The first tenant of successful diplomacy is ‘Saam,’ which can be achieved by multiple means, easiest of which seems to be empathizing with the rebels (in this case people demanding Gorkhaland). Ms. Mamata Banerjee acceded to the term “Gorkhaland” to be included in the semi-autonomous territorial administration as soon as she came to power. This gave the GJM a face-saver of sorts and they happily agreed to drop the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland for the time being.
The second tool used by Mamata for ‘Saam,’ was to falsely praise the Gorkhaland activists and their leaders. Once GJM accepted GTA as an alternative for Gorkhaland, Mamata Banarjee praised Bimal Gurung on numerous occasions. She even pulled back all her candidates from the GTA elections against GJM, thus giving GJM a virtual walkover. She promised that she would turn the “gorgeous Darjeeling hills into Switzerland,” thereby winning people’s trust, and giving them hope that may be, it might be possible for us to stay happy even in West Bengal.
Today, she has turned Darjeeling not into Switzerland, but rather Germany of the Nazi days. The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Sahastra Seema Bal (SSB), the Rapid Action Force (RAF) and the West Bengal police are being used in quelling the voices demanding Gorkhaland.
Daam – Bribery
Another tool she used to quell the Gorkhaland demand was to bribe the politicians into accepting something less than a separate state, with promise of unlimited funds and a free hand in running the GTA. In addition to the proposed state government expenses, she through the Centre promised to provide 200 Crores each for five years, as a special development assistance for GTA.
She promised to establish new colleges, medical and engineering institutions and even a university in the GTA region. She promised to develop infrastructure and use her good office to personally get involved in promoting economic development in the GTA region.
Alas, talking about good intentions are different and delivering it quiet another. The National Highway – 55 which has been laying defunct since 2009 is a testament to her intentions and her attitude towards the Darjeeling region and by extension the people living there. No new colleges have been formed, forget the Universities, she has not even started planning for one new school, let alone building it.
Danda – Punishment
Despite her using “Saam” and “Daam” the people of Darjeeling region continue to demand their right to self-determination. As a result the state government machinery in general and the Chief Minister in particular have been rattled. In their quest to suppress the voice of dissent, the administration has started to use fascist measures, like arresting people who raise the voice of Gorkhaland – forcefully entering people’s home, without any search warrant, throwing their meager possessions out in the street, arresting women after sun down and so on.
Yesterday police arrested a Bihari sweet shop owner in Sonada, a Marwari businessman in Kalimpong, a woman Ward- Councillor in Jorebunglow and a Bengali youth leader in Darjeeling, their only crime, had been to attend the rallies and processions in support of Gorkhaland.
So far the state government has arrested over 1000 innocent Gorkhaland supporters, majority of them in drummed up charges. Ranging from creating public nuisance to attempt to murder charges. In a classic case of adding insult to injury, the West Bengal police have filed charges of attempt to murder against Gorkhaland supporters for Sibchu incidence of 2011, in which the West Bengal police had shot three Gorkhaland supporters dead from point-blank range, one of them was only 17 years old female who was shot in her forehead.
The saddest part is that, the greater so called “Bhadralok” community actually seem to be condoning and in fact relishing this “A-bhadro,” indiscriminate, illegal and ex-judicial arrest and prosecution of the people who have been peaceful in their agitation. Even the human rights watch dogs have been very quiet on the fascist measures adopted by the state government to keep the voices of Gorkhaland from being heard.
Bhed – Division
When all the three other measures failed, the state government embarked on the classic British ploy of “divide and rule.” The day after Gorkhaland activists shouted, “We want Gorkhaland” in Chowrasta, Ms. Banarjee declared the formation of the Myael Lyang Lepcha Development Board. She again used the Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association (ILTA) to enter Darjeeling recently and use the platform provided by the ILTA to hint that only Lepchas were the original residents of the hills, rest were outsiders. That announcement was met by loud cheer from the crowd, hurting Gorkhas, but it turned out the cheers were not by Lepchas but by hired Trinamool Congress supporters, brought in from the Terai and Dooars regions.
When that did not suffice the Chief Minister, she promised other such goodies to the Tamangs, one of whose office bearer was present in that meeting in Kalimpong in personal capacity. But it left a lot of bad taste in the mouths of all Gorkhaland supporters. However, as time goes on, more and more Lepchas have come out stating they were threatened with social ostracization and boycott if they did not support the ILTA dictate. Many of whom are now on a relay hunger strike against the State Government’s “divide and rule” policies. Thankfully, the people in the hills remain united.
When none of the tactics seemed to work, the Chief Minister and her party have now turned to inciting the people into being violent. The Chief Minister sent bus loads of her party workers to travel to Darjeeling during the “ghar bhitra janta” movement, perhaps in the hope that these “bali ka bakra” will be attacked and she would then have the reason to use much more force to suppress the demand for a separate state.
Well, it did not work. People have so far protested politely and peacefully, and have refused to give in to provocations. Now the TMC Darjeeling district committee announced that they would be holding peace rallies in the heart of Darjeeling and Kalimpong in coming days. And I am sure our people will let that pass in peace too, once again proving to the whole world, the people who actually need peace are Ms. Mamata Banerjee, who threatened the people of Darjeeling going “rough and tough,” and the state government that continues to use unnecessary force, coercion and threat to suppress a peaceful and democratic demand for a separate state; and not the people of Darjeeling.
By refusing to give in or give up, the people demanding Gorkhaland have won the moral battle. More and more people across India have started to question the logic behind Mamata’s reasons for denying the Gorkhas their rights. More newspaper articles are being written asking the question “why not Gorkhaland?” instead of the usual “why Gorkhaland?”
However, well begun is only half done, we need to keep our’s a peaceful and non-violent revolt. If the TMC want to organize a rally in the heart of Darjeeling and Kalimpong for peace, lets organize a rally for Peace in the heart of Kolkata and Siliguri.
If the state government is trying to deceive us and rest of the nation by calling our movement anti-national, let us fight her ignorance by spreading knowledge and true information regarding Gorkhaland. Many people across India genuinely lack information on the Gorkhaland issue, so it is our duty to share information and understanding on the subject.
If the state government tries to buy us by promising goodies, or our leaders by promising high posts, let us make sure that none of us are for sale. Martin Luther King once said, “no man can ride your back unless it is bent,” so let us make sure that all of us and our leaders are clear on one thing - no amount of money or no amount of power will be able to buy us, and that we will accept nothing less than a separate state of Gorkhaland.
If the state government continues to arrest more people, let more people who have been sitting on the sidelines so far, come forward and offer leadership. May each individual represent a leader; remember, “A single man with courage, makes a majority of one.” So let us all stand together against this tyranny and fascism unleashed by the state government.
If the state government tries to divide our community, let us all come together in doing away with our internal differences, and stand together as one unit. Like every family, even we have differences, and it is better to acknowledge those differences and work towards solving it, without letting any external force to jeopardise our century long dream by creating a wedge between ourselves.
I salute those brave hearts, who have been arrested for nothing other than their support of Gorkhaland, please do know that your sacrifices are what enables and inspires people like me to write, comment, criticize the fascist West Bengal government. Your sacrifices will not be in vain, and together we shall achieve our dream – Swaraj!!
Finally, I would like to conclude by sharing Gandhiji’s take on being strong in our convictions for fighting against the tyrannical and oppressive regime, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Hope! Every 1000 people the state arrests, gives birth to 10000 more heros for Gorkhaland.