Is the signing of the tripartite Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) agreement the end of the around 3 decades old Gorkhaland problem? Or is it a signal step towards the formation of a separate Gorkhaland state?
West Bengal Chief Minister Miss Mamata Banerjee and Union Home Minister Mr. P. Chidambaram have clearly said that there is no question of accepting any proposal to divide Bengal. The GTA agreement has been signed only to boost development in the Darjeeling area (as if it was impossible without this agreement), and not to smoothen any process to divide Bengal that has already faced the brunt of division once at the time of India’s partition in 1947.
Significantly, during the signing of the agreement, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) supremo Mr. Bimal Gurung also did not utter a single word about the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state (though he did not categorically say that they have dropped that demand, either).
All this may be taken as a sign that the GTA has been successful in placating the grievances/feeling of discrimination/etc. of the so called sons of the soil (sorry, all of these local people are not indigenous to Darjeeling), and now they are no more interested in having a separate Gorkhaland state.
However, the matter might not be that simple. While Bimal Gurung himself did not say anything about Gorkhaland demand, the occasion saw many of his supporters raising slogans like “We Want Gorkhaland”. More importantly, on the sidelines of the signing of the agreement, a couple of GJM leaders told journalists that the GTA agreement was not going to put an end to the struggle for Gorkhand state. Rather that demand will very much remain in place, and in fact that is their ultimate goal.
I feel before the signing of the GTA agreement Mamata Banerjee should have got an official assurance from the GJM leadership that after the agreement they would drop their Gorkhaland demand. That (or something like that) would have been a better thing to do. Unfortunately, Mamata did not bother to do anything like that in a hurry to get the agreement signed and claim credit for resolving a long-standing issue.
Anyways, I feel that immediately the West Bengal government and GJM should jointly issue a media statement, wherein they will clarify their stand and view on this. Otherwise there will be room for rumours and false hopes, which is not very appreciable. The common people want to know the truth, and they must be told the truth. It is a sensitive issue, and there must not be any confusion over anything.
And yes, GJM must drop its demand to bring Nepali-speaking parts of Dooars and Terai under GTA. This is simply too much.
Finally, a bagful of congratulations to my friends, brothers and sisters of Darjeeling for getting an autonomous body for themselves. I may not appreciate the idea of Gorkhaland. I may be uncomfortable even with the signing of GTA agreement. But I certainly appreciate the grievances/ethnical sentiments, etc. that have made you support the Gorkhaland movement. (It is only that I feel that Gorkhaland is not a must to address your demands and aspirations.) I sincerely wish that GTA becomes successful in addressing your grievances, demands and aspirations. And yes, I also hope that GTA pays equal focus on the development of every ethnic community (the Gorkhas, the Lepchas, the Bhutias, etc.), instead of remaining obsessed with one or two community/communities.
Darjeeling has always lied very close to our (Bengalis) heart, and we will keep loving this beautiful place (and its inhabitants) whether it remains under the West Bengal government or GTA or any other entity. An average Bengali’s bonding with Darjeeling is purely emotional, which has nothing to do with the political status of that place. We will always love Darjeeling. And we will always love and adore the people of Darjeeling, even if they perceive us as their enemy, or even oppressor.
And, sorry to say, for us Darjeeling will always remain Darjeeling, and not Gorkhaland. Never!