CLOUDS ON THE HORIZON

FIFTH COLUMN – Sumanta Sen
The revival of the movement for a separate Gorkhaland has caused apprehensions that it would encourage further divisive tendencies in north Bengal. Already, forces demanding a separate Kamtapur and a Greater Cooch Behar have lent support to Bimal Gurung and his men, thus making it clear that they will create widespread disturbances. That is not all. Recent police raids in Siliguri unearthed the presence of Nepalis in the foothills of Bhutan. This shows that they are also in the fray, and are armed with weapons that they have presumably received from Ulfa.
This is what makes the current Gorkhaland agitation different from, and more dangerous than, the one in the Eighties. Then, despite his best efforts, Subash Ghisingh had not been able to extend his influence beyond the three hill subdivisions. This time, Gurung and his men have ensured that they have a support base in the plains as well.
The agitation during the Eighties was not peaceful either. At that time, the arms and the ammunition used to come clandestinely from Nepal. At present, that supply line has got disrupted. But this should not worry the agitators as long as Ulfa is active. The supporters of Greater Cooch Behar and Kamtapur have ensured that the arms reach the hills and the other sensitive spots in north Bengal. And across the border is Bangladesh, which is yet to show any interest in keeping away disruptive elements from eastern India. The Maitree Express is fine, but its run almost coincided with the disturbing disclosure from Dhaka that Ulfa boss, Paresh Baruah, had escaped.
Unjust demands
The developments in the hills and in the adjoining plains should make the supporters of secessionist movements pause and reflect. They should realize that a concerted move is on to disrupt the peace in this region, and that these demands are illogical. The Nepalese cannot claim that their homeland is in foreign hands. Similarly, the Rajbansis of Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri have no case when they seek to argue, as some of their leaders do, that they are not a part of the Bengali family.
In fact, the dream of a Kamtapur kingdom had been conjured up by a section of the landed gentry that wanted a return to the good life, which it enjoyed when Cooch Behar was a native state. It should also be kept in mind that the Kamtapur kingdom had included parts of lower Assam, but the leaders of the movement are silent on this point. Perhaps they know that taking on two state governments would be a little too much.
What makes the situation in the north that much more dangerous is that in the south, the people of Jharkhand still feel that Purulia, Bankura, and parts of Midnapore belong to their state. They have clearly made common cause with the Maoists. All these forces have a common interest: create unrest and keep the government on its toes.
Unfortunately, any concern over these developments seems confined within the Writers’ Buildings only. Ordinary citizens do not have a role to play in this, but they seem to be unaware of the danger. Even the ruling party, for reasons of its own, seems hesitant to tackle these groups. The impression that is being created is that the unrest is the handiwork of a few unruly elements, and that it does not adequately reflect the ground realities.
Is this low-key approach deliberate, so that the people do not realize that the government has a hot potato in its hands? The argument that the government will be able to “win them over politically” does not sound very convincing. Also, the separatists are not just against the ruling party: their target, ultimately, is Bengal as a whole and its people. A more determined effort to counter such divisiveness is certainly the need of the hour. (The Telegraph)

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