“Freedom of press is limited to those who own one.” On June 10, all the local cable TV news channels in Darjeeling were frozen by the state administration. The state government’s lack of trust on the local press is evident. A clear double standard was observed when the unfortunate CBI raid in the residence of NDTV’s Pranoy Roy was rightfully condemned by Mamata Banerjee. However, on the other hand, the local channels were ordered to shut down by her administration. The Hindu-Hindi-Hindutva ideology is something which Mamata Banerjee herself does not support. However, her government is surprisingly following majoritarianism when it comes to the Bengali language.
On May 31, the chief minister, while convening a meeting in Kolkata also announced that Bengali should be made mandatory till class 10, not even leaving out CBSE and ICSE schools. She didn’t mention that the hills would be exempted. The protest against language imposition in the Darjeeling hills was not just instigated and led by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) alone. On May 30, GJM leaders and members of the civil society were democratically convening a meeting in order to protest against Bengali being made compulsory in schools.
On June 5, a GJM leader had also been arrested for organising a protest against Mamata Banerjee. In Bengal, the only person to enjoy democracy is Mamata Banerjee, who in turn believes that Modi is the only one in the country to enjoy it. Therefore, her tactics of throttling democracy and crushing the people from the most deprived area of the state should stop. Many Nepali-speaking people of the hills are in one voice protesting against any sort of linguistic imperialism. On the language issue, the chief minister making different statements in different places according to her political need is directly responsible for the present-day unrest in the hills. Evoking Bengali culture through forceful language implementation to counter the growing presence of RSS has backfired. The language card is a small part of her larger political roadmap to remain in power for a longer duration.
One more thing which leaves people spellbound, even some of her followers, is the way she remained least concerned with the protest and was more worried for the tourists. The sad part for the chief minister was that more than her being concerned for the tourist, the people of Darjeeling were far more helpful and hospitable towards the tourists.
A peaceful rally has sporadically ended with this pandemonium. Had the state administration not handled the matter in such an irresponsible fashion, the situation wouldn’t have become this grave. The deployment of a huge police and CRPF forces and even the Army has provoked the peace-loving people from the hills. Since the protesters are now confronted by lathi-charge and a highly armed force, it raises a serious question as to why the peaceful protesters have to be neutralised by the armed force or whether a systematic oppression by the administration is the only way to silence dissent? How long can the state government use force and money to dilute the demand for Gorkhaland? The demand which is larger than life for the Gorkhas.
The Bharatiya Janata Party government which portrays itself of having great empathy for the country’s ‘Bir Purush’, should now walk the talk and seriously consider their long pending demand for Gorkhaland after they gain a majority in both the houses. The community, whose large chunk of the population is engaged in defending the borders of the country are still to get their share. The grand nephew of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose has come out in open support of Gorkhas as he is aware of the fact that the Gorkhas have dedicated their life fighting for the country during the freedom movement led by the Indian National Army (INA).