Smaller Gorkha outfits pledge support to Gorkha Janmukti Morcha on statehood demand
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Kolkata: The crisis in the hills intensified on Tuesday with smaller Gorkha outfits such as the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) pledging support to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) in its demand for carving out a separate state for the Nepali-speaking community of Darjeeling district.
Apart from the GNLF, Gorkhaland Rajya Nirman Morcha, Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists and Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh on Tuesday met the GJM leadership in Darjeeling, following which GJM spokesperson Roshan Giri said the community stood united in its fight for Gorkhaland.
GNLF, which was at the forefront of the Gorkha agitation in the mid-1980s, had lately allied with the Trinamool Congress. But on Tuesday, its spokesperson Niraj Zimba said the need of the hour was for like-minded parties to come together over the issue of Gorkhaland.
The GNLF’s alliance with the Trinamool Congress was only a political one, Zimba said, adding that his party was joining forces with the GJM out of its political ideology of securing a separate state for the Gorkhas. But the GNLF’s influence over the Gorkhas in West Bengal’s hills is vastly reduced from its peak 30 years ago.
Giri said the community was appealing to the centre to intervene because the state administration would do nothing to resolve the impasse.
GNLF has sold itself to the GJM, said Goutam Deb, minister for tourism in the state and the president of the Trinamool Congress for the Darjeeling district. GNLF has worked for the GJM even during recent elections, he alleged, even as it “pretended” to be an ally of the Trinamool Congress.
But the GNLF is a “spent force”, according to Deb. “Its parting ways with the Trinamool Congress will have no bearing on expansion of our support base in the hills,” said Deb. Suman Sharma, assistant secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s hill district committee, also took part in Tuesday’s meeting with the GJM. Though he wasn’t immediately available for comments, Rahul Sinha, national secretary of the BJP said his party will work for the development of the Gorkhas but opposed the movement to carve out a separate state of Gorkhaland from West Bengal.
Debasis Bhattacharya, a veteran journalist and political analyst, said the GNLF had nothing to gain from its alliance with the Trinamool Congress. “It is clearly a two-way contest between the Trinamool Congress and the GJM,” said Bhattacharya. This isn’t a setback for the Trinamool Congress either because it is expanding its support base in the hills on its own strength, he added.
Meanwhile, the hills witnessed more disruption on Tuesday as tea workers and GJM supporters clashed with the police as they tried to enforce a general strike in several districts of north Bengal. Transport services were disrupted and there were reports of sporadic violence from various tea-growing districts of the state.