It all started when the West Bengal government decided to introduce the three language policy in the state with Bengali as a compulsory language in the syllabi of students. People in the Hills (Darjeeling and adjoining areas) were made to understand that the state, in an autocratic move, wants to “destroy the Nepali language and culture through this move”.
Stand up for the Nepali language was the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s (GJM) call to the people of the Hills. “They want to destroy our culture and language,” said Bimal Gurung, chief, GJM, in one of his many public addresses.
However, the air was long cleared after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s visit to the Hills when she said that Bengali is not a “compulsory” language. People do not have to study the language to pass examinations but have to simply learn a new language as it is the state language.
This was the turning point and the beginning of a phase that was to witness several twists and turns, bloodshed and politics. What started as a “language protest” turned into Gorkhaland protest — a demand for a separate state.
Right after the Chief Minister of West Bengal clarified the state’s stand, Bimal Gurung gave the language protest a Gorkhaland twist and tickled the emotions of the people who stay in the Hills by calling it a people’s protest.
A political gimmick followed as the GJM said that it would resign from the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) which in any way had its days numbered as the present tenure of five years was to end soon then. People were asked to take to the streets and soon Darjeeling was shrouded in a blanket of dark political clouds.
Injecting a “Gorkhaland or nothing” poison in the minds of the otherwise peace loving Hill folks, the GJM-led hooligans took to arson and set fire to not only several official buildings and vehicles but also burned the very beauty of the Hills and reduced it to nothing more than a platform for politics.
Blocking the NH 10 was another move that crippled the Hills. With ration and essentials sparse in Darjeeling and adjoining areas, the places will soon turn into nothing more than graveyards.
Several residents including students of the Hills were quoted by various media houses that they were pro-Gorkhaland but not at the cost of violence initiated by the GJM.
It seems that simply for the interests of a few, backed by their high levels of ego, the people of the Hills are having to bear the brunt. But the move has been a very clever one as the tickle has been in a very sentimental area — Gorkhaland.
It is high time the people, especially the youth of Darjeeling understand that the GJM-led protests are taking them nowhere.
For a moment let us consider that a separate state is actually carved out. With tourism as the only major source of revenue, the new state would have to bank on it to run the show. But with the damage that has already been done, would it really be possible for Gorkhaland, if at all it is formed, to come back to its original glory? Will it be able to feed its own people who are mainly fed through tourism?
A few days ago an article quoted people who fancy visiting Darjeeling saying that they would no more like to visit the place with the level of filthy politics plaguing the Hills.
With the state of affairs grim in Darjeeling and its surrounding areas, it is high time that the GJM sheds its ego and joins hands with the state government for the betterment of the Hills. After all, even the Centre has abandoned itself from the Gorkhaland demand and with the GJM sensing “controversy” from all sides, it will soon find itself in a dead end if the party does not take a detour from its course soon.