Darjeeling: Despite its “electoral compulsions" the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) should take immediate steps to resolve the crisis in Darjeeling keeping in mind the strategic importance of the region, Binoy Tamang, the emerging leader now at the helm of the Gorkhaland movement said in an interview.

“The region is of immense strategic importance from the standpoint of national security," Tamang said, adding that if the centre bides time, the crisis will only intensify and spin out of hand. He will not support any further experiment with “incremental autonomy", and the only solution to the problem was the creation of a separate state for Nepali-speaking Gorkhas. Edited excerpts:

What led to the partition within the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM)?

All our previous movements, in 2007 and 2013, were peaceful in nature. But this time, our leader Bimal Gurung veered from the path of non-violence. Though I tried to reason with him several times, he chose a different path.

The movement this time led to a stalemate, and people were suffering: tea garden workers, daily wage earners were all in a terrible state at the end of the 105-day strike. I thought someone had to end the impasse in some manner.

You appear to have distanced yourself from the BJP as well.

The region that we want carved out as Gorkhaland is of immense strategic importance because of its close proximity to neighbouring countries. So the party at the centre, the BJP, should bury its electoral compulsions and take immediate steps to address the problem. The crisis will intensify unless addressed immediately and then things will spin out of hand of the centre.

How do you explain this resolve for a separate state?

A section of the people has treated the Gorkhas as foreigners because we speak the same language as in Nepal. The Gorkhas are widely seen in this country as foreigners who work as security guards at people’s homes. That’s how we have been treated for generations and that has undermined our identity. We don’t want to leave India. We only want a state of our own to establish our identity as Indians.

But both the BJP and the West Bengal chief minister have ruled out Gorkhaland.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has acknowledged that our demand for Gorkhaland is legitimate. But the state, she said, does not have the jurisdiction, to decide on the demand. The discussion over it must include the centre as well.

There was stiff political resistance to Jharkhand and Telangana being carved out as separate states. But these states did materialize in the end. The question is whether our demand is constitutionally legitimate or not. If it is legitimate, it must be granted.

There are around 17 demands for separate states, and to my mind all of them are constitutionally valid under Article 3 of the Indian Constitution.

Whichever party is in power in West Bengal—whether the Trinamool Congress, Congress, BJP or the Left Front—it wouldn’t want the state to be carved up. Political parties speak out of their electoral compulsions.

What if the centre and the state agreed to grant more autonomy?

Till now, there have been three experiments with incremental autonomy: it started under Siddhartha Shankar Ray (former chief minister), then another under the Left rule, and the third one, the GTA (Gorkha Territorial Administration).

All of them were complete failures, including the GTA’s first five-year term till 2017. These were only experiments with interim arrangements. The only permanent solution lies in creation of Gorkhaland.

There will not be another experiment with incremental autonomy. I agreed to join the GTA as chairman only as an interim arrangement so that development in Darjeeling didn’t suffer because of the movement.

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