Division in the GJM

The division in the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) is now out in the open. The Chief Coordinator of the Morcha, Benoy Tamang, attended the all-party meeting on the hill situation convened by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. There were some other local parties as well like the GNLF. GMC president Bimal Gurung did not attend the meet. On returning to the hills, Tamang announced that the seven week long bandh in the hills was being withdrawn and normal life in Darjeeling would return from Friday. Within minutes, Gurung not only denied that the bandh was being called off but Tamang himself along with his associate Anit Thapa would be expelled from the GJM. Judging by the reaction of the common people in the hills, Tamang’s announcement of the withdrawal of bandh has been widely welcomed by all sections of people.
The Morcha now faces the prospect of a vertical split, with one faction owing allegiance to Gurung and another to Tamang. Who has more numbers on his side is secondary. The primary concern is that the two factions of the Morcha are on a collision course and the hills may see another round of violence soon. Gurung is fighting his last political battle. If he fails to deliver on his promise of a separate Gorkhaland (which seems practically impossible), he will become a non-entity in hill politics. The leadership of the Morcha will pass into the hands of Tamang and his associates. The Chief Minister has convened the next meeting of the hill parties in Jalpaiguri town on September 12. But Gurung’s intransigence makes the outcome of that meeting rather uncertain. Getting increasingly isolated politically, Gurung and his band of followers may take to the streets.
The State Government will have to be very cautious. Nothing should be done that can jeopardize the consensus arrived at in August 29 meeting in Kolkata. The attempt should be to unite the people in favour of speedy return of peace and resumption of normal activities. The Pujas are coming. This is the time that tourists go to Darjeeling in droves to spend their holidays. A bandh or disruption of normal life will hit Darjeeling hard by scaring away prospective tourists. That may satisfy the bloated ego of Bimal Gurung but cause immense hardship to the large number of people who are dependent on tourism to earn their bread.
The present situation offers an opportunity of settling the Gorkhaland issue once for all. On the basis of the consensus arrived at, all concerned should work for the development of the hills, remaining in West Bengal. People should be made to understand that the prosperity and development of Darjeeling is not contingent on its separation from Bengal.

Sunday, 3 September, 2017