Bandhs are ruinous. Bandhs are antithetic to work culture and so should be avoided. But, if ever a bandh was justified, it was in the Darjeeling hills on Friday. It helped arrest the violence that broke out in the hill town on Thursday.
The bandh was convened by the sponsors of Thursday’s hostilities the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM). But, the GJM cannot claim credit for the humane purpose the bandh served. The GJM had convened the bandh as a mark of protest. That the bandh also assisted in containing the hostilities is a positive byproduct.
What now? The state government is indicating stern action against the GJM and the later is breathing an equal amount of fire. With both sides taking belligerent stands respectively, the situation in the hills may not normalize in some time soon.
How can the Trinamool-led state government move against the GJM?
In two or maybe three ways.
First, by reviewing the GJM-run Gorkhaland Territorial Administrtaion (GTA) fund position, which is already underway. A special audit of the GTA funds, its utilization inter alia has already begun. The findings are likely to be made public soon.
Next, the Mamata Banerjee government ratified the Prevention of Defacement of Property Act in the month of February to deter vandals, rioters and arsonists from damaging government property. Flouting it carries financial and legal punishments including jail terms.
After Thursday’s incident, the state government is sure to slap the provisions of the Act on those who burnt nine police vehicles among other properties and fix responsibility on the GJM leadership.
Lastly, the Trinamool will increase its political activity in the hills making the forthcoming GTA elections the bull’s eye.
The first two courses are administrative measures and cannot be challenged or disputed by the GJM, which is at the receiving end. It is the third course of possible action that is loaded with ingredients for further tension in the hills.
Politically, the GJM is being given a run for the money by the Trinamool. Under the circumstances, the GJM cannot afford to lose further grip if has to remain politically absolute in the hills. And so, it will hit out for good or worse and stoke the Gorkhaland slogan as it has never before.
The GJM think tank is already in a huddle over how best to tide over the prevalent situation. Although one cannot predict what course of action the GJM would take, the fact remains, protracted bandhs, as used to be convened earlier in the hills to make a point, are no solution to the present day crises.
That the GJM will go politically ballistic hereinafter is a given. But, what turn would the agitation take is the point of concern. The GJM leaders often profess the Gandhian path as their ideology, which means a peaceful and democratic approach and therefore within the fundamental rights.
Gandhi, had he been alive, would have groaned in pain over Thursday’s incidents.