Gorkhaland should happen, permanent peace in hills will benefit all: Bhaichung

Thu, Sep 14, 2017

The renewed Gorkhaland movement-bandh in Darjeeling Hills has completed 91 days, crippling life in the hills for more than three months. Even the neighbouring Sikkim and plain areas of Terai-Dooars have been severely affected by the agitation. The second round of talks between the State government and political parties held on September 12 failed to yield any breakthrough though the Puja festival is mere two weeks away.  
Much has been said about the missing Darjeeling BJP MP S.S. Ahluwalia in this turbulent period from his Darjeeling constituency. Similar questions had been made on the silence of TMC functionary and football icon Bhaichung Bhutia who had contested from Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat in 2014. Criticism on Bhaichung was more considering that people from both his home State (Sikkim) and contesting constituency (Darjeeling) considers him closer and comprehensible of their sufferings.
SIKKIM EXPRESS associate editor Bijoy Gurung spoke with Bhaichung, who is in Gangtok presently, to oversee the ongoing Sikkim Premier League at Paljor Stadium in his capacity as an advisor of Sikkim Football Association. Excerpts from the interview.

On viewed as a ‘silent spectator’ while hills were burning
Bhaichung: I had stayed quiet for some time in public domain but there are lot of things that have been happening. I have been doing a lot of meetings…been meeting and talking with people, intellectuals and leaders from the hills, and also doing the same with senior bureaucrats of West Bengal government and leaders of TMC regarding the ongoing Gorkhaland movement. Many things have been discussed and lot of things are happening internally.

On Gorkhaland demand
Bhaichung: In my personal view, the separate State of Gorkhaland should happen. It has been a genuine struggle that people of Darjeeling hills have been doing for more than three decades for a separate State.
If you look into the history, the hills of Darjeeling and Kalimpong have never been a part of West Bengal. People from rest of Bengal should also not have the feeling that Bengal will be divided should Gorkhaland happen. History says that Darjeeling and Kalimpong hills were not a part of modern day West Bengal. The Gorkhaland demand has been a long struggle and it will go on.
Right now, the State government may take forceful steps to restore calm and normalcy in the hills but there will be a short term peace. I feel that the Gorkhaland movement will again erupt like it has now even after formation of GTA. GTA was formed after the previous agitation but it was a temporary relief and again the Gorkhaland agitation is going on.
It is my personal view that West Bengal government should act like a big brother and take care of its small brother (hills) and make steps to permanently settle the perennial demand in an appropriate manner. People of the hills will be eternally grateful to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, her government and people of West Bengal.

Why not resign from TMC as CM Mamata Banerjee is totally against Gorkhaland demand?
Bhaichung: For me, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is a great leader. She is an honest leader who works for the grassroots people and is one of the biggest leaders in the nation. But her views on the Gorkhaland demand is something to which I do not agree. However, resigning from TMC serves no purpose. My resigning does not mean that Gorkhaland will happen.

On what should be done on Gorkhaland demand
Bhaichung: I think we need to come out and work to get support from the Bengal community, intellectuals, and also leaders of the TMC for Gorkhaland demand. This is very important. There are some TMC leaders, bureaucrats and members of the Bengal community who agree with the Gorkhaland demand but it is difficult for them to come out in open support. The Gorkhaland movement protagonists should work to convince them and garner their support. This will take time but efforts must be made.
People leading the Gorkhaland movement should try to create relationship with the West Bengal government, Centre and Bengali community of West Bengal.
My advice is that people supporting the Gorkhaland movement should not get aggressive and resort to communal abusive statements, especially in social media. Be constructive and try to win the support of the Bengali community, especially the intellectuals and political leaders. We should refrain from saying bad things against other communities.
In the Gorkhaland agitation, people are suffering in the hills. So are people in Sikkim and Siliguri. Business has suffered. If separate State or UT happens, even people in Siliguri will benefit due to peace in the hills and developmental activities picking up.

Sikkim CM has extended his support to the Gorkhaland demand. What you have to say on it?
Bhaichung: It is great to see Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling coming out in open support. He is a Chief Minister for more than 25 years and the most successful Chief Minister in India. He has a vast experience in politics, has developed a strong network of contacts in Delhi and can lobby a lot in the national corridors of power. I feel he should be guiding the leaders in the hills on how to take forward the Gorkhaland movement in a constructive and effective manner. He knows people who matter and accordingly, should take the responsibility of guiding the people doing the Gorkhaland movement.
I think Sikkim can also play a more proactive role in the Parliament on the Gorkhaland demand. We have two MPs and they should raise the matter in the Parliament and engage the House in a debate over the Gorkhaland movement. I think given speeches in public on Gorkhaland issue would not make much impact. Taking out the issue in the Parliament would be more effective and I feel that this has not happened so far.