The agitation for a separate state of Gorkhaland has once again resurfaced. The alleged inefficiency of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) and their “identity crisis” have driven thousands of Gorkhas to Delhi pitching for their demand of a separate state, which would include Darjeeling, Siliguri Terai and Dooars in West Bengal.
“Our agitation has been constantly suppressed by the West Bengal government and the ruling Trinamool Congress leaders by use of muscle power. We have only two options remaining. We can either pick up guns or agitate in Delhi. We have chosen the latter as we believe in non-violent measures,” said Neeraj Chetri, senior leader of the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha.
Bimal Gurung, president of Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJMM), said: “We are being exploited by the government of West Bengal. The hills of Darjeeling along with the Terai region have not seen development for years. We are like an internal colony of West Bengal. We pay our taxes to the state government but in return get nothing. We still do not have access to good healthcare and education system in the hills and a huge number of youth remain unemployed. Why do we have to beg for our rights?”
The GJMM has also expressed its concern over the identity crisis they have been facing all along. “Identity crisis is a primary concern. We are identified as Nepali in our own country. People think we are migrants or foreigners, just because we look and dress like them,” said Asha Gurung, one of the demonstrators and wife of Bimal Gurung.
“The Gorkhaland movement is a quest for our identity,” added Roshan Giri, general secretary, GJMM.
The agitation, which was at its peak during the years of 2007-2009, abated after the signing of a memorandum of understanding known as “Gorkhaland Territorial Administration”. The GTA was granted administrative, financial and executive powers. However, after four years, the GJMM is complaining about the “lack of transparency, malfunctioning and tampering of the GTA by the Mamata government”.
When asked about the timing of the protest, keeping in mind Assembly elections in West Bengal are due next year, Gurung said, “We will fight elections both in West Bengal and Assam and we will show the Mamata government what we can do.” He also said, “If our demands are not met, there are hundreds of people who are ready to self-immolate themselves.”
The GJMM, which is in an alliance with the ruling National Democratic Alliance at the Centre, is hopeful Prime Minister Narendra Modi would not turn a deaf ear to their problems. “We have met the Union Home Minister and submitted our memorandum. He has assured us that a committee would be formed to look into our demand,” Bimal Gurung said. He had previously accused the UPA government of playing politics with the sentiments of the people of “Gorkhaland”.