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Friday, Oct 23, 2020 10:45 [IST]

Last Update: Friday, Oct 23, 2020 05:01 [IST]

And we all fall down, again!

R. Dukpa

There is an old, popular proverbial saying - “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” But ours is an extraordinary case of ‘Fool me all the time’. Shame, therefore is on each-one-of-us – the foolers, the fooledand the silent spectators forthis impasse.

Disappointed is an understatement to the latest twist in the political scenario of Darjeeling hills with the announcement of Bimal Gurung breaking ties with the National Democratic Alliance led by the BJP in support of TMC ahead of 2021 State elections. Anegotiated passport to come back to the Hills, likely in exchange of dropping the demand for Gorkhaland, doesn’t matter if its temporarily or permanent. Betrayal, embarrassment and anger summarizes how many of us feel at a collective level, particularly at how the entire scenario unfolded yesterday evening.Seems like in the political arena, Gorkhas are far from being brave and valiant after all. Power co-opts, corrupts and controls Gorkhas just like anyone else.

Key GJM 1 leaders like Bimal Gurung and RoshanGiri, and thousands of their partyworkers/supporters have been on the run for over three years since 2017. Without going back into the questionable and controversial past of GJM 1’s political dominance in the hills during their hay days pre-2017, I want to argue that even though power slipped off their hands,the backstab by BinoyTamang and Anit Thapa, and splitting of GJM into two factions towards the end of 2017, GJM 1 representative of Bimal Gurung and his supportersstill helda moral victory –that of sympathy, trust and solidarity of the majority in the Hills, including even those not affiliated to political party or politics. In him and his supporters, who were en-mass displaced from their homes – hundreds arrested and hounded like dogs, many killed and thousands on the run for supporting the party and(or) the cause of Gorkhaland - many like myself saw a collective sufferingand a collective dominance perpetrated by the West Bengal Government. This broke the previously existing ideological barriers, dislikes and grievances against GJM 1, with many viewing the State oppression of Bimal Gurung (and his faction) as State oppression of the collective “us”. The politics of sympathy ran high in all of us, fueling the struggle to maintain Bimal Gurung as the face of the Gorkhas and thereby Gorkhaland movement – at times even against some of our own who rallied for change of leadership from the distant “ground zero” in Delhi.

But yesterday’s announcement changes everything. Foremost,if the last option was to yield to the powers of the very State that entrapped Bimal Gurung with “over 150 cases”then why now and not earlier? Wouldn’t it have saved those thousands of foot soldiers of GJM 1 who chose to go on a run than join the GJM 2 faction; released thoselanguishing in the jails and put an end to the sufferings of their family members?Second, even if one is to be sympathetic of the political helplessness surrounding Bimal Gurung and the GJM 1 faction in terms of how they have been put under pressure with BJP paying by its own rules and agenda and Gurung’s desire to come back home,how does blatantly (quite idiotically) praising Mamata Banerjee make sense? Bimal Gurung’s statement “When I was sitting back for the past three years, I saw Mamata Banerjee meet whatever commitments she had made to the people…She is an idol and we want to see her again in her post (of chief minister)” as reported in the Telegraph reveals less of a disbalanced pressured imposed negotiation and more of a blatant hyper-enthused bootlicking tactic to woo back Didi to consolidate power to himself and his faction. Third, rumors are that the Gorkhaland demand has been pushed aside but only “temporarily” because the need of the hour for Bimal Gurung and his team-on-the-run is to return back to the field. Their logic is plain and simple for those gullible party supporters still rooting for GJM 1– once back in Darjeeling, Bimal Gurung and his team will resurrect the Gorkhaland demand. This after acquiescing under the strongest anti-Gorkhaland forces – the West Bengal Government – is a next to impossible (at least under both GJMs) grand delusion on their part to yet again play with public emotions in the Hills. Fourthly, in this game of politics where there are indeed no permanent friends and permanent enemies, and where the only constant is the everchanging political opportunity structures, what did Bimal Gurung extract from Mamata Banerjee in the wake of the much bigger power struggle she faces with the BJP? Any tip or words on this by Bimal Gurung and his team. Perhaps not – they many have only negotiated their return back to the hills. And lastly, why attempt to make the announcement from Gorkha Bhawan or for that matter even from Kolkata itself? The sight of Bimal Gurung being debarred from entering into Gorkha Bhawan shows how poorly coordinated their announcement plans were. As pointed out by an observer, “why stand in front of the gate, if you don’t have any insider within Gorkha Bhawan supporting him?”.

Too many questions than answers and a grave uncertainty over the political consequences that such development will have on all of us – the fools and the foolers – and our much struggled Gorkhaland demand in the coming days/years. But once thing is for certain and I recallan old but famous Lincoln quote – “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power” to conclude that Bimal Gurung perhaps failed in both. About time his hardcore supporters start thinking about the great betrayal time and again, and question his leadership and the liability that he poses to the people and the Gorkhaland movement. Bimal Gurung, via his numerous flips has today lost the privilege of becoming the face of the Gorkhas and Gorkhaland. And as a mark of that last shred of integrity, Bimal Gurungbe made to resign and let others take over the struggle from here on.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi