Oct. 27: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is confident of inking an agreement on the interim set-up in the next political-level talks but rival outfits are determined to oppose the arrangement, raising the spectre of unrest in the hills after the pact is sealed.
Today, the ABGL warned that the hills would go up in flames if the Bimal Gurung-led Morcha went ahead with an interim set-up for the Darjeeling hills.
Chewang Bhutia, the the Kalimpong branch secretary of the ABGL, said those who claimed they would sign such an agreement within a month or two should think twice because former party president Madan Tamang had sacrificed his life to oppose such interim set-ups.
“If they (read the Morcha) have the guts, let them do it. The hills, however, will go up in flames. The youths are with us. Make no mistake of treating us like weaklings,” warned Bhutia.
The ABGL reaction was in response to reports that the Morcha is on the verge of signing the agreement on the interim arrangement by as early as the next round of tripartite talks, likely to be held in the first half of November.
The ABGL said over 1,200 people (in the 1980s) and Morcha supporters Pramila Sharma and Akbar Lama sacrificed their lives for the separate state of Gorkhaland, not an interim set-up or the Sixth Schedule.
“Gorkhaland is our birthright. We are not begging before anybody for a state of our own. To agree on anything other than Gorkhaland is shameful,” said Pratap Khati, an ABGL central committee member.
The ABGL’s threat looms on the hills, as the party has been able to mobilise support across the region in recent times. In fact, leaders like Rajen Mukhia, who was solely responsible for keeping the GNLF alive in the Terai, has switched over to the ABGL along with his supporters. Former GNLF leaders like K.N. Subba have also joined Tamang’s party.
The GNLF has also started reviving its activities after lying low for almost three years. With the rise of the Morcha, the GNLF writ was wiped out of the hills and its leader, Subash Ghisingh, went into political hibernation.
A handwritten press release issued by Kusum Ghimire, the GNLF’s president from Liza Hill tea garden, 25km from Darjeeling, said: “The GNLF had supported the demand for a separate state raised by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha but since the Morcha started talking about Gorkha-Adivasi Pradesh and now an interim set-up, we have decided to press for the inclusion of the Darjeeling hills in the Sixth Schedule as this would have constitutional guarantee.”
After three years, this is also the first time that the GNLF has issued a media release saying that it has formed a unit in the Darjeeling subdivision.
Recently, the GNLF also held indoor meetings in Kurseong and formed village committees across the hills.
Harka Bahadur Chhetri, a spokesperson for the Morcha, has refused to read much into the rival activities. “The present leadership of the ABGL has no credibility. They only get into the negatives and they themselves have nothing positive to show vis-a–vis the Gorkhaland demand. The interim set-up must be seen as a step towards achieving Gorkhaland.”
About the GNLF, Chhetri said the party was radar-less. “Their leader is in political hibernation. A lot of their leaders have joined the ABGL which clearly shows that the party has no political programme of their own.”
The Morcha is perhaps drawing solace from the fact that the rival camp is a divided house. While the ABGL wants nothing short of Gorkhaland, the GNLF is focused on the Sixth Schedule.