Darjeeling is undergoing a severe turbulence, after a long period of lull in the violent Gorkhaland agitation, due to the apathy showed by the Trinamool Congress government, which is duping the people of the hills over their demand for a separate Gorkhaland. The TMC government led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is walking on the same path that her predecessor Jyoti Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharya of the erstwhile Left-Front government once traversed-dealing harshly with the Gorkha people. The present unrest in the Darjeeling hills was caused by the sudden decision of Mamata Banerjee’s government to organise a council of ministers’ meeting in the hill station town, which the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), a right-wing fascist frontal organisation supported by the RSS, strongly opposed and promised to disrupt.
Behind the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government’s decision to organise a cabinet meeting in the Darjeeling town and the subsequent arson by the GJM, was the threat of a large-scale tea-garden workers’ strike that was called to force the greedy capitalist tea-garden owners and their patron, the governments of West Bengal and India, to concede the genuine demand of the tea-garden workers of the hills and the plains – to increase their wage, which is still a meagre ₹132 per day.
The TMC-led West Bengal government’s decision to impose Bengali as a compulsory subject for school students throughout the state also played a pivotal role in igniting the crisis, which now the RSS and its affiliates like the GJM are exploiting to create a large-scale ruckus and win some brownie points in the state and national politics. The RSS strongly oppose the use of any regional language in India and only promotes Hindi and in their bid to stop the promotion of Bengali, which was rightly made compulsory for all students of West Bengal but wrongly imposed on the Gorkha and the tribal people, these saffron terrorists have thrown their hats in support of the GJM’s violent agitation and anarchy in the hills. Dilip Ghosh, the President of the West Bengal BJP is quite happy to overtly extend his bonhomie for Bimal Gurung and other GJM leaders, clarifying the absolute support of the RSS-backed Sangh Parivar in the Darjeeling violence.
This severe crisis could have been easily avoided if the TMC leadership, including Mamata Banerjee, had an iota of concern for the Gorkha people of Darjeeling, who have been fighting for their rights and against Bengali aggression since ages. Rather than averting the crisis, the TMC under Mamata Banerjee’s leadership displayed utter callousness in dealing with the plight of the Gorkha people and their demand for a separate Gorkhaland. This callousness helped the Hindutva camp, which weans over the GJM and its corrupt leadership to build up a militant movement in demand for a separate Gorkhaland and thereby weaken the government of West Bengal’s hold on the Darjeeling hills, from where the BJP continuously wins Lok Sabha elections by playing the Hindutva card.
By continuously alluring the people of Darjeeling with the promise of jobs, better educational facilities and all-round development, and by flattering the Hindutva pawns like Bimal Gurung, the TMC kept the hills under turmoil for years and allowed the BJP a strong foothold in a place where it had no presence earlier. The fission of the Hindutva brigade in the hills under a plethora of frontal organisations and its strong bonding with Bimal Gurung-led GJM polarised a large section of Hindu Gorkhas under the umbrella of Hindutva fascism. The TMC has been a secret patron of the saffron club in the hills and it deliberately handed over the entire Darjeeling district, including the Terai plateaus, to the RSS and its affiliates so that the latter can cultivate communalism in the fields and spread the vitriol against Muslims, Christians and Communists without any restriction.
As the Mamata Banerjee-led government never allowed any democratic and progressive force to organise the people of the hills against the evil designs of the Hindutva fascist camp led by the RSS, the GJM got a virtual fiefdom in the hills for years and Bimal Gurung, along with his sycophants, occupied the sanctum sanctorum of Darjeeling’s Gorkha politics, which once Subhash Ghising, the Left Front’s bait to delude the Gorkha masses, held during the heydays of the CPM rule in West Bengal. Mamata Banerjee and her coterie kept propagating that the hills are “smiling” since the TMC ousted the Left Front government in 2011. The hollow claims of Mamata Banerjee regarding normalcy in the hills could be seen when a group of handful hired goons of Bimal Gurung brought the entire Darjeeling hills on standstill and transformed her “smiling hills” into “burning hills” that forced her cabinet to flee.
Despite knowing that the Bimal Gurung-led GJM members would create a ruckus during the Chief Minister’s cabinet meeting in the hills, the state and central intelligence units didn’t share any inputs with the local and state police and the latter also allowed Bimal Gurung and his heavily armed followers to organise a rally at Bhanu Bhavan, without raising any objection. This lacklustre attitude of the state machinery and security apparatus proves that either Mamata Banerjee and her cabinet colleagues had prior information regarding the turmoil that was to come, or the bureaucracy is complicit in a crime against the state government and allowed the trouble to grow to ensure that the BJP and its lackey GJM can consolidate their power-base in the hills using violence and arson. The indefinite strike called by the GJM is not countered as vociferously by Mamata Banerjee and her administration as they would counter the strike called by trade unions demanding better wages and rights for the working class.
Mamata Banerjee’s decision to deploy the military to control a local incident of law and order breakdown again points towards her lack of confidence on settling the problem of people’s movement by conceding the genuine demands of the masses and her secret entente with the GJM and its promoter, the RSS-led Hindutva brigade. The latter are now successful in milking the crisis caused due to Mamata Banerjee’s theatrics and political indecision and they are now polarising a larger section of hill dwellers under the Hindutva-inclined Gorkhaland agitation. People of the hills are now irked by the decision of the West Bengal government to suppress their popular movement with the help of military and this has given enough ammo to the GJM leadership, who would now bargain for more power and money with both state and central governments using its rising support following the military crackdown. The GJM, which has been an organisation of local usurers, land grabbers and extortionists, is now exploiting the crisis to portray itself as a martyr for the cause of Gorkhaland. So far, Bimal Gurung and his team are quite successful in hoodwinking a large section of the Nepali-speaking hill people.
There is no scope of finding a solution to this problem within the ambit of the government’s offers and the pro-Hindutva and pro-fascist rhetoric of the GJM. The real solution to the aspirations of the Gorkha people and their struggle for just rights lies in a massive democratic revolutionary struggle waged by the working class and the poor of Darjeeling hills and the Terai plateau against their common oppressors, who are the big capitalist plantation owners, the landlords and the usurers who are represented by the GJM and other Hindutva frontal organisations. The people of the hills and their aspiration for a separate Gorkhaland can be better represented by a united democratic front of all progressive forces of the hills and the revolutionary and democratic working class of the tea, plantation and tourism industry.
Mamata Banerjee’s deliberate fuelling of the Gorkhaland crisis has the ulterior motive of isolating the Gorkha people from the people of the plains, especially the Bengali poor and the tribal poor, thereby weakening the possibility of the democratic and progressive forces forging a strong united front of the oppressed communities and the exploited people of the state for a large scale fight against the menace of rapidly expanding Hindutva fascism in Darjeeling and other parts of the state and to bring down the anti-people and anti-poor TMC-led government of West Bengal through massive movements.
But Mamata Banerjee’s cunning methods and the BJP’s divisive techniques will not let them sustain themselves in the long run, as the youth of both hills and plains are understanding the futility of the TMC regime’s agenda and are also comprehending the RSS’ venom spitting propaganda’s worth. Their gradual discontent with these two mainstream political poles in the politics of Darjeeling will certainly ignite a greater uprising against the Bimal Gurung-led league of usurers and seize the leadership of the Gorkhaland movement, which will surely gain immense democratic momentum in its just struggle against the conspiracies of the Brahminical Bengali Bhadralok community to keep Darjeeling colonised and its people enslaved to the whims of the ruling class.
Neeladri Mukherjee is a former high school teacher and a Rabindra Sangeet lover. An M.A. in Political Science (not entire), Neeladri is a close observer of West Bengal politics, South Asian affairs and the trade union movement.