Time to tame GJM in Darjeeling
What is wrong if the West Bengal government wants to merely include Bengali as one of the languages in the state-funded school education curriculum? Principal state language is compulsory in school education curriculum in almost all other states. There are states such as Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra, Kerala and Uttarakhand which have reserved government and factory jobs in the grade II, III and IV categories for the locals and are also seeking to enforce them in the private sector.
In many states, locals have been defined as those either of local origin or those who have lived in the state for a certain number of years and are fluent in the primary local language in reading, writing and communicating. West Bengal has no such law. Poet Tagore's state is a mini-India. Almost 80 per cent of West Bengal's jute and textile mill workers, mine and metals workers have traditionally come from outside the state. The political parties, trade unions and intellectual community never had any issue with the practice.
Traditionally, West Bengal has elected so-called non-Bengalis by origin in its state assembly and Parliament and also chosen them for appointment as ministers in the State and the central government. Why is GJM making such a fuss about the introduction of Bengali as an additional language to their mother tongue (Nepali) only up to class X level? Or, is it just an alibi to challenge the growing influence of the state's ruling Trinamool Congress in its northern hill district with psychological support from the powerful opposition at the Centre, or, maybe, even countries across the border? What is the basis of the current indefinite strike and armed attacks on police and public properties by GJM in Darjeeling?
Last week, the high court banned the GJM 'bandh' as 'illegal'. Yet, the strike is on. GJM responded to the high court order with bullets, arsons and Kashmir-style stone pelting on security forces, also killing people. State civil establishments, tea garden management, hotels, small businesses and tourists are being terrorised. Once again, GJM wants Gorkhaland. What is the real motif behind the agitation? Why is the GJM office stockpiled with a massive cache of firearms and cash? Who is arming and funding GJM, for what purpose?
Is GJM a terrorist group in the garbof a political entity? Going by the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, terrorism is defined as "the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives". Doesn't the GJM activity in Darjeeling qualify every aspect of the definition?
Why hasn't the Centre still banned the Gorkha outfit as a 'terrorist' group and booked their handful of leaders for offending the law? Why is the hill part of a district, which does not have enough ethnic population to even qualify for a seat in Lok Sabha, aiming to secede from West Bengal to become a state within the state? The questions are vital to understanding what is igniting GJM to challenge the authority of the state. The centre must find logical answers and act fast to tame GJM.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee finds a deep rooted conspiracy in the well-planned GJM armed flare-up in Darjeeling. The government may have adequate information about the external and internal agencies behind the GJM's frequent armed violence. Incidentally, GJM has long used the Centre-state political rivalry for the district's geographical separation from West Bengal.
Fortunately, Mamata Banerjee has shown the courage and conviction to challenge the GJM design head on. If the results of the last district municipal election are any indication, the locals are slowly and courageously rejecting the GJM hooliganism that impacted the economic health of the district based on the plantation, power generation and tourism industries among others. It seems the centre is still blind to the future consequences of the armed GJM separatist agitation.
GJM is believed to be receiving support from individual countries across India's northern and north-eastern borders as it tries to dissect from West Bengal, ostensibly to create a separate Gorkhaland for its few lakh Nepali-speaking people. The handful gardens, which produce the world famous brand of 'Darjeeling Tea', have been under constant pressure to provide 'protection money' to GJM goons. The tea output in the district is shrinking, and so is the profit. Export is hurt.
The hotel and tourism businesses are also forced to fund GJM for 'protection.' Ironically, in Sikkim, interconnected by land with the Darjeeling district, Nepalis now form the vast majority with its original population of Lepcha-Bhutia already having been pushed into a minority group. Not long ago, peaceful Bhutan, a neighbouring country, had forcibly evicted thousands of illegal Nepali immigrants from the state. Most of them were believed to have taken shelter in Darjeeling and Sikkim.
The Darjeeling district is strategically placed to provide a critical road-rail connection to India's eight northeastern states from the Plains. India's north-east region shares borders with Nepal, China, Myanmar, Bhutan and Bangladesh. It is high time that the Centre works with the West Bengal government to come down heavily on the mischievous GJM agitation for the sake of the nation's security and integrity. Darjeeling is an integral part of West Bengal. GJM's call for an indefinite shutdown in Darjeeling since last week in support of its demand for a separate state needs to be openly confronted by a joint operation by the state and the centre.
An NDA ally, GJM has been anxious about TMC gaining fervour in the hills. The ruling party had recently won some civic body elections, making inroads in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong, becoming the first party from the Plains ever to do so. GJM is worried. Both the centre and the state must take a combined action to chase down the criminals, identify and block the sources of their funds and arms for lasting peace in the hills. IPA
(Views are personal.)