhaland on the sly. It has to be found out whether any such forces are indeed working in the hills. If they are, they have to be exposed thoroughly. What the Morcha could succeed in doing also underlines another important fact: development alone is not enough to win over the hill people. Equally necessary is to establish social and personal contact with them. It is only through a long process of interaction that the feeling of ‘we’ and ‘they’ can be overcome and the basis for a permanent and lasting peace in the hills can be laid.

Sunday, 11 June, 2017