Incessant rain, snapped power lines and rallies marked day-42 of the indefinite strike over the demand for a separate Gorkhaland in the Darjeeling hills, even as Gorkha leaders voiced their discontent over the Centre’s “silence” on the issue.
The last indefinite strike that Darjeeling witnessed was in 2013 — a total of 46 days. But the strike was not unbroken, and people were given respite every once in a while. This time around, with both the Gorkha and state leaderships refusing to budge from their positions, and the Centre remaining silent, the issue has reached a stalemate.
After the last all-party meeting of Gorkha leaders on July 18, leaders had decided to call for a CBI enquiry into the seven deaths due to alleged police firing during protests in the Hills. The leaders had also decided to approach Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi with their demands, as well as the Governor and Chief Minister of Sikkim — this has not yet been done.
“But we have sent representatives to other states as lobbyists. To meet MPs and other leaders and explain to them the need for a Gorkhaland state, and how this is possible. Teams have already visited Maharashtra, Telangana, Bihar and Hyderabad,” said Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee member and GNLF spokesperson Neeraj Zimba.
It had also been decided that a group of representatives would head for New Delhi immediately and start lobbying in the capital. But this has now been postponed. The next all party meeting has been slotted to be held in New Delhi on August 1.
What has taken the steam out of the movement is the Centre’s silence on the matter, according to Zimba.
“The situation has gone from bad to worse, but the Centre is keeping entirely silent on the issue. In its manifesto in West Bengal, the BJP had clearly said it would look into the demand for Gorkhaland. But now it has decided to shy away from the matter entirely. We want them to make a clear statement, letting us know whether they are in favour of a separate Gorkhaland or not. If not, we have other options,” Zimba said. He also spoke on Darjeeling MP SS Ahluwalia’s silence.
“He was voted from Darjeeling with a high margin to represent us. But he has not done that. All the Gorkhas feel disappointed and hurt,” he said.
Meanwhile GJM insiders admit that as the Gorkhaland movement became a “people’s movement”, the pressure on party leaders to deliver on a separate state is exceedingly high. “Even if the leaders want to, they cannot call off the indefinite strike. The public pressure is high. The leaders will have to deliver Gorkhaland,” the source said.