West Bengal is bullying a small Himalayan state

Sikkim is sandwiched between Tibet, which has flared up on the one hand, and the active non-cooperation of the West Bengal authorities on the other.

Written by PD Rai | Updated: July 7, 2017 2:47 pm
west bengal, sikkim, china, doklam, northeast, mamata bannerjee, bengal cm, darjeeling, gorkhaland, china sikkim standoff, indian express After the shut down in the Gorkhaland hills, for well over 20 days, even RBI Gangtok is talking about possible shortage of cash. All hotel rooms are empty. (Partha Paul)

Sikkim is normally in the news because we win accolades for our Organic Mission and our cleanliness drive. Not today. There is tension in the border with China flexing its military and rhetoric muscle in the North and East. And then there is West Bengal to our South.

What is Sikkim staring at right now? Empty hotels. No takers for our taxis. Food running short in ration shops. Petrol scarcity scare. Thanks to the buffer stock at the Indian Oil Corporation Limited we are still managing with diesel and petrol and LPG cylinders. Thanks to money circulation there is cash in the ATMs. I am told it is also running out as cash vehicles are not being ‘allowed’ to come.

As recent as a couple of weeks back, a major seminar on Non-Communicable Diseases convened by the DG of Indian Council Medical Research, had to be cancelled due to the unrest.

Does the Centre know what’s going on? Sure, they do but they have yet to take a stand. I have written to Home Minister Rajnath Singh and personally briefed minsiter of state for home Kiren Rijiju and Darjeeling MP SS Ahluwalia about our concerns. Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling has apprised all the central leaders as well. Sikkim is part of the We are part of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) and we have informed its convener, the powerful Assamese leader Himanta Biswa Sarma.

Just a day before West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee left Darjeeling in June, Sikkim’s economy was buzzing away. Our hotel rooms were at full capacity; many tourists had to be accommodated in make-shift shelters. Locals had started complaining that taxis were in short supply. The state government was busy with regulating high prices being charged by service providers, like hotels etc. In short, we were dealing with the travails of a vibrant tourism-led economy.

Fast forward to today. After the shut down in the Gorkhaland hills, for well over 20 days, even RBI Gangtok is talking about possible shortage of cash. All hotel rooms are empty.

Yesterday in Namchi, an exasperated Chief Minister directly accused the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress of putting in place an unofficial embargo on all goods and other essential commodities from reaching Gangtok. He also spoke of the huge losses that Sikkim and the Sikkimese people have had to bear in the last three decades of the strife taking an ugly turn. He has pegged the figure at Rs. 60,000 Crores.

Why has Ms Banerjee done this? Just because we chose to write to the Union Home Minister supporting a just and reasonable settlement to the Gorkhaland issue? This has been festering for over three decades. Sikkim has been at the receiving end of the stick. We have said as much in our letters. We had written about this earlier as well and so our position is not a new one. This must be understood.

Sikkim is sandwiched between a tenuous border with Tibet (China) which has flared up on the one hand and the active non-cooperation of the West Bengal authorities on the other.

Talk to anyone and the opinion is clear: West Bengal is bullying a small Himalayan State. This kind of unofficial and administration-driven strong arm tactics is just not how this great country of ours is supposed to run. Many truckers have been turned away by plain clothed policemen in full view of uniformed personnel. These actions are being taken in Siliguri and along the highway. One of our Ministers has gone on record to say that we are being taken for granted by our neighbouring state.

We will knock at every door of the Union government and go to the Supreme Court to seek justice. In a 21st century India, which is looking for a place in the high table of the comity of nations, this kind of local bullying must not happen.

This is not the way a mature democracy works.

I am not preaching democracy to anyone but some things should be told as they are.

P D Rai is a member of the Sikkim Democratic Front party and a Member of Parliament from Sikkim

For all the latest Opinion News, download Indian Express App

  1. R
    Raj V
    Jul 11, 2017 at 6:26 am
    Mamta should take note and act wisely. Opposition parties atleast should act.
    1. O
      Olivier Chiron
      Jul 9, 2017 at 1:30 am
      What will be the future of Sikkim economy in such cases of shut down and blockage in gorkha hills. and tourism ?
      1. I
        Jul 8, 2017 at 11:37 am
        Ilegal immigration from Nepal over the years have made India prone to constant threat from the Chinese side because the heart of these immigrants belong to their "motherland" Nepal which gets paid by China. Sikkim supports Gor nd, even at one point said Darjeeling should merge with Sikkim. What is the guarantee that in future the region will not be second Kashmir? Mother India must stand strong. Reply
        1. G
          Good god!
          Jul 8, 2017 at 1:53 pm
          Forgot to take your meds today, is it?
          1. M
            Jul 9, 2017 at 3:00 am
            Or, today sa ay, evening at a pub? For "future Kashmir", just look further South towards 24 Parganas
        2. M
          Jul 8, 2017 at 10:00 am
          Fully support what you have written.It is quite disappointing that there is no leader in Centre or Bengal who can think like a statesman or woman.
          1. C
            Jul 8, 2017 at 5:55 am
            Sikkim should find an alternative road transport access preferably via UP so that it does not depend on just one state. They should keep in touch with Transportation Minister Gadkari to achieve this objective.
            1. M
              Jul 8, 2017 at 10:03 am
              That is not possible as there is no common border between Sikkim and UP.
              1. M
                Jul 10, 2017 at 1:06 am
                But a BJP minister can work miracles, they will build a bridge :-)
                1. C
                  Jul 11, 2017 at 6:58 am
                  Chander, for that you need an Manmohan Singh.
              2. R
                Ramesh Nittoor
                Jul 8, 2017 at 12:23 am
                Gorkhakand region is culturally or ethnically never been part of Bengal, it was a British acquisition, and made second capital of Bengal. Bengal Presidency of those days was a far wider expanse and a fundamentally different kind of state. In the post-GST phase of Indian development, and particularly now with Chinese making open threats, the need for a rethink on political-strategic response to China is required. Bengal has deep freedom fighting legacy. Kolkata has been the gateway for Indian renaissance, which led to freedom. It has a Sinophili legacy from Tagore days, and this unfettered pull is good for India. However, a unencumbered political domain to create capability to comprehend China with deeper understanding of their threat and credible to people of not just NE, also Nepal and Bhutan is necessary. Darjeeling fits the bill to be an independent politcal capital, in many ways, which is worth considering. It also make Bengal culturally coherent and even retain Sinophili flavor.
                1. S
                  Jul 10, 2017 at 11:17 am
                  As pointed out by BJP legislator, Gora nd cannot be supported due to multiple reasons, meagre population representing two and a half MLA's , small area with no resources to maint its finances , this region represents many indigenous tribes like Lepchas, whereas Gorkhas are immigrants brought in by British to work in Tea gardens.Today it is Gor nd, tomorrow lepcha then Bodo where it will stop.Bengal government cannot be blamed for blockage and Sikkim is paying for Amit Shah's advice.
                  1. R
                    Ramesh Nittoor
                    Jul 11, 2017 at 5:00 am
                    You got a point, but I see two issues with it. First is lack of understanding and no respect for intellectual credentials of the deep and diverse culture in North East, which is no less profound than what we see in South India, or Bengal. Second, you need to fathom strategy to defend the idea of India. Way to foil Chinese communist design is draw upon cultural, religious and historical roots of the vast region comprising Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, NE States. Think the right place where all these thought streams can be syncretized with modernity is Darjeeling. It can be a center for creating a modern cultural ethos and provide the political bulwark for strategic defence against China. Perhaps, Denver, Colorado of India. A modern, conference city, with night life as well. It can be among leitmotifs of Adhunik Bharat. If Israel with 8 million inhabitants can be a force to reckon with, Darjeeling which can draw upon human resources from whole India can be formidable knowledge fort of India
                2. V
                  V Pramod
                  Jul 7, 2017 at 8:47 pm
                  The Centre should take remedial action. If possible, CRPF men should be deployed for the purpose.
                  1. Load More Comments