Leaderless Gorkha protesters deny China support

Gorkha activists protesting at Jantar Mantar demanding a separate state deny reports of China backing the unrest and say all Gorkha groups have united under one banner

Photo by Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Abid Shah

A group of Gorkha activists sitting on an indefinite protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi demanding a separate state deny reports of meddling by China to back the unrest. According to them, such reports are “baseless and aimed at sidetracking the issue of Gorkhaland”.

The group protesting in Delhi since June 26 is virtually without a leader. The protesters say they had united under the banner of Gorkha Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti (GSSS) to spearhead the current agitation where all Gorkha groups have submerged their identities.

“The movement is indigenous and allegations of outside support are without any evidence and meant to discredit and browbeat us. The state government has unjustifiably called us terrorists and accused us of taking money from Nepal. Now, they are bringing in China without any basis,” said Binita Lepcha, one of the activists, on Monday morning.

She pointed out that the poor folks are out from the hills of Darjeeling and Kalimpong to seek statehood for what they call as ‘Gorkhaland’.

However, with no government official reaching out to them by themselves, the protesters have started thronging the residences of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and other government higher-ups besides meeting the Opposition leaders.

Binita, however, refused to name who among those leaders was more responsive to their demand. She though took potshots at the West Bengal government for “trying to deter them with bullets” pointing out that eight protesters have been killed in police firing in Darjeeling. “We have come to Delhi to seek justice and hope that the Centre would act differently,” she said.

The protesters demand though may not resonate much with the Centre. The BJP has been eyeing a greater foothold in West Bengal and openly endorsing the demand for Gorkhaland as a separate state in North Bengal may only prove counterproductive to its plans.

Earlier, the Gorkhas managed to get Gorkhaland Autonomous Council led by Subhash Ghisingh followed by Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, or GTA, after similar stirs. Yet, today the former GTA head Bimal Gurang has gone underground. And the Gorkhas, who are fewer in numbers than Bengalis in the state, are caught in a crossfire between the Centre and the state.

Another activist Andrew Gurang at Jantar Mantar points out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has forgotten his promise in the runup to the 2014 General Elections when he had assured Gorkhas—while addressing a rally near Darjeeling—that “your dream is my dream”.

BJP’s Darjeeling MP SS Ahluwalia too has been assuring that he would move a Bill for a separate state of Gorkhaland in Parliament as he has been criticised for keeping a distance from his troubled constituency by the voters and media.

Gurang points out that it is now about a month or so when trouble began in Gorkhaland that nestles amid the frontiers with Nepal, Bhutan, China and Bangladesh as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee brought Bengali as a compulsory language to both teaching curriculum and official use alongside English and Nepalese that Gorkhas prefer to learn and use to interact with each other. Gorkhas protested against the “imposition” of Bangla provoking the state police to open fire for the first time through the current trouble.

The step, the protesters say, created deep resentment among Gorkhas and in the process forced them to unite behind the demand for a separate state once again. Interestingly, Banerjee preferred Bengali over Hindi for her state when a parliamentary committee on languages exhorted for encouraging use of Hindi throughout the country.

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