People's Democracy

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


No. 07

February 13, 2011

Anarchy of Divisive

Forces in Darjeeling


From our Special

Correspondent in Kolkata


THE incidents in Darjeeling hill areas have once again pointed to the fact of an all-encompassing attempt to create anarchy and violence in West Bengal.


Gorkha Janamukti Morcha, spearheading the movement for separate Gorkhaland, resorted to largescale violence, arson and anarchy in hill areas of Darjeeling and adjacent areas in Jalpaiguri on February 8.


The latest round of trouble began just after Morcha leaders returned back from ‘tripartite’ discussion in Delhi. The meeting, at political level, was held with state and union government representatives participating along with the top leaders of Morcha. The main discussion centered on the proposal of an Interim Council in the hills. The state government reiterated its stand that an elected interim council was welcome. In democracy, any such institution must be elected. Morcha leaders were averse to elections and demanded that at least 90 per cent of council’s members would be nominated by them. Naturally, even the union home ministry could not succumb to such an irrational demand. It was learnt that the union home ministry tried to persuade the Morcha leaders to accept the principle of an elected council. As the state assembly elections were due shortly, it was decided that all three parties would place a draft of the interim council and after another round of meeting a memorandum of understanding could be finalised.


The state government also complained that even while the tripartite discussion was on, the Morcha continued with consecutive bandh calls and other unlawful activities. This could not be allowed. Union home minister also concurred with this position and advised the Morcha to restrain from such acts. It was also learnt that the Morcha representatives assured him on this issue.


However, shortly thereafter the Morcha undertook programmes which were clearly oriented towards creating trouble, inciting violence and more dangerously instigating ethnic conflicts. Their design was evident when Morcha undertook a march through Dooars, the area bordering Jalpaiguri district and home for different ethnic groups. The state administration firmly thwarted such a move, although blockades, violation of prohibitory orders, attack on shops continued. Even Bimal Gurung, GJM supremo participated in such activities. Morcha established camps for so-called Gorkhaland Police, a band of youth force, in reserved forest areas and began terrorising people of Dooars.


On 8 February, Morcha activists clashed with police when they tried to disperse those camps and cleared blockades in Shibchu. Morcha activists were violent from the beginning and attacked the police with stones and sharp weapons. Many policemen were injured and even women constables sustained severe injuries from daggers. Police resorted to tear gas and ultimately fired seven rounds. Two people were killed in the clash. Morcha activists torched several heritage buildings, forest offices, tourist lodges, cars and government properties in the hills.


The movement for separate Gorkhaland in Darjeeling, in its first spell in the eighties, took the lives of hundreds. More than 200 activists of CPI(M) and Left mass organisations were killed, most of them were Nepali-speaking. In 1988, with the initiative of the state government, Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) was formed with a wide range of powers vested with the body. It was a unique example of regional autonomy. Gorkha National Liberation Front was in power in DGHC for two decades. However, their long stint was marred with nepotism, corruption and failures despite state government’s co-operation. GNLF was basically aligned with Congress and helped them to send MPs from Darjeeling. 


GJM was a breakaway group of GNLF and under the leadership of Bimal Gurung, it started a more violent movement. The state government, however, initiated the process of dialogue and the Morcha was invited a number of times in the talks. At the request of the state government, the centre also started tripartite discussion and nearly ten meetings have been held at political and administrative levels. Initially the idea of developing the council under Sixth Schedule of the Constitution was discussed. Later the idea of an interim council with more powers emerged. Morcha demanded the extension of area, including Dooars and Siliguri which sparked serious reactions from the people of those areas. GJM also included those two areas in their proposed ‘Gorkhaland’. This is a meticulous design to create ethnic unrest. For the last three years, the  Morcha has called for bandhs almost every week, virtually closed all government activities, development activities. The life of the people in the hills has been made miserable, with poorer sections feeling the pinch most hard. No other political parties are allowed to function in the hills. But there is a method in this apparent madness - CPI(M) and the Left parties were the prime target of attack.


Congress, with its silence and Trinamool Congress with tacit support have encouraged this divisive force to run amok in the hills. Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee was warmly welcomed in Darjeeling by the Morcha leaders when she went there and was closeted in a meeting with them. It was also evident that in the two assembly bye-elections TMC had a tacit understanding with the Morcha. In Kalchini, Morcha-supported candidate won while in Rajganj, TMC candidate was the winner. Both the constituencies were in Jalpaiguri district.


Communists have consistently fought to defend the rights of the Nepali-speaking people and they championed the idea of regional autonomy within the structure of West Bengal. The CPI(M) was in the forefront of struggle of the tea garden workers and other sections of working people in the hills. Through these struggles, and developmental initiatives of the Left Front government after 1977, the CPI(M) enjoyed wide mass support in the hills. The rise of identity politics was a planned attempt to disrupt and destroy this base. Secessionist and divisive activities were also aimed to disintegrate Darjeeling from West Bengal.


The Left Front has appealed to the people to maintain unity and integrity. It has also demanded that the centre should intervene to stop Morcha from indulging in unlawful activities.