Monday, June 19, 2017

Sonia Jabbar on the Gorkhaland agitation

NB: This pithy comment on the ongoing crisis in north Bengal was posted by Sonia Jabbar on her Facebook page and is placed here with her permission: DS

For nearly 30 years the Darjeeling Hills suffered a near war situation because of the Gorkhaland agitation. TMC came to power and an energetic CM brought peace to the hills. There was grumbling from time to time by the GJM that found itself regularly upstaged and outmanoeuvred by Mamata Bannerjee, but they did not have the guts or resources to challenge her. Here in the District of Darjeeling we have been witness to the machinations of the Centre. Modi is not satisfied with UP. The RSS has tasted blood in Assam. In the last two years they have sent their minions out to buy property and the loyalty of people and the media. Money is not an issue. Hundreds of crores have been spent in Bengal in an attempt to widen its base. 

Mamata skilfully brushed off the challenge on several occasions, making new friends, even winning the civic elections from Mirik. The people of Mirik were simply thanking her on delivering on promises.  What went wrong? The TMC's decision to make Bengali compulsory in schools. What she was slow to clarify was seized by the BJP-GJM combine and exaggerated: Bengali would be made compulsory even in Nepali speaking areas like the Darjeeling Hills, Gorkha identity would get eroded, Mamata was trying to wipe them out. In short, every trick used by separatists was used here. No amount of pacifying and clarifying was going to help, because now the GJM has decided and the Centre agrees that nothing short of Gorkhaland will suffice. 

So where there was peace and prosperity now there is murder, mayhem and anarchy. And this is being supported by sections of the media. Grand articles have appeared in national dailies on how Bimal Gurung is the undisputed leader of the Hills. But then so is Yogi Adityanath in UP. And then our Hon. PM. No word of these gentlemen's unsavoury past. Or the fact that each commands an army of thugs to terrorise the people into submission.

Bimal Gurung has openly challenged the law to try and arrest him for the murder of his rival, the gentle and erudite Madan Tamang. He threatens that the Darjeeling Hills will burn for a hundred years if they do. Please understand who you are supporting when you are supporting the GJM to "teach Mamata Bannerjee a lesson."

Other articles have mushroomed on the history of Darjeeling and how it was never part of Bengal and how it was "unnaturally appended" to Bengal by the British. Those who advocate its separation on historical grounds, please be ready to extend your largesse to Kashmir, because this is the same argument made by Kashmiri separatists who cite the Treaty of Amritsar between Britain and the Dogra Raja Gulab Singh as an unjust imposition.

Second, the articles citing the history of the Darjeeling Hills fail to mention that the "Gorkhas" are not the original inhabitants. If Bengalis, Marwaris and Biharis, those who have made Darjeeling their home in the last century and toiled to make it what it is today are outsiders, so are the Nepali speaking people. Darjeeling was thinly populated by Lepchas when the British "discovered " it. When they began planting tea the Lepcha population was too small to help so they settled Nepali speaking people from the relatively more populous Nepal.

These Nepalese settlers have long outpaced the Lepchas who are today a minority in Darjeeling as well as in Sikkim. It is not for nothing that Bhutan keeps a hawk eye on its Nepali migrants. Those advocating a separation from Bengal and a return of land to Darjeeling's original inhabitants would do well to remember it is the Lepchas who are the original inhabitants and who are quite comfortable being part of the state.

Those who don't give a damn about the facts and just want to see Mamata's nose bloodied know that you are lighting a fire where there was none. Know that India no longer has the kind of influence it once did in the Hindu Kingdom of Nepal and that from Gorkhaland to Greater Nepal under the benign suzerainty of China is only a step or three away.\