Stabilizing peace in the hills

Life in the Darjeeling hills has slowly started returning to normalcy after almost three and a half months of bandh enforced by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and its leader Bimal Gurung. Arrest warrants have been issued against Gurung on various counts of criminal offences, the last being the shooting of police Sub-Inspector Amitabh Malik. Gurung has been evading arrest and taking shelter in neighbouring Sikkim, with the Sikkim Government allegedly playing a collusive role. The situation in the Darjeeling hills is far from normal. The role of the BJP leadership, both at the State and at the national level is ambiguous and ambivalent. The party has not taken a clear stand on whether it is for or against the creation of a separate Gorkhaland. But the State BJP leaders are not concealing their support and sympathy for Gurung and company.
The Centre’s decision, in these circumstances, to withdraw paramilitary forces from the troubled district has naturally caused anxiety and anger of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. She has said such a unilateral step by the Centre without consulting the State is regrettable and will create problems in the maintenance of peace in the hills. She has requested both the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister to rescind the decision. Gurung and his cohorts have collected large quantities of firearms and ammunition some of which have been seized by the police. In the prevailing situation there can be no slackness on the part of the administration in maintaining and stabilizing peace in the hills. The Centre’s unexpected decision, taken without consulting the State, will make the situation more fragile and give a cause of exultation to Gurung and company.
Through her skilful strategy, Mamata has been successful in isolating Gurung not only from the common mass of Gorkhas of Darjeeling but in his own party. The GJM today stands virtually divided, with the leadership of the party having been taken over by Benoy Tamang, the current chairman of the GTA and his colleague Aneet Thapa who is now the GTA vice-chairman. It is to be hoped that Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh will look at the Darjeeling problem from the point of view of national interest and not from a narrow political view point of scoring Brownie electoral points for the BJP. Darjeeling is strategically situated and some outside powers may also be interested in destabilizing the situation there.

Wednesday, 18 October, 2017