Demand for Gorkhaland: The new generation leadership

Sougata Mukhopadhyay / CNN-IBN
The leadership of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is repackaging a demand that many believe is as old as the hills – that of achieving Gorkhaland. But who are these new generation leaders who have fired the imagination of the hill people two decades after Ghising’s so-called surrender before the Centre and the Bengal government? Here is a look into their background.
Amar Lama says, “This is not a fight to divide Bengal. We are fighting for our existence, for our identity. This is right to self-determination.”
An accused in an assassination attempt on Subhash Ghising – in Saath Gumti, Siliguri, February 2001 – Amar Lama spent 15 months in jail. Today, a key man for the GJM, he calls himself just a soldier in the cause for Gorkhaland. Like the other leaders, he believes in a peaceful second coming of Gorkhaland along a Gandhian route.
The GJM office today preaches Gandhigiri, but many of those office-bearers inside were once an integral part of the first and violent Gorkhaland movement.
The President of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, Bimal Gurung, was once Subhash Ghising’s right-hand man, striking terror in the hills in the ’80s, heading the Gorkha Volunteers Council, armed militia of the GNLF.
Son of a tea plantation worker, Gurung has come a long way from driving tourists around Darjeeling. His drift away from Ghising started in the mid-90s as the popularity of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council began to fade under charges of corruption and failure to generate employment in the region.
He did all he could to upstage Subhash Ghising, even campaigning for Indian Idol contestant and local boy, Prashant Tamang. The formal breakaway came with the formation of the GJM in 2007.
Gurung says, “Our students were beaten up. People looking like Gorkhas are being beaten up. But have we even slapped anyone?”
Amar Lama adds, “No violence from out side, no violence from our side.”
This restraint seems to be the USP of GJM’s demand for a separate state. Under constant media glare, these leaders, calling bandhs at their own will, bringing Darjeeling to a screeching halt, all for Gorkhaland, seem to project a new face of “Janmukti”.
GJM is clear that the people of the hills have been left waiting for a long time by the state, the Center and the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council. And they are out to redraw the map.
GJM General Secretary, Roshan Giri says, “When the hill council was formed, Siliguri, Terai and Dooars were left out of what was historically our land.”
What’s more, not a single voice today speaks against the GJM.
A journalist, Neeraj Lama says, “People in the hills stay together. Dissidence is not encouraged. What I have seen is that there is a tendency amongst people to make heroes here.”

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