Permanent solution for hills? Easier said than done

Thu, Sep 14, 2017

SILIGURI: The dispensation in power in West Bengal has finally understood that the Darjeeling dilemma requires a “permanent solution”. Sure, it does.
The bright observation about the “permanent solution” comes from none other than the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. She pointed so at the meeting with the hill parties on September 12.
The observation certainly is the bottom line to end recurring friction between the hill-parties and successive state governments on the separate state issue. There but remains a simple matter to solve first–what is the permanent solution?
The situation is very tricky and requires a long hard look before one jumps. And so, did the chief minister speak a bit too soon on the touchy issue? Maybe she did and realized it too for in the next breath she claimed the Darjeeling hills are an inseparable part of West Bengal.
If the tail part was an attempt to dilute any unfavourable opening her earlier statement had provided, the cover up has not gone unnoticed. It is a safe wager that future negotiations on the hills would hinge on the assertion.
Like it or not, the Gorkhaland demand is close to every heart in the hills and people are prepared to sacrifice their lives for the cause as has been proven since 1985. Yes, there might be divergent views on the mode of movement, but the aspiration to achieve the objective is overwhelming and complete.
All hill-based political parties are aware of the burning desire among the people and would never forgo the scope to milk it. They also cannot afford to ignore or oppose the demand and be viewed as political pariahs. The disintegration of the CPI-M in the hills is testimony to the point.
Conversely, no plains-based political party can or ever will support the separate state demand. Since Bengal has already been divided once, a second division of the state, or even to contemplate such, is considered blasphemous.
And no matter how much one argues that the Darjeeling hills historically were gifted to the British by the Sikkim Chogyal, the takers are few.
If for argument sake it is accepted that the political caucus the state government is trying to prop up in the hills agrees to defer the separate state movement and roots for development as an alternative, where is the guarantee everyone would accept it?
Also, how can one be sure that some other political organization or bloc would not launch a fresh movement? After all, one cannot frame rules to stop people from making a democratic demand and agitate for it.
Moreover, writing off Bimal Gurung would be unwise. True, his chips are down at the moment and he faces arrest on surfacing. But, his right to agitate for a demand cannot be snatched. And, given the current circumstances, agitating for Gorkhaland is his only way to remain political buoyant.  
See the stumbling blocks?