If there is a will, there is a way: A time tested proverb

Tue, Sep 12, 2017

SILIGURI: “Will they, won’t they?”
“It is so confusing!”
Eavesdrop and you will hear conversations such as the above tumble out of every nook and cranny of the Darjeeling hills right now.
The reference to the unspoken word in the above-mentioned conversations is the protracted bandh.  All wait with bated breath to learn what decision the bandh protagonists take following the September 12 talks between the West Bengal government and the hill parties.
With barely 24 hours to go before the crucial bipartite meeting, nervous energy is concentrating over the hills. How it manifests on D-Day will be significant.
The onus to restore normal life in the hills rests on both sides. The West Bengal government succeeded in driving a wedge among the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leadership and flummox the rest of the hill-based political organizations at the first bipartite meeting on August 29.
It now has to deliver some solution to win a semblance of faith from the hill people. Politicking is all right as long as people do not suffer. But, playing up individuals or lobbies at the cost of the people is bad governance.
The obligation to relieve the people of this confusing state lies equally on the Gorkhaland protagonists. The movement for a separate State can go on, but how wise it is to do so holding people’s lives to ransom is a point the separate State advocates will do well to consider.
Plenty of anticipation goes in Tuesday’s bipartite meeting. While the people wait anxiously to see which way the wind blows, the meeting would also be closely watched by the tea, tourism, hospitality, education and transport sectors, all of which have suffered incalculable loss due to the indefinite bandh.
Confusion, however, prevails over the participants of the meeting. It is not clear which hill parties would attend, but both the Bimal Gurung and Binay Tamang camps of the GJM have named their respective representatives. Which contingent would the West Bengal government acknowledge as official remains another mystery.
But, the fact remains that talks on Darjeeling hills keeping Gurung and his camp out would mean a futile exercise. It will not work. Maybe the GJM chief is in hiding, maybe the police are mounting raids to arrest him, but he still holds political sway over the hill populace. Discounting the point would prove counter-productive.
Gurung has meanwhile named the three hill MLAs besides two other gents as his negotiators for the September 12talks. That is a correct and timely move.
The MLAs are people’s representatives. They have remained above-board all through the agitation and are therefore kosher. Their participation, if accepted, would lend credence that an honest effort is being made to see through the imbroglio keeping the movement alive though.
That Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee would be visiting Siliguri to attend the second round of talks after attending the first as well is a clear indication how serious the issue is. A middle-ground solution acceptable to both sides and leading to the withdrawal of the bandh even in stages could do her image a world of good.
With the stage now laid out for meaningful dialogue, it is just the last minute developments that one needs to be wary of.