VIVEK CHHETRI AND RAJEEV RAVIDAS
Darjeeling, Jan. 29: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung is willing to change the name of Gorkhaland, the state that his party wants, to make the statehood demand more acceptable to all communities spread across the hills and the Dooars.
The Morcha president has mentioned this in the “secret proposal” that he has sent to Delhi to make the granting of statehood more “palatable” to the Centre.
In an interaction with The Telegraph, Gurung said: “One of the important points in the proposal (sent to the Centre) is a slight change in the name (of the state the Morcha has been demanding). This is being done because of certain problems in the Dooars.”
Gurung, however, did not spell out the new name that he has in mind.
In the last one year, as the Morcha has been trying to make its presence felt in the Dooars, there have been several clashes between the Gorkhas and the adivasis who are opposed to the inclusion of the Dooars in Gorkhaland that the hill party wants.
The Morcha has been demanding that not only the three hill subdivisions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong and Siliguri subdivision be part of “Gorkhaland”, but also the Dooars which comprises almost half of Jalpaiguri district.
The majority population in the Dooars consists of adivasis. Even in the foothill areas of Kalimpong subdivision, like Gorubathan, there is a sizeable presence of the tribal community. “The idea behind changing the name Gorkhaland is to make the statehood demand more inclusive one,” a Morcha leader said. “After all, other than the Gorkhas, communities like the adivasis, Lepchas and the Bhutias also live in the hills and the foothills. They should also be made to feel that they are part of the new state that the Morcha has been demanding.” While the adivasis form about 60 per cent of the population in the Dooars, the Lepchas and the Bhutias, who live in the hills, constitute 15 per cent of the population there.
However, the “secret proposal” that Gurung has sent to Delhi has redefined the geographical area of “Gorkhaland” to include only the Gorkha dominated areas of the hills and the Dooars and not the entire region.
But in its efforts to woo the adivasis, the Morcha, during its programmes in the foothills and the Dooars and Terai, calls itself the Gorkha Janmukti Adivasi Morcha and uses a flag with the symbol of a bow alongside the Gorkha khukuri.
However, going by Gurung’s words that there would only be a “slight change” to the name Gorkhaland, observers believe that the Morcha would retain the word Gorkha, but coin another word or words to represent other communities, especially the adivasis.
“Since the Morcha’s demand for a separate state is based on the issue of the identity of the Gorkhas, Gurung is unlikely to drop the word Gorkha altogether,” said a Morcha leader.
But Gurung has made it clear that the “secret proposal” he has submitted to the Centre pertains to the “fundamental demand for statehood”, and has nothing to do with an interim arrangement. “I am least interested in an interim council,” Gurung said.