WITH THE GJM heading towards a divided house, Jan Andolan Party president Harka Bahadur Chhetri on Saturday claimed that a “weak GJM is better for the Gorkhaland movement than a strong one”. Chhetri, one of GJM’s most strident critics and its former spokesperson, claimed that the party had called an indefinite shutdown in the Darjeeling Hills only to improve its dwindling public support.
The statement comes a day after GJM chief Bimal Gurung expelled party chief coordinator Binay Tamang and central committee member Anit Thapa for calling off the indefinite shutdown till September 12, following a meeting between Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Hill parties on August 29.
“I don’t believe this was a movement for a separate state at all. This was never the right strategy… calling an indefinite strike. It’s playing with people’s sentiments. Do people really believe that by holding a strike endlessly, they will get a separate state? What has happened is very simple — GJM found the ground slipping from under its feet and that it was losing public support. This strike was a reaction to it… to stall this loss of popularity, instill fear in the people and to paralyse the political functioning of all other parties,” Chhetri told The Indian Express.
“The GJM pleaded with Delhi to invite them (for talks) but Delhi sent them back to Kolkata. When it comes to Binay Tamang’s expulsion, he had started getting a lot of attention… this made Bimal Gurung insecure… this is what I feel… this happens in one-man parties like GJM. Since they feared that he was emerging as an alternate leader, they decided to discredit him. Anit Thapa has a huge support in Kurseong. So, he was also a threat,” he added.
“I feel that it is better that a party like GJM declines. Even with the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, which was a great tool, a lot could have been done, like development of the Hills, but it could not happen,” said Chhetri.
Detractors of GJM said that besides the expulsions, contradictory statements made by Gurung has also thrown the Gorkhaland movement and the people of the Hills in turmoil.
For instance, after declaring that there was no point in attending a meeting with Mamata to initiate dialogue, the GJM, without informing the Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC) — a common platform of Hill parties — released an unilateral statement that it will go to Kolkata even if other committee members do not. Then, after Tamang called off the indefinite strike in the Hills, Gurung announced that the bandh will continue.
“We have always been against strikes of any form. We have not called for the lifting of the indefinite strike, that is the GJM’s prerogative, but we have appealed to teachers and schools to start classes so that students don’t suffer,” Chhetri said.
The party, which had also attended the meeting with Mamata in Kolkata, held a a public meeting in Kalimpong on Saturday. “Confusion prevails among the people and among the allies as well. Bimal Gurung is regularly issuing contradictory statements… There are a lot of stakeholders in the movement, and such flip flops have thrown the political dialogue in turmoil. We are not sure what is happening. Is there a genuine crisis in GJM or is it mere strategy and theatrics?” asked a senior Gorkha leader.
GNLF spokesperson Neeraj Zimba said a meeting of GMCC will be called soon to clear the confusion. “We are talking to our allies and will be calling a meeting soon. This is the most important issue that needs to be sorted out right now. Who is the coordinator for the committee with the GJM having led the movement so far. Is it Bimal Gurung? Is it Binay Tamang? Which is the real GJM and which is the defacto GJM? There is a lot of confusion, and this confusion is fatal for the Gorkhaland movement. Forget the state government, how will the Centre know who to deal with or negotiate with?” he asked.