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Editorial

Pandemonium in North Bengal

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By EMN Updated: Sep 08, 2013 9:33 pm
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[dropcap]L[/dropcap]anguage does change from time to time accordingly just like fashion. There was a time when daily English papers published from then Calcutta (now Kolkata) used to have headlines “Pandemonium in West Bengal Assembly” every time that the State’s Legislative Assembly was in progress. The “pandemonium”—like a fish market—followed some remark or the other made by some Member of the treasury Bench or the Opposition, or even some action arbitrarily taken without prior information conveyed to the people or party concerned.This quality, or habit, seems not to have changed over the years even if the adjective has changed to suit the need of the hour. Just the other day, Trinamool Congress (TC) members in the Lok Sabha created “uproar” against Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s meeting with leaders of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM). The uproar forced brief adjournments of both Houses.
The main grievance of the TC members was that the Home Minister had bypassed Prime Minister Manmohan’s assurance to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee that any meeting with the GJM leaders should be done in consultation with the State Government.
In the policy of the State being against a new State, they alleged that the Centre was playing games intruding into the internal affairs of West Bengal and this hurts the federal structure of the Indian Union. They felt that New Delhi had initiated a deliberate, motivated attempt to divide West Bengal. One of the placards displayed by members also read “Centre don’t do politics in Darjeeling.” They raised the issue vociferously against division of West Bengal amid ongoing demands for a State of Gorkhaland.
Mamata Bannerjee accused the GJM of hindering development in the hill area. Countering her, the GJM which has seven MLAs have threatened that it would now sit in the Opposition benches. Gorkhaland is a proposed State demanded by people of Gorkha ethnic origin in Darjeeling, Dooars and Siliguri of North Bengal. The movement for Gorkhaland gained momentum in the line of ethno-linguistic-cultural sentiment of people who desire to be identified as Indian Gorkhas.
Two mass movements took place under Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) led by Subhash Ghising (1986-1988) and the then Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) led by Bimal Gurung from 2007 till date.
To stem the tide, the Gorkha Hills Council (GHC) was established in 1988. This was followed the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) Act which was passed in March 2013 but has not achieved much leeway although it is headquartered in Darjeeling.
The Gorkhaland issue since then has been festering like a thorn in the State’s northern point. The majority community of the State were used to treating Darjeeling as a mere tourism spot for revenues in addition to its educational institutions and above all from its legendary tea. They did not take much into account the ethnic cultural and by extension, political aspirations.
Ahead of the 2009 general elections to the Lok Sabha, the BJP had announced its policy of making smaller States and to create two more—Telengana and Gorkhaland. When the ruling Congress had passed the bill for creation of Telengana, the voices rose for Gorkhaland and Bodoland and others also aspiring for statehood.
During the poll campaign for West Bengal Assembly elections in 2011 Mamata Bannerjee had promised that the issue of Gorkhaland would be resolved. Nothing concrete was achieved and eventually led to the ongoing present impasse. The Union Home Minister had said that he would talk to the West Bengal Chief Minister but TC MPs accused him of meeting with GJM leaders on the quiet.
While Mamata Bannerjee accused the ruling Congress and BJP of interfering in West Bengal, she also implied that there would be an end to the movement for Gorkhaland. On the other hand, Bimal Gurung reiterated that any talks would be just another step towards statehood.

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By EMN Updated: Sep 08, 2013 9:33:03 pm