BY NAWIN CHANDRA GURUNG
When I am writing this article, a huge mass, chanting slogans amid torrential downpour, is heading towards Gitange Danra demanding the one point demand of a separate state Gorkhaland. The scenario takes us to the agitation way back in late 80s. As many as 12 hundred people were martyred during the series of intense but vibrant agitations. Back then some six years ago, following the dissolution of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), the consensus had been built between the West Bengal state government and erstwhile topnotch Gorkha leaders on the provision of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) along with the commitment made before the people by the GTA office bearers that the century old demand of a separate state would still remain alive. Thus the parties active in the hills hit the streets and the Gorkhas in India and abroad have vowed to give decisive breakthrough to the agitation with their heart and soul. Of late, considering the fact that the tenure for GTA came to an end a few months ago, the agitation has automatically gone to the hands of people of all walks of life with a proclamation of the people’s movement with no single party in the lead. It is learnt that the leaders have been sternly warned if they agreed upon any unpopular decision other than the provision of statehood.
At the outset, now that the unwavering agitation is at its peak once again based on the backdrop of whatever triggered it to spread like wildfire, all-party consensus has been subsequently built for reviving the demand for Gorkhaland without compromising on any of the alternatives of GTA or any commitment expressed either by the Bengal government and Central government. The crucial moment now is as to how to go with mounting pressure on the BJP government to have the long pending demand of Gorkhaland meted out by hook or by crook. As of now, no voice has been raised in the parliament except for a few rhetoric commitment expressed as consolation from the side of the ruling BJP and its alliances. The agitation led by all party alliance has gained optimum height now. Having their faith lost in the West Government, parties need to tactically lobby for the intervention to be stepped up by the BJP government as the high national priority at the center. It may be noted that the several rounds of tripartite talks have been literally futile with the provision of consolation in the name of powerless DGHC and GTA. So the bottom line being the age-old demand of Gorkhaland, central government’s dilly dallying in intervening the situation by letting the issue to be tabled in the parliament has been further worsening the situation. People have lost faith in the West Bengal government’s commitment. At the same time, the rift being emerged in national level politics between the BJP led central government and state government is something that has made everything concerning Gorkhaland stagnant. More importantly, the Gorkha leaders must be cognizant of this fact and they spearhead their lobbying accordingly. Contrarily, BJP in West Bengal appeared to have toed the line carved by their opposition as mute spectators for the fear of losing their vote bank.
Awareness for now or never
It is needless to ponder on the geo-political rationale to set forth a logical conclusion why separate state would be the only way out for the welfare of hill citizens and their very identity. With the sudden recurrence of protest with the one-point agenda now, all party consensus to go with the one-point demand of Gorkhaland has gained its optimum height with the support extended from all over. The topnotch leaders must be able to capitalize this before it is too late. As the People’s Movement taps impetus, the prolonged crisis is an opportunity in disguise for the hill politicians. However, it is very unfortunate that a handful of unscrupulous politicians as the “certified crooks” often mislead the general public.
Rights violation, an unexpected answer
Indeed, the general citizens are in state of fury amid their relentless protest being organized on daily basis. 12 people have lost their lives when the police indiscriminately opened fire at the demonstrators. It is a gross violation of human rights. India together with any of twenty nine federal states ought to comply with the International Convention on the Civil and Political Rights – 1969 (ICCPR) and Articles 3 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (UDHR) to which India is a state party. The recent extra judicial killing evidently shows the downright non- compliance of the articles under the above conventions on the part of the security agencies. Rather, the state mechanism is learnt to have exhibited its autocratic action by using the security force on peaceful demonstration in the name of restoring , peace as if there was no Rule of Law. On the other hand, state mechanism is learned to have overlooked the deteriorating health situation of the demonstrators staging sit in with fast unto death program which is tantamount to the violation of human rights of citizens whose right to life is at stake before the very eye of the district administration.
The de facto dire situation amidst ever stretching Banda has left the general people high and dry. They are suffering due to acute shortage of food, daily essential commodities and health services. While on the other hand, both anti social elements and black marketeering are reportedly taking upper hand under the shadow of movement. Undeclared embargo imposed on food supply and frequent hindrances caused in ferrying the essential commodities to the Hills by the state sponsored hooligans has reportedly incited anarchy at the foothills. People in general specially the elderly people , women and children are vulnerable and victimized due to the lack of food and health services. Meanwhile, the ongoing ban imposed on local media and internet has literally violated the citizens’ right to information. This again has irked the people because they have been isolated from the rest of the world. Students, specially the examinees have been debarred from sitting in the ongoing competitive examinations. This has undeniably jeopardized their future.
Role of Media, Academia and Civil Society
The role of media, academia and civil society is pivotal and expected to play the role of an advisory in providing the pathway to the leaders. Parties concerned must call for their opinion through debate in different forums so as to have the voice representation with rationale. It is high time that the parties stepped up for this in their respective circle. Sadly, on the other hand, the absence of national level media has failed to serve the purpose with their reporting as to why and how the fire erupted. Similarly, ban being imposed on local channels and telephone, the right to information of the people has been violated. It is high time that the stakeholders including the civil society knock the door of court with the filing of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against such action, but no one seems to dare. As expected, the ad hoc media and communication segment of all party coordination committee, if at all it exists, appeared to have remained dormant under such circumstances.
All party coordination committee and people’s expectation
Adoption of inclusive principle is commendable while forming all party coordination committee. Similarly, the much needed modus operandi together with all party consensus is inevitable while dispensing any high level decision. At this point of time, the theory ‘united we stand, divided we all’ will undeniably yield the expected result provided the coordination meant for well tuned ‘way forward’ remains intact. Prognosis as such might sound hypothetical but this is what is the need of the hour.
Clear Roadmap: with Adequate Homework
Arguably, when a demand for separate state is placed forth, the constitutional and legitimate ground for the demand must be worth convincing. Given the fact that Chhattishgad, Uttarakhand and Telelngana achieved the statehood one after another, formation of separate state Gorkhaland is not an exception. As the constitutional rights paves ways for the separate state in accordance with federalism principle, the parties involved in agitation ought to do optimum homework to have the issue of separate state tabled in the parliament with adequate homework. Now that entire Gorkha people are demonstrating in the street with great deal of determination and persistence, they too must be well informed about the rationale and the satisfactorily sketched roadmap for the demand to be meted out. The need of the hour is well intact coordination and adequate homework when the delegation makes any official visit to Delhi.
Nawin Chandra Gurung is a Human Rights Activist based in Darjeeling.