We've More Guts Than Mamata: Wife of Gorkha Protester Killed in 'Police Firing'
Five days after three people died in clashes between pro-Gorkhaland supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and security forces, the serene Darjeeling hills, weighed down by a heavy blanket of mist, are seething with rage against the Mamata Banerjee government.
West Bengal Police had lodged false cases against GJM members to pressurise them and suppress their movement for a separate Gorkhaland state, alleges Bimal Gurung. (File photo/AP Photo)
Darjeeling: Five days after three people died in clashes between pro-Gorkhaland supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and security forces, the serene Darjeeling hills, weighed down by a heavy blanket of mist, are seething with rage against the Mamata Banerjee government.
Anjana, the 32-year-old wife of Bimal Sashankar, one of the three people who were shot and killed on June 18, puts it bluntly: “What does Mamata Banerjee think? She will give orders to shoot, kill our people, and the hills will cower in fear? She doesn’t know these hills or the people who are fighting for Gorkhaland.”
The way to the village where the Sashankars live — a difficult 30-minute downhill walk from the tiny hamlet of Goke, a 90-minute drive from Darjeeling town — is a chilling initiation into the emotion that is currently driving the Gorkhaland movement on the ground.
“They say Didi is sending more CRP (a local term for central paramilitary forces) to the hills,” says a 70-year-old woman in Jamune, a deserted tourist spot halfway between Darjeeling and Goke, and laughs. “Bhai le gayera bhandeu, hamilai chai kunai training chainda ni (Son, go and tell her that we don’t need any kind of training.) Let them come with guns. By the time they load their bullets, they will be hit with stones that they will fail to count. We can live in the jungles if we have to (we challenge Mamata openly, so there). For Gorkhaland, anything.”
In Bimal Sashankar’s home, his father’s face betrays a volatile truck between anguish and anger — much like the sentiment on the streets that are littered with large rocks and, in places, tree trunks to slow down any unwanted advance into the heart of the queen of hills.
“My son wanted to join the army, you know. He couldn’t because he injured his arm in a road accident,” SB Sashankar says. “But he took bullets to his chest. He wasn’t among the ones to stay behind. He would always be at the front in any fight. His death will not go waste. The Gorkhas are now united. Even the trees, the stones and the air of Darjeeling are demanding Gorkhaland.”
Back in Darjeeling’s Singamari neighborhood, where Bimal was shot, locals talk about how they carried the dead and the wounded down narrow mountain paths, hiding from security forces, leaving behind a trail of blood. They returned later with detergent powder to wash all that blood away. “We were scared the CRP will follow the blood and raid our homes,” says the father of a three-year-old girl.
“It’s true that the police were thrashed the way we Gorkhas can thrash when we get angry, but it was unfair on their part to start shooting,” his friend joins in. “The state government called us terrorists. Can you believe that? A procession was heading to Patlebas when the police stopped us and began to lathicharge. How could we take it lying down? That’s when some of the boys started throwing stones. They say we had guns. Imagine the irony.”
In Goke, Bimal’s wife Anjana says she too is willing to die for Gorkhaland. “We may be poor but we are not cowards,” she says. Asked if there was anything she wanted to tell the chief minister, she uses words that she might regret in the future. As relatives calm her down, she says: “Why should I keep quiet? My husband was killed because he was demanding his birthright. Our feelings should reach Mamata Banerjee. We have more guts than her.”
The rickety house of an old woman was caught between the flurry of stones and a hail of bullets. “Nani (Son), I trembled in fear all through the violence,” she says. “When the army finally came in, I was relieved. But what happened that day was wrong. Why did they have to use guns? What did they want? If they try something like this again, they will not have anywhere to run. Singamari may look very calm right now but all it will take is one small instigation, even a misunderstanding, for a really bloody battle to resume.”
The author is a Darjeeling-based journalist.
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