People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXII

No. 42

October 26, 2008

 

DARJEELING SEPARATISTS GO IN  FOR ‘SIGNPOST’ MOVEMENT’

B Prasant


WHEREVER there is a signpost in English or Bengali, the Gorkhaland Janmukti Morcha (GJM) goons would be sure to spot and defacing it over with crude, handwritten graffito that would say ‘Gorkhaland (GL) government.’ The GJM has been doing this for some time now, and the GJM sympathisers have written extensively and for a long time now, in the divisive newspaper Darjeeling Times that actively espouses the cause of the separatists, proclaiming how the ‘revolution’ can only be achieved by forcefully advocating a change in the signboards. They shamelessly and unconstitutionally called upon certain hill social groups to become free from the ‘discriminating reign of the plains people.’ Apparently, the forced change in the signposts is held up as a banner that proclaims the ‘first step towards separation – and and even more liberating times farther on,’ according to one GJM supporter.


The Bengal unit secretary of the CPI(M) Biman Basu has been strident in castigating the move clearly and directly-- calling the ruse unconstitutional and attracting of punishment as an offence against the Indian Constitution. The Darjeeling CPI(M) has strongly condemned the separatist moves but has stopped short of direct confrontation, leaving the matter to be sorted out during the much-awaited tripartite meeting between the central and the state governments and the GJM leadership. The state home secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty informed that ‘all legal steps would be initiated against the perpetrators of these acts.’


The dangerous dimension of the movement was seen by us recently whilst on a trip to north Bengal. Such graffito ‘transference’ of administrative authority has spread – well, trickled down would be a better politically correct term – across the plains as well. We saw such acts of ‘hasty pasting,’ on signposts and signboards in the plains as well, especially in Naxalbari area in Darjeeling where the Kanu Sanyal fraction of the CPI(M-L) is active yet, and at Banarhaat and Bagrokote in the district of Jalpaiguri dooars areas.


The ‘signpost disfiguring movement’ actually started several months back, actually in June 2008. The beginning comprised surreptitious pasting of ‘GL’ on the license plates of cars and all other motor vehicles. At the time of writing this the GJM chief has “agreed” to put this change of number plates in abeyance till the tripartite talks.