'Grievance Will Continue If Centre Turns Down Gorkhaland Demand but Will Keep Raising Our Voice': GJM Secretary
Roshan Giri, Secretary GJM
As West Bengal goes to poll in 2021 – people in the hills irrespective of their political preferences are once again united over the Gorkhaland issue and so do the political parties have started their game plan to secure the hills.
The demand for Gorkhaland has been simmering for decades with various groups stressing that a separate state should be carved out from West Bengal. In the 1980s the agitation became violent but peace returned after talks between the then CPI (M) government and agitators led by Subhash Ghisingh. As West Bengal goes to poll in 2021 – people in the hills irrespective of their political ideologies are once again united over the Gorkhaland issue. And the political parties too have started their game plan to secure the hills.
Speaking to Sujit Nath, secretary of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, Roshan Giri shares his take on the issue and about the plans post-MHA's meeting.
What is your expectation from the BJP-led Central government over the long-pending Gorkhaland demand?
On October 7, Kishan Reddy, Minister of State (MoS) for the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) held a meeting to discuss the Gorkhaland demand in West Bengal’s Darjeeling hills. Our working president Dr. Lopsang Yolmo Lama, Dr. Kalyan Dewan, Urmila Rumba, Bishal Chettri, Bishal Lama, Dr Binu Sundas, and Advocate Anand Bhandari attended the meeting, where we have submitted our Gorkhaland demand. The union minister after hearing it patiently assured the delegation that the government would consider all the material presented before it and would announce it in the next meeting after consulting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah. We are hopeful that our demand will be fulfilled. They should know people’s aspirations, as this demand has been there for more than 100 years and we want Gorkhaland to be carved out of West Bengal. However, the process should be within the ambit of the Indian Constitution.
BJP, Trinamool Congress leadership, Congress and the Left Front – all are against the idea of Gorkhaland. What will be your stand, if the Centre turns down Gorkhaland demand?
Our grievance will continue. No one can stop us from raising our voice for separate Gorkhaland. We are hopeful that the central government will soon do something for a separate state for the people of Hills. The first demand for Gorkhaland was submitted to the Morley-Minto Reforms panel in 1907. Then, in 1952, the All India Gorkha League submitted a memorandum to former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Since then the Gorkhas have been dreaming of a new state as it is a matter of Gorkhas’ identity and dignity. Why will the Central government say no to our Gorkhaland demand? There should be some logical explanation and we don’t see any logical explanation behind not giving us a separate state.
Every time during elections we see some noises over Gorkhaland demand and after polls GJM’s (Bimal Gurung faction) demand for a separate state gathers dust in government files. Do you think Gorkhas are being used by the political parties for vote-bank politics?
Gorkhas don’t understand the complexity of politics but yes, we do have our political preferences based on who will listen to our grievances. I don’t think that any political party is trying to fool us for votes. Gorkhaland is not only GJM’s demand but it is the demand of each and every resident. Gorkhas are doing a great job all over the world across service sectors. We believe that with the formation of Gorkhaland, there will be more development in the Hills. For the last few years, we supported the BJP because they are ruling at the Centre and they can only fulfil our aspiration.
West Bengal is going to witness one of the crucial Assembly Polls in 2021? Do you think Gorkhas are undeniably a big factor in the Hills in turning the table for any political party?
Yes, this true that the 2021 Assembly Polls will be very crucial for political parties in West Bengal. This election is going to change the definition of Bengal’s politics nationally. There is a general feeling that Gorkhas are a big factor in three assembly seats in the hills including Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong but it is not true. Actually, Gorkhas are a big factor in at least 15 Assembly seats (out of 294) including Madarihat (Alipurduar district), Kalchini, (Alipurduar district), Matigara-Naxalbari (Darjeeling), Phansidewa (Darjeeling), Nagrakata (Jalpaiguri) and few more. In these assembly seats, we are strong enough to decide the fate of any political party.
Why did the Bimal Gurung faction of the GJM not attend the tripartite meeting called by the Union Home Ministry ‘to review the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) system’ in the Hills in West Bengal on August 7?
Regarding this, I would like to clarify that we repeatedly called for talks with the central government for a lasting political solution - not to review the GTA system. The last review meeting of the GTA was held on January 29, 2015. There is no justification for holding a review meeting of that provision five years later in August. All of us CA members including the Chief Executive of GTA resigned from GTA on June 23, 2017. The BJP has also mentioned in its resolution letter about a ‘permanent political solution’ and ‘recognition of the remaining eleven caste groups as tribes’. There is no mention of GTA in the BJP’s resolution letter. Negotiations with our central government will only focus on providing a ‘permanent political solution’ and ‘recognizing the remaining eleven ethnic groups as tribes.’