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Sougata Mukhopadhyay / CNN-IBN
What went wrong with the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council? Was it insufficient to fulfill the political aspiration of the Gorkhas? Why was Ghising alienated by his own people? The house which the Subhas Ghising-led Dargeeling Gorkha Hill Council used as the seat of power is today completely deserted, even as the so-called “prince of hills” remains under house arrest for all practical senses of the term.
Siliguri (Darjeeling): Darjeeling hasn’t witnessed a political upheaval like what the GJM has been doing in the past two decades. The last time under Subhash Ghising, was far more violent, in the mid-80s.
The GNLF had promised better civic infrastructure, better health and education. But by the end of the ’80s it was clear that Ghising the rebel fell short of Ghising the administrator.
Former Teacher Loreto College, Amar Rai says, “I would give credit to the GNLF and Subhash Ghising because he raised the issue of ‘mato’. Mato means the soil. And it was linked to our whole question of identity. But then, we felt very disappointed when instead of Gorkhaland he went for Darjeeling Hill Gorkha Council (DHGC).”
While the failures of the hill council were soon apparent, strangely it took two decades for the rebel Gorkha leaders to break away from Ghising. Pemba Tshering, who heads Darjeeling’s civic body, explains the widespread disappointment with the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.”In DGHC there was corruption in every field. Take for example, the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan scheme – education for all. There was corruption to the tune of Rs 5.14 crore. And in the Mid-day Meal scheme too there were a lot of ghost students. And the teachers were asked to sign blank vouchers,” he says.
Though the region gets over 300 centimeters of rain annually, the hill council failed to address the acute drinking water crisis. Experts say rainwater harvesting could have solved the problem. Bad roads are another issue for local residents and tourists alike.
However, the local people aren’t complaining about the uncertainty that the present political turmoil has brought to their daily lives. They say that there are no inconveniences and that to gain something, they must sacrifice some comfort.
Hints of the present rising were apparent exactly a year ago when the hills went berserk over their musical hero Prashant Tamang. It’s no coincidence that the man who led that frenzy is the man who has replaced Ghising. He is Bimal Gurung, the man who now personifies the recharged aspirations of the Gorkhas.
“It was a challenge before us, to see Prashant win at any cost. I made a vow that if Prashant loses then Bimal Gurung would quit politics and leave Darjeeling,” says Gurung..
Ghising’s alienation from his own people is complete and it has a lot to do with his political equations with the Bengal government.
“Now we’ve become aware of the fact that Subhash Ghising was a mere puppet in the hands of the West Bengal government, in the hands of the Marxists,” says Amar Rai.
But even as evening descends on Darjeeling, one can sense that the past has been left behind and there is a fresh sense of expectation.