Gorkhaland, Telangana, Bundelkhand…the political cut and divide game in India just keeps getting bigger and bigger. While the Telangana issue has gained more than needed momentum in the last few months, what with the Central government setting in motion the process of carving out the separate state, the contenders for Gorkhaland don’t want to be left behind.
Now, for those who might be unaware, ‘Gorkhaland’ is the term given to the areas around Darjeeling and Duars in north West Bengal. The residents of this region, being Gorkhas, have long been fighting for an independent state of theirs, distinct from the mainland Bengal. Their stance is that this would lead to better development of the region, à la forming smaller states in 2000.
The first appeal was made more than a hundred years back in 1907 when the hill leaders sought Darjeeling’s separation from Bengal and the plea has continued ever since. In the 80s, this appeal gathered violent force under the leadership of Subhash Ghising of the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF). And now, after almost 20 years, the agitation regained momentum in 2007 with the coming up of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM). Its leader, Bimal Gurung, urged his people for a non-violent but forceful demand for the separate state of Gorkhaland.
Gorkhaland, in fact, already looks like a properly functioning state. At least that’s the impression one gets from the outside. All signboards in the region have replaced the name ‘West Bengal’ with ‘Gorkhaland’. Citizens have stopped paying their taxes including electricity and phone bills. Even the government offices have started going by the name of ‘Government of Gorkhaland’ and it is the GJM that decides when to open or shut the offices. Vehicles now put a GL number plate and not the earlier WB one, forcing many to take to walking and avoid their Bengal registered vehicles from being noticed. The GJM has even taken the matters of law and order into their own hands with the help of their police wing, the Gorkhaland Personnel (GLP). Moreover, they direct people even as far as their dress, drinking etc. and have made it compulsory to display the party’s green-white-yellow flags on all houses and shops. Bimal Gurung holds the reins while not even a gist of Budhadeb’s chief-ministership is seen. Gurung’s word is law. In fact, Budhadeb Bhattacharya was not even allowed to enter the area in 2007 as the GJM called a three-day strike.
The fight for complete autonomy of the region has been a very thought-over and non-violent one. Being referred to as the ‘Gandhian’ approach, it has gathered support from major sections like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the mainstream parties of Sikkim. But nothing has come out of all this yet. That is, at least, from the Bengal government’s end. Adopting a rigid and inflexible stand, they’re observing restraint to avoid any kind of uprising or disturbance to the ongoing peace process.
With the government beginning to look into the Telangana issue, Gorkhaland has once again become a major subject for contention. It is one of the aspiring states among many and its future is not known. Though it is true, that development in smaller states does pick up steam after their formation, a case of point being Uttarakhand, yet the uncertainty would stay and the there would always be unending questions. Is the formation of Gorkhaland the true solution? Will Bimal Gurung also adopt the same tactics as the Telangana patriarch, K Chandrasekhar Rao? Is the appeal for a new state genuine or is to only satisfy the whims and fancies of political heads and parties? Does the solution really lie in division and not unity?
Diverse options have come up including that of making the area a Union Territory. But with both the GJM and the Bengal government taking the uncompromising route, we as citizens, can only hope that none follow the footsteps of KCR and none reach an extent of extremes on the Gorkhaland subject.
[Image courtesy: http://www.merinews.com/upload/thumbimage/1232459582391_gorkhaland_t.gif]