Gorkha Janamukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung, who has been aggressively pushing for a separate state for the Gorkhas

Debashis Bhattacharyya

A weak sun peeps out of a veil of clouds. casting a soft glow on the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha’s office in the working class neighbourhood of Patlabas in Darjeeling. This morning the party office seems deserted except for a handful of workmen busy roofing the front yard with clear plastic sheets.


Suddenly, one of the office doors flings open. A gaggle of young girls, draped in traditional Nepali wraparounds, skips out. A man emerges from another room with a boom box. A lilting mountain song starts playing and the girls break out into a dance.

As if on cue, a blue Bolero jeep. bearing the licence plate GL-A-02-5687 – the acronym GL standing for non-existent Gorkhaland – comes to a halt outside. Wearing a peacock blue Nepali kurta pyajama and an inky Gurkha cap, Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) boss Bimal Gurung hops out.

The music and the dance stop as abruptly as they had started. The uncrowned “king” of the hills- who is leading an agitation for a separate state called Gorkhaland and whose writ now runs almost unchallenged in much of Darjeeling – strides up the steps and disappears into his office. His room is labelled “pahar Id rani” or queen of the hills, an epithet so far reserved for Darjeeling.

A full-sized portrait of Sai Baba hangs above him in his small cluttered office. From a framed photograph atop a cupboard, Art of Living guru Ravi Shankar too, stares at him. On arrival, he performs a puja, tinkling a small bell and paying obeisance to an idol of Lord Ganesha. “I am on a fast,” he says, handing me some sweets as prasad. “God has created us and given us everything. You must show your respect to Him,” he says. Clearly, Bimal Gurung, 44, has turned religious, even as he leads a not-sopeaceful agitation for Gorkhaland.

For Gurung, the road to becoming the GJM chief has been long and tough. At 11 he took up sledgehammers to break rocks on the roadside for a few rupees. He also carried heavy loads on his back to help feed his six-member, poverty-stricken family

Much as he wanted to, he could never get past eighth grade in school. “Both my parents worked in a tea garden and had no time to put the four of us – two brothers and two sisters -through school,” he says.

Gurung was barely 20 years old when he got sucked into the bloody Gorkhaland movement in 1986, led by his mentor-turnedfoe Subash Ghisingh, the leader of the Gorkha National Liberation Front. That’s when he traded sledgehammers for guns.

Gurung says he felt “let down” when. after a 28-month-long violent agitation, Ghisingh settled for the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) in a tripartite agreement he signed with the West Bengal and Union governments in August 1988. Gurung went underground. eventually turning himself over to the authorities in 1991.

He was jailed for 60 days. After his release, he spent the better part of the 1990s fighting a plethora of serious charges against him. As his lawyer-turned-confidant Amer Lama recalls, Gurung had to battle six to seven major cases filed against him, chiefly on charges of murder and illegally possessing firearms. “All the cases against me have been dismissed for want of evidence,” Gurung says. Now, a gun – or for that matter violence – is the last thing on his mind. Or so he says. “We want to achieve Gorkhaland through democratic agitation, without resorting to Gorkha Janamukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung, who has been aggressively pushing for a separate state for the Gorkhas, tells Debashis Bhattacharyya that he is using non-violent means to achieve his goal violence,” he says repeatedly during a 45minute-long conversation.

If anything, he says he is following Mahatma Gandhi’s “non-violent” ways- Yes, he has seen Loge Ratio Mum= Bhai and he liked the film. But with a sweep of his hand, he dismisses a question on whether he was inspired by the Bollywood blockbuster starring Sanjay Duff.

“We believe in Mahatma’s ideals but Gorkhas have made so many sacrifices for the nation. The nation now owes us justice, and a state of our own,” Gurung says.

However, though Gurung says that he believes in Gandhigiri, GJM’s every move reflects a flexing of muscles. His “boys” have draped the hill town with computer printouts of “Gorkhaland” that are stuck everywhere, from shop windows to office doors.

Car owners – and many cabbies -have been forced to change their licence plates from WB (West Bengal) to GL (Gorkhaland). The party has also imposed a dress code of sorts on the Nepalis in the hills, asking both men and women to wear their traditional attire.

In the words of All India Gorkha League president Madan Tamang, Gurung’s GJM has snuffed all political life out of the hills. “They are tearing down our flags, not allowing the Opposition to hold any rally in the hills. They seized my house. This party is a threat to democracy, a threat to the nation,” says Tamang, who supports the demand for Gorkhaland.

Gurung argues that laying siege to Tamang’s house was not undemocratic and that his party launched the month-long cultural campaign – which involves wearingtraditional clothes and performing Nepali songs and dances in public – to make a strong case for Gorkhaland. “Unlike what the ministers from Bengal are saying, we want to prove that we not only look different but our language and culture are different too,” he says.

For Bimal Gurung, Gorkhaland is as much a battle for “Gorkha identity” as it is a struggle to come to terms with personal grief. He lost his daju — older brother Bijay -to the first agitation for a separate state in the late eighties. That still haunts him. “I simply can’t get over it,” he says, his eyes turning moist.

Gurung may have been born in penury but he now runs a thriving business supplying sand, pebbles and boulders for construction. At Gok, not very far from Darjeeling, he has a 70-acre farm, where he grows fruits and vegetables. Besides, he has some 20 cows and 90 lambs that produce milk. wool and meat. “I employ 600 to 700 people. But I still go there and sometimes water the trees and milk the cows. I don’t want to forget my humble background,” Gurung says with a tinge of pride.

Besides using his own four trucks, he says he has a number of hired vehicles to transport the construction materials. “All this is the fruit of my labour,” he says, when asked how he has amassed the wealth.

With money no object. Gurung, needless to say, has put his two children through school. Both his son Abinash (19) and daughter Nanda (21) are in Bangalore. pursuing a degree in science and law, respectively “They are doing what I couldn’t…” he pauses. Then, he adds, almost as an aside, “In this age of the computer and the Internet. we cannot ask our children to take up kukris (short, curved Nepali knives) as we did during the last agitation. They are too educated for that. You have to devise other means to achieve Gorkhaland.”

His party leaders talk of the way Gurung has transformed himself from being a “militant activist” TO an emerging leader of the Gorkhas in the hills. “He has learnt to keep his temper and say and do the right thing at the right time,” a longtime associate says.

Clearly, a lot has changed about him_ The last time I met him at his party office-in November 2007 – he was in fatigues. a la an army man. With a wristband and a bandana his swagger, then, was unmistakable_ But now, with “people making me a leader- he says he prefers to wear only traditional clothes.

Gurung may have driven Ghisingh out of the hills of Darjeeling for the “sellout of the Gorkhas” but he shares with him an interest in astrology and, some say, in the occult. He says the name of his party came to him in a dream. “It has a deeper meaning, which I won’t disclose,” the leader says. His faith in numerology has prompted him to make “GL” stand for Gorkhaland on licence plates even though it is a single word. In much the same way, party leaders refer to Gorkha Janamukti Morcha as “GJMM.”

Little wonder that Gurung seems certain that Gorkhaland will come about in 2010. “We have started negotiations. I will give it just two years,” he says with an air of finality.

But what if his prediction goes wrong? He narrows his eyes, sets his jaws and flashes me a look – the same wild look that I saw in his eyes a year ago. Clearly, some things about him haven’t changed.

Darjeeling had better prepare for a long winter. (The Telegraph)


2 Responses

  1. Bhutan must claim kalimpong

    Bhutan army has a presence in kalimpong and the residence of the queen mother in kalimpong is guarded by contingents of the bhutanese army and the indian army. There are huge areas of territory in kalimpong that is owned by the bhutanese royal family and Govt. of Bhutan.People of Kalimpong are still paying rent that goes directly to the bhutan government. Sometime when you seek to buy these ‘Bhutan’ owned lands in kalimpong you need to seek FERA clearance for those transactions.In view of the above Bhutan must claim kalimpong from India.

  2. It is so important for the public to find out what is going in Darjeeling and where the movement is heading. From what I have found out so far, these are the following facts (which I request interested people to challenge anytime) that I would like to place before all of you and let you decide whether the so called quest for a separate state sounds as honest as some of the leaders are proclaiming.

    Darjeeling is being held hostage by three previous GNLF gang members, namely Nicole Tamang, Deven Sharma and Dinesh Thing. Nicole and Deven are from ropeway, Singamari. Dinesh is from Patlebas. These three individuals have amongst themselves managed to amass crores of rupees so far so fast already and it would not be unfair to say that Bimal Gurung is totally aware of that fact but keeps quiet for innumerable reasons. These three left over gangsters from the Ghising dynasty control all the contractors in DGHC, PWD as well as the National Highway among other departments. They have hired a bunch of local goons to do their jobs for them and are getting richer by the day. By the time a separate state is formed in Darjeeling, they would have enough wealth and power to continue their mafia type rule exactly like what Ghising did for twenty years.

    Under the shadow of these three knights of Bimal Gurung here are the following characters that are making lots of kills in the eco system very much like the hyenas of the Kalahari:

    Pravin Subba from Keerabari looks after the Railway and also PWD and several other departments. Nirmal Subba supervises the Darjeeling Municipality. A notable and much highlighted leader on the making Roshan Giri formerly with AGSU who grew to fame after the Dawa Palzor Drug case where he was awarded with 5 lakhs of rupees for aiding and rescuing the convict. A personality that has zero knowledge about Darjeeling and who obviously sounded like a rickshaw puller while in conversation with the Bengali leaders of Bengal.

    Dawa Lama is their cashier and handles the transactions. D.K. Pradhan a renowned don of GNLF is seen closely walking and standing alongside Bimal Gurung and their relationship seems to be strengthening every passing day. Please mind you these are all Central Committee members! As for Binoy Tamang, Amar Lama, Taranga Pandit, Isamani Pakhrin, Raju Pradhan and Dr. Harka Bdr. Chhetri, I have begun to doubt their intentions and will further investigate and get to the bottom of their involvement in this grand theft of the people of Darjeeling. Don’t be surprised if they come out as dirty as their comrades because they are as equally aware of what is actually going on inside that office of theirs. If one isn’t a part of the solution he is indeed a part of the problem as someone once said. And so is every single individual from Darjeeling if we let this scam go uninterrupted.

    It is also a known rumor that GNLF strongmen Tilak Dewan and Lokey Gurung are constantly in touch with them and all ready to come back once again to join in the highway robbery.

    The scenario in Darjeeling is getting more pathetic by the day. Lawlessness prevails and goons are getting prosperous. And all this even before there is any sign of a separate state. Imagine what it will be like after a state is formed? It will become ten times worse than Bihar, take my word for it. There is no check and balance and nothing and no one to contest or question the more and more authoritative nature of the present leaders in Darjeeling.

    Are we making way for a dictator like Ghising to come in and make us his slaves one more time? Why aren’t learned individuals from all walks of life participating in the Tripartite meetings and discussions and debates? Is it because the leaders fear that they might not sound as accurate and reasonable in front of them? Or is it because the leaders are as evil as Ghising and believe that they can get away with another 20 years of ravaging the spirit of the people of Darjeeling? Is it not a democratic world that we all live in? The irony is that we are citizens of the largest democracy in the world!! Where are the voices of the public? Are the public just fit to wear “daura suruwal and chowbandi cholo”? Are the public just fit for tagging behind gangsters and their threats? Are the public’s sole purpose to just host cultural programs and sing and dance their time away? If they are so against the State government why aren’t they dissolving the DGHC? Is it because it is a money making machine for the few selected crooks? Why in the world are they calling it a Gandhian type of movement when they are practicing violence towards any critic of theirs. Why was it necessary to thrash down Glenary’s? Why was it necessary to smear people with disgusting black chemicals if they did not want to wear ‘daura suruwal’? What are they doing making children sit for 48 hours of hunger strike? Don’t they know the implications of these disastrous methods? Don’t they want to look different from GNLF?
    This is the world of the internet and I urge all people who truly have a place in their hearts for our beloved Darjeeling to come out and start inquiring and asking and writing and talking about the movement and voice their arguments and thoughts. We have to make this movement more inclusive and transparent. We cannot be repeating the same kind of mistakes that we earlier did. We have to make this movement a success but not at any cost for what is the point of a struggle if in the end it chops off your own two feet and your tongue? If we don’t then we must be willing to live like slaves for the rest of our lives and not even mention to anyone that we are Nepalis known for their valor and bravery. Let us all help Bimal Gurung continue on his path toward a real successful ending to this quest for Gorkhaland and not let his mind be influenced by greed, lust and pure clean evil that surrounds him everyday by doing something about it before it’s too late. What do you think???

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