The time bomb which started ticking on July 18, 2011, the day the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) pact was signed between the Mamata Banerjee government, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and the Centre, can explode any time leading to worse consequences. The continuing outburst in the hills by both the pro-GTA and anti-GTA forces hints at that.
The GTA is a classic case showing how skilled are our political leaders in mishandling highly sensitive issues. Playing fire with them just to gain political or electoral mileage can tear apart the nation’s social fabric, unleashing a cycle of violence.
The very foundation of the GTA is a discriminatory one and unacceptable to most other communities of the region. The northern parts of Bengal are home to people of diverse identities. It’s marked by multiculturalism and pluralism and any attempt to appease a single group at the expense of another is the most foolhardy step one can take here and the Mamata-led government just did that.
Without attempting to study the region, its diversity, multitude of culture and orientation, the new government hastily penned a pact with the GJM, the party which chased away the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) of Subash Ghisingh to become the main instrument behind the Gorkhaland movement. A clear lack of farsightedness prevailed and as many quarters had feared, the celebrations got over shortly and the swords were out again.
If the new government thought it would do with Gurung what the previous left Front regime had done with the GNLF and Ghisingh, it made a miscalculation. This is not the 1980s but 2012. What was then impossible for other smaller groups in the region then is not so today. Democracy has deepened, so has the reach of media. If the government thinks addressing an issue with the GJM only will settle the problem, it is wrong.
The hills and plains of north Bengal are inhabited by diverse groups and including voices of all is necessary to ensure that a dynamic and democratic culture is functional there. Any lopsided approach and exclusive plan will invite disaster and one must not forget that this is a strategic location internationally. The ‘chicken’s neck’ is a vulnerable region and India can not afford it to be destabilized at any cost.
Even the GJM can not be regarded as the sole representation of the hills. There are outfits which are opposed to the Morcha as well, like the CPRM, the AIGL, and a rejuvenating GNLF. Lending ears to their voices are equally important.
The Dooars and Terai region, which are plains, is home to various tribes and communities which are opposed to the GJM’s demand for the inclusion of 395 moujas of the Dooars and Terai in the GTA for according to them, it would harm their own identity. Rightly said, this is an age of democracy and assertion of rights is cherished by all, quantitatively big or small.
The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad (ABAVP) has refused to entertain the GJM’s ambition right away. It even expelled some of its members for trying to accommodate GJM supremo Bimal Gurung’s plan in some way. Then there are the various Kamtapuri outfits. Meeting any demand even close to Gorkhaland will fuel their assertion of a separate Kamtapur state.
It is indeed an easier job to oversimplify problems before trying to solve them. At least, that is our leaders have been doing all along.
Acknowledging a single group without any basis is an incomprehensible act carried out by the Trinamool-led government. It should have prepared the base first by taking diverse groups and communities of the region into confidence. It should have reviewed their social status, the demographic challenges, socio-economic prospects and other relevant parameters before making its first move towards a regional administrative set-up. Instead, the chief minister opted for a shortcut and put the cart before the horse by signing the controversial GTA.
Now, given the deteriorating situation in the hills, forget execution of the GTA, protecting life and property will be a herculean challenge for the administration and no one but the government of the Maa, Mati, Manush, will be responsible for that.