By Probal Basak, Kolkata: After a month-long agitation for the formation of a separate state, Gorkhaland that has immensely affected economic activities in the region, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), has decided to relax the strike for a day.
In an interview with Probal Basak, GJM chief, Bimal Gurung dispels notions that support for the cause is waning. Edited excerpts:
It’s been almost a month of strike and economic blockade in the Hills. With the state government making it clear that it would not give in to your demand for Gorkhaland, what will you next course of action?
We are firm on our demand. We are not enforcing the strike. It’s the people of Hills who are making it a success, they want us to continue the fight. We are relaxing the strike for one day tomorrow, so that locals can get their stock of food etc. But it will resume and continue till our demand for Gorkhaland is met.
Tea and tourism, which are the backbone of Darjeeling’s economy, have been hugely affected. Prices of food and other necessary items have become almost doubled. In such a scenario, how long can you expect support of the locals?
If people are ready and want to continue to fight, how can someone stop? Industry may get affected, but in a movement this does happen. We are fighting for something which will be good for everyone in this land. This is a fight for identity. If someone from here goes to Delhi, people ask whether he is from Nepal, or Manipur. How will one feel, if a Bengali is asked whether he is from Bangladesh? This would have happened to a Bengali had there been no state called West Bengal.
Mamata Banerjee is planning a visit to the Hills next week, would you try to stop her entry?
No. Why should we do that? She is a chief minister, she can visit any part of the country. But if she comes to Darjeeling she will have a first-hand experience of people’s mood here. We will not organise any protest, but I do not think people here will even come out of their home to see her.
After the new government was formed, you have been seen sharing the stage with the Chief Minister, a number of times. Her argument is that with the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) a lot of power has been given anyway, which includes executive and financial, only police and legislative powers have not been given, hence statehood status is not important.
GTA was never a solution. Even at that point of time, we had emphasised that our final demand is creation of a separate state, Gorkhaland. Mamata can say anything. We do not care. Gorkhaland demand is a political issue, for which the remedy is with the Centre, not state. Telengana has proved this point as the Andhra Pradesh state government too had opposed it.
But unlike Telengana, here every political party including BJP is opposing Gorkhaland. How, hopeful are you in such a scenario? Do you feel cheated by BJP, particularly Jaswant Singh, whom you had supported and helped to win the Lok Sabha election from here?
The state unit of BJP can say otherwise, everyone knows that they say so in the hope of getting some votes. But BJP is a national party and I think it will support our cause. In fact, I think a BJP-led govt at the Centre will be more helpful for our cause. But yes we have certainly not decided whether we will again support Jaswant Singh or any other BJP candidate in the next Lok Sabha election.
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