The West Bengal state government is trying to initiate a bureaucratic-level interaction with its Sikkim counterparts in an effort to plug any “support” to supporters of Gorkhaland agitation and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung.
In at least two previous incidents, Gurung, wanted in a number of cases, allegedly slipped through West Bengal agencies’ net. Sikkim agencies were accused of “helping” the GJM leader then. The Bengal government also believes Gurung and other GJM leaders are in hiding in Sikkim.
Bengal Ministers have already pointed fingers at Sikkim for aiding the separate state movement in the Hills.
“A formal proposal will be sent to the Sikkim government to initiate bipartite talks shortly. If they agree for talks, which we are sure they will, we will raise the issue of violence in the Hills and that many wanted in different cases are presently in Sikkim,” said a senior officer from Nabanna (state secretariat).
“We will try to initiate a dialogue with our counterparts in Sikkim, where we will try to convince them that continuing unrest in the hills of Darjeeling will also hamper Sikkim’s interest in respects of both supply of essential commodities as well as the state’s tourism,” confirmed a senior bureaucrat with West Bengal government, on condition of anonymity.
According to sources in government, state officers will the importance of Bengal as the supply line to commodities in Sikkim as leverage in the talks.
“So the prosperity of Sikkim depends much on peace in the hills of Darjeeling, which we are sure, the Sikkim government will also acknowledge,” the Bengal bureaucrat said.
Already Sikkim has ben affected by Darjeeling unrest including 104 day strike. Tourist flow had dropped since June this year.
The relationship between the two states strained since Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling, in June this year, wrote to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh backing a separate Gorkhaland state. Later, Chamling posted the same letter on social media.
Bengal education and parliamentary affairs minister, Partha Chatterjee wrote to Singh objecting to Chamling’s observation and describing it as an unwanted interference in the internal matters of Bengal.
The relationship between the two states worsened further after two attempts by state Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to arrest Gurung (booked under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act) from Sikkim was aborted.
The first raid by CID, West Bengal was conducted on August 31 at a resort at Namchi in South Sikkim, while Gurung was chairing an underground central committee meeting of GJM. Although CID sleuths managed to arrest nine GJM leaders, Gurung somehow managed to escape. According to Sikkim police FIR Bengal cops also shot dead a GJM supporter during the raid in Sikkim. The incident caused a lot of embarrassment for Bengal.
On October 7 night, CID sleuths conducted yet another raid also at Namchi, but the underground GJM supremo managed to escape minutes before the raid was conducted. In both the instances, Bengal police blamed Sikkim police for non- cooperation.