Siliguri, 11 Jul:
What is real is the past one month’s hostilities, police firing, eight deaths, burning down of vehicles and office facilities, blocked internet services, a bandh stretching a month and despite suffering, the mass solidly behind the separate state movement.
What is also real is the flashpoint that came on the question of whether Bengali would be forced in the hill schools or not.
But, what is unclear is the reason behind the continued strife even after the issue of Bengali in schools was clarified to be optional for the hill schools, the continuous denial to enter into a dialogue to end the impasse, and the blame game of who is responsible for the deadlock. The last, however, depends on which political ideology one is inclined towards.
If one is tilted towards the Trinamool government, the finger of accusation is towards the BJP-led Centre backed Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) that is responsible for the festering problem in the Darjeeling hills.
For those opposed to the Mamata Banerjee government, the hill situation is yet another example of her making a mess of a situation through a headstrong approach, lack of tact and the desire to control everything – be it by forming the community-based development boards, interfering in the matters of the now stunted Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) and augmenting her party’s march in the hills using the administration.
But, all this blame game distracts people from the unsettling reality that the events are leading to a polarization of relations between the hills and the plains which does not auger well for any society. All stand to lose in the long run.
One thing is also clear in this milieu. What is happening in the Darjeeling hills and is threatening to spill over to the Dooars and Terai is not to the Trinamool government’s advantage.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her bevy of ministers can insist that foreign
powers are meddling in the Darjeeling situation, the Centre is procrastinating and the BJP is orchestrating the movement. But, the fact remains law and order is a state subject and the state government will have to know how to deal with it besides providing security to the people, for not all in the hills side with the violence in the name of the statehood stir.
The Opposition and particularly the BJP, which is vying for political space in the state, insist the Mamata Banerjee government is so insincere towards the hill situation that it is unwilling to take the initiative to sooth frayed nerves. They argue that although the hill parties are rigid about talking only to the Centre, the state government should have extended the olive branch to bring the agitators to the table. No such effort other than some casual offer for talks through the media has been forthcoming so far.
All this delay has allowed a section of the separate state activists to adopt the most preferred and easiest mode of protest – mob frenzy, and caught between the devil and the deep sea, the police temper their response to a mob situation depending on the political masters they answer to.
Building trust is difficult. But, built it will have to be to restore the Darjeeling hills back to its peaceful state.