Having made a public appearance in Delhi on Thursday, it might now be less than accurate to describe Bimal Gurung as an absconder. Yet there is no denying that the West Bengal government is on firm ground when it contends, in parallel with the former GJMM chief’s appearance in the Capital, that he is a ‘fugitive’ who is “on the run from the law” after the spate of arson and violence that had convulsed Darjeeling and Kalimpong last year.
Second, he has consistently refused to pay heed to the summons issued by the court ~ a clear case of disrespect for the law. The sudden appearance scarcely lessens the gravity of the charges against the man. That said, what may yet be of critical import is his expressed willingness to negotiate with the State as an essay towards defusing the festering crisis in the Hills. He appears to have realised eventually that he must take the government into confidence, though after the recent recast of the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha, he las lost his locus standi.
In the immediate perspective, he hasn’t been able to convince the government with his claim that he isn’t a separatist and that the prime objective of his struggle was to ensure “Gorkha identity”. His praxis, almost literally playing with fire, has been radically different though for the first time he has agreed to talk without any pre-condition. No one denies that Gurung has emitted a refashioned signal of intent, but given his record, it shall not be easy for him to shore up his credibility. To that extent, the change of stance on the part of an agent provocateur can only have limited significance. Yet it ought to be conceded that his latest offer is a departure from his earlier insistence that the Centre must initiate tripartite talks on Gorkhaland ~ an expression that he did not utter even once this time around after emerging from the “underground”.
Gurung must be acutely aware that his faction within the GJMM has been considerably weakened over the past few months. His rivals, notably Binay Tamang and Anit Thapa, are now in the vanguard following the change at the helm and tightened their grip on the outfit.
No less crucially, the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) ~ a loose arrangement of governance short of statehood ~ has resumed functioning. Gurung had reduced the entity to virtual irrelevance. In point of fact, he is today on a weak wicket and the softening of stance is bound to be greeted with more than the usual pinch of salt.