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One of its founding leaders, main trouble-shooter: Why exit of Binay Tamang is big loss for GJM

In 1986, when the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) led by Subhas Ghising launched the movement for a Gorkhaland state, Tamang joined it, along with Gurung. He came to be popularly known as Binay daju (elder brother).

Gorkha Janmukhti Morcha, GJM, Binay Tamang, Kolkata, Gorkhaland, Mamata Banerjje, GJM protest, West Bengal, India news, Indian Express Tamang was expelled after he called for suspension of the GJM strike. (Express Photo)

The number three in the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and the Man Friday of party chief Bimal Gurung, 53-year-old Binay Tamang now spends most of his time closeted inside his Darjeeling home, guarded by state police, periodically emerging to hold press conferences. For the Gorkha movement, the falling out of Gurung and Tamang, who go back a long way, in the middle of one of its longest agitations, has come as a shock.
On August 29, after Tamang announced a September 1-September 12 withdrawal of the indefinite strike the GJM has now held for 84 days, following a meeting with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata, Gurung ordered Tamang’s removal as assistant general secretary of the GJM and his expulsion from the party. GJM men have since taken to the streets chanting slogans against Tamang, calling him a “gaddar (traitor)”.

A resident of Darjeeling, Tamang is the son of an Armyman. He studied at St Robert’s School and later graduated in Arts from St Joseph’s (North Point) College in the town. In 1986, when the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) led by Subhas Ghising launched the movement for a Gorkhaland state, Tamang joined it, along with Gurung. He came to be popularly known as Binay daju (elder brother). In 1988, an agreement reached by Ghising with the West Bengal government resulted in the formation of the semi-autonomous Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC). In 1999, this led to a rift between Tamang and Ghising, after the GNLF chose A B Thapa as its candidate for the DGHC polls from Darjeeling Sadar I, ignoring Tamang. Tamang contested as an Independent, but lost by a margin of over 742 votes to Thapa.

He then left the GNLF as well as active politics and concentrated on social work in his Rishihaat-Bloomfield area near Darjeeling. He would arrange for treatment of the poor at hospitals in Kolkata and others parts of India. His followers claim at least 48 people survived because of Tamang’s help.
“He was a small-time leader of the GNLF, who broke away. What can we say? It is not our party matter,” says Mahendra Chetri, a GNLF leader and long-time politician. Later, Gurung, who too had revolted from the GNLF and been elected to the DGHC as an Independent, invited Tamang to join him.

Tamang’s rise to prominence, like that of Gurung, can be traced to the Indian Idol show starring contestant Prashant Tamang in 2007. Gurung, Tamang and Anit Thapa formed a Prashant Tamang Fan Club. By rallying support for the local boy to win the show, Gurung and Tamang shot their way up the Gorkha movement hierarchy. Tamang also emerged as one of Gurung’s crucial aides. The same year, in October 2007, Gurung floated the GJM, and Tamang was one of its founding members along with Thapa. “Then we started a fresh agitation for Gorkhaland,” Tamang says.
As one of Gurung’s trouble-shooters, Tamang would travel from the Hills to Dooars and Terai regions solving intra-party feuds and misunderstandings. During this period, he was arrested and jailed for six months.

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On July 11, 2011, the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) agreement was signed in Siliguri among the Central, state governments and Gurung. A year later, Tamang won uncontested as a GTA Sabhasad from Bloomfield and was given the portfolio of information and culture.
A senior GJM leader says that when the agitation started in June this year, after police firing killed GJM workers, Tamang stood steadfast by Gurung as he called for an indefinite strike. “He organised rallies and dharnas across the Hills,” says the leader.

After Tamang’s call for temporary withdrawal of the strike, Gurung has turned against both Tamang and Thapa, the party central committee member from Kurseong, for “betraying the ideals of Gorkhaland”. The state government has provided the two security fearing GJM violence. Gurung himself is in hiding, fearing arrest over a number of cases, including under the UAPA. Slamming Tamang, Roshan Giri, GJM general secretary, says, “Tamang betrayed the cause and the party. He joined hands with powers who want to derail our democratic agitation. People are now against him.”

Speaking to the Express, Tamang, a father of two — his daughter is a bank manager in Bengaluru, his son is 4 — says, “Once I not only solved GJM problems but Bimal Gurung also called me to discuss his family problems. Those days are over. It is sad that after doing so much for the party, a section of the leaders conspired against me and drove a wedge between me and Gurung. But people are with me and I will continue my struggle.”

First published on: 07-09-2017 at 12:14:11 am
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