Tourists leave Darjeeling following fresh stir for Gorkhaland
BJP Member of Parliament SS Ahluwalia was in Darjeeling on Monday as the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha began its agitation, described by it as the final push, for a separate state of Gorkhaland
Thousands of tourists left Darjeeling over the weekend after the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) asked tourists to leave the hills lest they get affected by the snowballing agitation for a separate Gorkhaland.
Monday saw para-military forces parading the streets following a GJM call to shut down all government offices. Schools, transport and hotels were, however, exempted from the shutdown even as GJM chief Bimal Gurung promised this to be the final push for a separate state, a demand which is passionately opposed by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
A BJP ally, a GJM delegation had called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March this year and reminded him of the oblique poll promise he had made in 2014. Addressing an election rally, Modi had then said that the dream of Gorkhas was his dream as well.
While the immediate provocation is said to be West Bengal Government’s decision to make learning of Bangla compulsory in schools up to class X, GJM had drifted apart from Mamata Banerjee after she constituted separate development boards for Sherpas, Lepchas and Tamangs in the hills.
Terming it as a ‘divide and rule’ ploy by the ruling party, Gurung had said that it would not work, that the communities would take funds from the state government and vote together for GJM. The Morcha helped BJP to win the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat in both 2009 as well as 2014. It had also won all the three Assembly seats from the hills and each of the 45 seats in the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA).
Gurung has been accusing Mamata Banerjee of starving the GTA and going back on her promise of transferring more departments to it.
While it may suit the BJP to embarrass Mamata Banerjee by stoking the demand for a separate Gorkhaland, it has the potential of spreading into a movement for Greater Gorkhaland. As it is, GJM’s demand includes inclusion of Dooars on the plains as part of Gorkhaland. And Gorkhas of Nepali origin in Assam may also push for a part of Assam to be included in the new state.
While the Centre officially has maintained a studied silence, it is believed to have given its blessings to the demand for a separate state. But by giving a fillip to Gorkhaland, it may find itself encouraging similar demands for Bodoland, Bundelkhand, Vidarbha and Poorbanchal.