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GJM leader interview: ‘BJP won’t ever give Gorkhas a separate state …They’ve only taken our votes, not done anything’

The Bimal Gurung-led GJM is opposing the election and has likened the semi-autonomous body’s polls to a “stillborn baby”. Last month, Gurung wrote to CM Mamata Banerjee, urging her to defer the election.

Bimal Gurung and Roshon Giri at GJM party headquarters at Singmari in Darjeeling district. (Express photo by Partha Paul)

After 10 years, the Gorkhaland Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) election will take place on Sunday. Once where it led the agitation for a separate Gorkhaland state, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) is a much-diminished political force at present.

The Bimal Gurung-led GJM is opposing the election and has likened the semi-autonomous body’s polls to a “stillborn baby”. Last month, Gurung wrote to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, urging her to defer the election. At the party’s office at Singmari in Darjeeling, GJM general secretary and close Gurung aide Roshan Giri spoke to The Indian Express about people’s hope in the party as one that can stand for Gorkha interests, the GJM’s future strategies, tussle with BJP and alliance with the TMC, and the changing political dynamics of the Darjeeling Hills.

Excerpts:

People seem to have lost hope … Is Gorkhaland a dream that can never be realised?

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No, we don’t believe that it is a dream that cannot be realised, provided the Centre realises the aspirations of the people on the ground here. The BJP won’t ever give Gorkhas their homeland, a separate state. It (BJP) is there just to collect votes. Saying something is different but actually doing it matters. We were associated with the BJP for a long time. What did we get? No statehood, no tribal status. From 2009 till now, they have only taken our votes, not done anything for Gorkhas.

Your leader Bimal Gurung sat on an indefinite hunger strike last month, seeking deferment of polls and expansion of the council’s jurisdiction. He was subsequently hospitalised. What is your stand now?

We have rejected the GTA election. It is full of corruption. Moreover, GTA doesn’t have the power to even appoint a peon. GTA has no school service commission, no college commission, and no regional pension or provident funds for people here. The GTA agreement was signed only on paper. From 2012 to 2022, nothing has happened.

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Our stand is clear. We have always believed in protesting for the betterment of Gorkhas and the people of the hills. We have been fighting for the Gorkhas and we will continue to do so.

In 2017, there were 104 days of a strike to push for a separate Gorkhaland. Cases were slapped against protesters and many died. How do you look back on the time?

No, we agitated in a very peaceful manner. Some anti-social elements took the opportunity to make it a violent agitation. We never believed in violence. We have always believed in Gandhi ji’s policy. It was a mass agitation, so you can’t control the participation of people. Cases are to be fought legally. The intention was always right.

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How do you view the changing political dynamics in Darjeeling since 2017?

Lots of new parties have emerged. In fact, many of our cadre and leaders are contesting independently in the GTA polls. They are doing it on their own. Yes, things have changed here but we have fought for Gorkhas and we will continue to do so. People will eventually understand that it is the GJM that has fought for their rights.

Voting personnel on their way to polling booth for GTA election from Darjeeling Government College EVM distribution centre on Saturday. (Express photo by Partha Paul)

The GJM dumped the BJP and allied with TMC, which doesn’t support separate statehood. What is the GJM’s stand now?

We want the state government to bring 396 mouzas (administrative units) in the Terai and the Dooars regions under the GTA. We are not fighting the GTA elections. We will go to the people again, seek their support and will make them understand that only GJM is the party that works for Gorkhas. Politically, we are in the TMC, though they do not support separate statehood. But even the BJP doesn’t.

Were the 2021 Assembly polls a setback for the GJM, with the BJP winning two Assembly seats in the Darjeeling Hills and all five Assembly constituencies in Darjeeling district?

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It was definitely a setback, but we are working on strengthening the party. We broke our ties with BJP after we understood that BJP won’t give Gorkhas a separate statehood.

How do you see the sudden rise of the Hamro party in Darjeeling?

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New entrants are assuring they will work on local issues, promising them (people) things that have actually not been implemented on the ground. Hamro is a new party. People always want something new. New is attractive, but eventually, things will be clear and people will realise that it’s the GJM that actually fought for them. Gorkhaland is and will remain an issue here.

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First published on: 25-06-2022 at 07:29:38 pm
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