As the indefinite shutdown in the Darjeeling Hills hits the two-month mark tomorrow, cracks have appeared in the united front fighting for a separate state with the parties appearing divided and even clueless on the way forward.
Various hill parties are critical of the “big brotherly” attitude of the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM), which is spearheading the agitation, and feel that the lack of leadership is taking a heavy toll.
The indefinite shutdown began on June 15.
“Most of the violence that took place in the hills in the last two months was by supporters of the GJM. Such incidents have not only demeaned our democratic agitation but have also put a question mark on our rightful demand,” Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh (BGP) president Sukhman Moktan told PTI.
BGP is one of the 30 hill parties in the Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC), which was formed on June 20 to chalk out the future course of action to achieve the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state.
Headed by the GJM, the GMCC has 30 members representing all the hill-based parties, including the GJM, the GNLF and the Jan Andolan Party.
GJM chief Bimal Gurung’s recent statement that only his party has the right to call off the strike as it was the one that had called it has not gone down well with other parties.
“What is the need of forming the GMCC if Gurung takes the final call? GJM has to understand that this is a people’s movement and not their own issue that they will thrust their views on us,” GNLF spokesperson Neeraj Zimba said.
GJM general secretary Roshan Giri, however, refuted the claims of the hill parties. “Bimal Gurung is the undisputed leaders of the hills. We have cooperated with all the hill parties to carry forward our movement. The allegations against us are baseless.”
A senior GNLF leader responded by saying that most parties, except the GJM, were of the opinion that the movement lacked proper leadership, which was taking a heavy toll.
“There is serious lack of proper leadership. Although all of us had united for the cause of Gorkhaland, due to lack of leadership we could not channelise the people’s anger or aspirations,” the leader said on condition of anonymity.
“That is the reason why GJM no longer has the control over its own cadres. We don’t know what is the way forward,” he admitted.
GNLF chief Subhas Ghisingh had led the movement in 1986.
With the GJM’s hope that the BJP would help them in achieving their dream of Gorkhaland fading fast, its leadership is desperate to start the dialogue process in order to have a way out from the two-month shutdown.
“The strike will continue until a positive step is taken to restore normalcy by the Centre. We urge the central government to initiate the dialogue process so that normalcy can be restored in the hills. If the state government is part of that dialogue process we have no problem with it,” GMCC convenor and senior GJM leader Kalyan Dewan had said.
With the strike on for the last two months and GJM youth wing activists on hunger strike for 24 days, hill parties are out of ammunition to put pressure on the state and central governments, said a Jan Andolan Party leader.
“We have overused both our weapons of democratic movement. And now we have no ammo left in our arsenal to force the state and central governments to listen to our demands. We are clueless,” he said.
Beyond extending the strike, the leaders don’t appear to have any proper plan of action on how to further the statehood demand.
“We really don’t know what is happening apart from taking part in processions. Nothing has moved forward in the last two months. The dialogue process is yet to start,” a professor of St Joseph College, Darjeeling, said.