An indefinite strike has been called in Darjeeling. For almost two weeks the shutters are down and the car engines have not been revved up. Students have been sitting at home. Many government employees have not received their salaries.
Drivers, shopkeepers, tea garden workers all are sitting at home even though the home is supposed to be run by the daily wages they earn. It’s getting gloomier and will continue to do so, as anger, frustration and helplessness creeps in. The government has done little to mend the situation and strategically so. They are waiting for people's will to crumble. Because then the movement crumbles.
And what worries me is that while the hill remains in limbo, there is a heightened anti-Bengal and anti-Bengali sentiment simmering. It is a law of every fight that there has to be an opponent. In our case it is Bengal's government.
And the longer the Bengal government stays our demand and turns a deaf ear to people’s screams, the anti-Bengali sentiment will only grow amongst the masses. There is enough war of words happening in Social Media and other forums already.
CRPF forces have been deployed in the area. This, when it is a matter of public knowledge that during the 1986 agitation CRPF personnel’s terrorized and killed people in the name of curbing terrorist activities. This when the state government knows well enough that every time a CRPF convoy enters the hills, people are taken back to the terror and violence of 86. Everyday people are being arrested blindly.
So my point is this, the ongoing agitation is not anti-Bengal but the Government is making it one. The agitation is not violent, but the state government by repeating the tactics of 86, is dangerously veering it in that direction.
And while the political class of Bengal and Delhi has decided to play dumb, we must not fall into silence. Those of us from both sides of the spectrum have to talk, debate, discuss and make this an issue. Because it is.
We have to understand that this waiting to see what happens could lead us all to a situation where we are going after each others throats. Students, professionals and everyone amongst us who knows the truth of the movement need to talk and make the government react. And by react I do not mean send more CRPF men.
The political powers of Bengal have to understand that the proposed area of Gorkhaland was made part of it for administrative convenience at the time when the British were leaving India. They have to understand that in a 67 year old democracy, it is about time that one of the oldest demands at least got a fair hearing.
The people in Kolkata know as well as the people in the hills that linguistically and culturally both are completely different and they cannot be forced to mesh as one. Forcing us to stay with West Bengal and countering the voice of the people with military and political power just because it is at your disposal is accepting that unfortunately this is neither a country for democracy nor for freedom of expression.