The legend on the plaque resting on the small table says it all, “I will not quit until the battle is won”. And that is how the man who has promised to give his people Gorkhaland by 2010 describes his resolve. Meet Mr Bimal Gurung, chairman of the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM) as he speaks to SUDIPTA CHANDA, sitting in his tiny party office at Patlebas near the Takvar Tea Estate, Darjeeling.You have promised to bring Gorkhaland about by 2010. How do you plan to do that?We have a strategy in place, but strategies are not divulged. So, I shall not tell you how but rest assured, fetch it we will.The Chief Minister’s refusal to concede Gorkhaland to a GJMM delegation recently must have caused a setback to your plans.Not at all, the fun begins now. It (the state government) will try not to give in to our demand and we are determined to get it. It is inevitable that the statehood movement will intensify now and the state government will have to know how to handle it.What can the state government do to make you drop the statehood demand?Gorkhaland is our one-point demand. It is what we exist for. For us, it is the last battle. We shall not trade the demand against sops or otherwise.What will your prime objective be, if Gorkhaland is achieved? Can you deliver?There are certain priority sectors, for instance tourism, which is the mainstay of the hill economy. Besides, infrastructure, education, road and the traffic system are some of the other issues that have remained neglected for long and need immediate attention. But water is my top priority. No Darjeeling hill resident, irrespective of political affiliation, or any visitor should suffer water scarcity as is happening now. The issue has to be addressed in real earnest.As far as delivering is concerned, there is no reason why we cannot. The Darjeeling hills, along with Siliguri and the portion of the Dooars that figure in our demanded Gorkhaland territory, generate enough revenue. All that is required is to plough back the revenue, not just take it away, as is happening now.Armed struggle or a non-violent movement, what do you prefer?Our movement has been and shall remain non-violent on the lines of Gandhian philosophy. (A friend sitting near Mr Gurung says: “The chairman has sworn by the Gita, Bible and Koran to keep the movement non-violent”, as Mr Gurung nods in assent.)It is often said that you used the people’s sentiments during the ‘Indian Idol’ television show and exploited Mr Prashant Tamang’s support base for political gains. Isn’t that opportunism?Those who say that I used the opportunity for political gains are wrong. I fell apart with Mr Subash Ghisingh for his policies in 1988. People voted me to the hill council as an Independent candidate in 1999. My relationship with Mr Ghisingh struck rock bottom in 2005 when he took 19 of us to Kolkata for a meeting with the chief minister on the Sixth Schedule. At the Writers’ Buildings we were kept waiting in an anteroom as Mr Ghisingh and the chief minister remained closeted in another in a one-to-one dialogue. They emerged after 45 minutes with the chief minister declaring that all our problems would now be solved as the Darjeeling hills were being included in the Sixth Schedule. I saw through the farce immediately and decided to revive the statehood movement on returning to Darjeeling, which I did.Mr Tamang did us proud but he is incidental to the timing of my political journey.The chief minister has been critical of the GJMM’s alliance with the Kamtapur Progressive Party and the Greater Cooch Behar Democratic Party saying the Centre and state government viewed those as secessionist organisations. What is your opinion?The first condition of our alliance is that neither of the two organisation will resort to violence or maintain links with any militant or anti-India outfit.If that clause is not honoured we shall pull out of the alliance. I am not interested in what the two organisations were in the past. In fact, the state government and the Centre should give us credit for helping to keep the lid on the two organisations.The Maoists have come to power in neighbouring Nepal through armed struggle. Can you ensure that their philosophy will not penetrate your organisation? After all, the border is porous.We believe in and practice a democratic movement. A clear message has been passed down to the grass roots supporters and that is “no violence”. If any one is found breaching the line or trying to import the type of movement we have witnessed on the other side of the border in recent times, we shall inquire and take necessary action against such elements.You have called on all Gorkha/Nepali people from within and abroad to support your movement. What is the response?Overwhelming. We called for support (holding up a message sent to the Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling on the subject) and people have responded well.We are receiving support from Gorkhas residing in Hong Kong, Thailand, the Middle East and other countries in addition to intellectuals, academia, ex-soldiers and (others). They will not come here to stay but all want a land to be called their own. It is a matter of identity.Lastly there are those from non-Gorkha communities who have been residing in the Darjeeling hills for generations. They are our most valued treasures, for backing us at this crunch hour.It has been noticed that you undertake programmes either on the seventh day of a month or on dates that are multiples of seven. Are you superstitious? What is the secret?(Allowing a faint grin for the first time during the interview) I was born on 17 July 1964. I consider the numbers seven and eight lucky.I am a God-fearing person and honour every man’s religion, unlike Mr Ghisingh, who had ruled out the worship of idols, which is integral to the Hindu religion. It created a lot of bad blood. I intend to repair that as well.
Posted on June 3, 2008 by jytmkh