BJP state unit keeps distance from Jaswant on Gorkhaland

  The state BJP unit came down heavily on former union minister and Darjeeling BJP parliamentarian Jaswant Singh on Sunday for his open support for Gorkhaland. According to party leaders, by rooting for Gorkhaland he was harming the interests of the party in West Bengal.

 At the release of the book Why Gorkhaland in New Delhi last week, Singh had said that the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland was quite legitimate. “The demand is for a small state within the country. It is very important to remember that it is the only district in the country which actually adjoins three international borders and is very close to the fourth,” said Singh. The BJP had always favoured small states, he added.

 “What Singh said must have been his own comments. In our party manifesto it is clearly written that if voted to power the party would actively consider the legitimate demands of the Gorkhas. Nowhere does it say that the party will back the demand for Gorkhaland,” said Shamik Bhattacharya, BJP state secretary. (Indian Express)


Jaswant bats for Gorkhaland

NEW DELHI/SILIGURI: Darjeeling’s BJP MP Jaswant Singh has said the Centre should realise the strategic importance of Gorkhaland.

“The demand is for a small state within the country. It is very important to remember that it is the only district in the country which actually adjoins three international borders and is very close to the fourth,” Singh said while releasing a book, Why Gorkhaland? in New Delhi on Thursday. He added that BJP had always favoured small states.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), meanwhile, has decided to allow educational institutions, tea gardens and the Cinchona plantation to function normally from July 20 onwards. The decision was taken at an emergency meeting of its central committee on Friday.

Apparently, GJM’s decision was influenced by requests from the Union government and its ally, BJP. A letter was again sent on Thursday by the Union government, inviting GJM for talks. But it asserted that the atmosphere should be made conducive first, including the opening of National Highway 31A. Even Jaswant Singh and BJP’ national spokesperson, Rajiv Pratap Rudi, had requested GJM to exercise restraint in the run-up to the talks scheduled for August 24 in Delhi.

NH-31A, Sikkim’s lifeline, to open for five days from Saturday. However, it has issued a rider that only those vehicles with Sikkim number plates will be allowed to operate and not the West Bengal ones. “We have blood relations with Sikkim and they have also supported our agitation. Therefore, we have decided to open NH-31A for five days,” said Benoy Tamang, the GJM assistant secretary. However, shops, markets and petrol pumps on NH-31A, which fall under Darjeeling, will not be allowed to open.

GJM’s indefinite strike, which started on Tuesday, entered its fifth day on Friday and no untoward incident was reported.

Dangerous politics

Shikha Mukerjee DNA

In line with its commitment to chopping up the larger Indian states into bite-size pieces for reasons that range from respect for people with separate identities and recognition of their rights to administrative convenience, the BJP has nominated former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh to contest the Darjeeling seat in West Bengal.

By doing so, the BJP has packaged the dangerously fissiparous demand for a separate Gorkhaland as a demand with merit, legitimacy and right.

For the BJP it would appear that the price of a seat in the Marxist bastion of West Bengal would be, if won, a politically septic focus for the Communist Party of India Marxist (CPM). This would be a low cost initiative with little risk.

Given that the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) was auctioning its support to whichever party agreed to advance its agenda of carving out a separate state of Gorkhaland in the three hill subdivisions of Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong and in the Dooars including Siliguri city, the BJP can claim its bid was successful and that it had negotiated a bargain. Officially the BJP has not committed itself via its manifesto to pitching for a separate Gorkhaland state. Its candidate, Jaswant Singh has, albeit wrapping the bitter message in meaningless reassurances.

Encouraging ambitions of a separate Gorkhaland state, albeit technically within the framework of the Indian Constitution, may not seem to be dangerous. It could be dressed up to sound sympathetic to the quest for Gorkha identity and esteem that began with the movement launched by Subas Ghisingh’s Gorkha National Liberation Front.

While the issue of whether the bid for a separate Gorkhaland is a simple demand of hill people for respect and identity can be discussed later, what does need to be fore-grounded is the link between the idea of a separate Gorkhaland and India’s security.

The tacit support to the bid for a separate Gorkhaland nails BJP’s blinkered, if not distorted vision, on how it would fulfil its campaign promises of meeting terrorism from across the border with a muscular capability to protect India and improve the security environment. Having declared that the rival Congress is weak and irresponsible about handling the threat to security posed by terrorism, it is bizarre to note that the BJP has taken a soft position on Gorkhaland.

There is no question that early Nepali settlers in the Darjeeling area deserve a separate identity to distinguish them from citizens of Nepal who later migrated to India in search of livelihood. That demand for a different identity was met through the Gorkha Hill Council accord that recognised Gorkhas as people who “belonged” to the hill areas of Darjeeling, distinct from the Nepalis who migrated there and to other corners of India in search of work.

The demand for a separate Gorkhaland is, however, not about lebensraum; it has to be juxtaposed against the issue of security, including defeating terrorism. The BJP ought to have known its geography of India rather better; the demand for Gorkhaland would jeopardise that slender land connection described as “Chicken’s Neck” between the rest of India and the Northeast of the country.

The area that GJM has claimed for Gorkhaland includes sensitive places like the Sukna forest where the 33 Corps of the Eastern Command is stationed, crucial for defending India’s borders in the Eastern Himalayas where China is a looming sometimes threatening presence.

Any blockages within the Chicken’s Neck would snap the link between the rest of the country and Sikkim, it would hamper movement in and out of Bhutan towards which India has treaty obligations and it would isolate an area where according to Indian intelligence ISI, Le-T, HuJI terror networks have been operational. It may be pointed out that it is in India’s security interest to remain alert as there are strong suspicions of a connect between terror networks and insurgents in the Northeast and links between Maoists and insurgents as well.

In other words, the foothills of Darjeeling are not peaceful, quaint places for “tea” tourists. That Siliguri has been a staging post for ISI operatives, who have used it to move in and out of India via Nepal should have alerted the BJP to the risk of irresponsibly encouraging GJM.

That there have always been small and vocal groups raising a demand for “Greater Nepal” where connection via the now deposed monarchy would serve as adhesive is known to BJP.To convert Darjeeling into an “innocent political fishing expedition” by lining up with the openly divisive Gorkha Janamukti Morcha is to refuse to acknowledge the rather more sinister and serious implications of promoting the idea of smaller states in a place where India’s borders are open to Nepal, China, Bangladesh and last but not least Bhutan through which terrorists, arms and information is trafficked.



BJP for creation of smaller states

Apropos the newsreport “BJP for creation of smaller states” ( 11 April), Mr. Jaswant Singh, the BJP candidate for the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat, is of the view that the demand for a separate state is “constitutional”. But Mr. Singh should have been aware that the tactics adopted by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha to fulfill its demand is absolutely unconstitutional, illegal and violent. By defacing ‘ West Bengal ‘ from the Government office signboards and inscribing ‘ Gorkhaland’  on them, the agitators have made a direct assault on the Constitution. By replacing ‘ WB’ on the number plates of vehicles with ‘ GL’, they are challenging the legal procedures of the State. Also, the agitators do not hesitate to take the law into their own hands and physically assault those wh dare to defy their diktat. The GJM is also so heartless that it barred Subhas Ghising from entering the hills for last rites of his wife, after she passed away in Siliguri. Far from condemning this muscle-flexing of the GJM, Mr. Jaswant Singh has practically endorsed it. By providing moral support to the GJM, the BJP — self-declared guardian of nationalism — is not only encouraging fragmentation of West Bengal, it is also providing boost to a set of people who are basically encroachers from alien country named Nepal. If the GJM succeeds in its mission of carving out a seperate state with the help of BJP , then more and more Nepali nationals will intrude and settle in the whole of North Bengal, thanks to the porous border, and demand those areas also to be included in Gorkhaland. It is high time the indigenous Bengalis of Siliguri,  the Lepchas and the Bhutias — the real sons of the Hills — rise to the occasion and see to it that the unholy nexus between the GJM and the BJP be snubbed in the bud, thereby preventing the state from disintegration by the Nepali migrants. It is extremely unfortunate that a party of national importance like BJP, in order to garner votes, has stooped to such a pathetic extent that it feels no qualms in fomenting ethnic tensions in North Bengal and endangering the security of the nation, given the region’s sensitive borders with neighbouring China, Nepal and Bangladesh.
Kajal Chatterjee

Gorkhaland on agenda: Jaswant

SILIGURI, April 14: Throwing circumspection to the winds, the BJP veteran and candidate for the Darjeeling constituency in the Lok Sabha polls Mr Jaswant Singh (SNS photo right) today said in Siliguri that if voted to power, his party would go the whole hog to carve out a Gorkhaland state out of West Bengal. “There is no room for ambiguity on this front as far as the BJP election manifesto is concerned,” he said.
Meanwhile, the state urban development minister and a senior CPI-M leader Mr Asok Bhattacharya said apprehension prevailed in Darjeeling district that the BJP would attempt to purchase votes with notes on the lines of the recent Barmer incident in Rajasthan.
Taking an explicit stand on the emotive Gorkhaland issue, the BJP stalwart said that his candidature would break frontiers as far as the ethno-economic tangle in the Darjeeling hills was concerned and would bring the matter to the notice of the international community. Tearing into the Communists, Mr Singh said that his destiny had brought him here with a definite purpose. “Destiny would unravel its objective with passing time. Yet one thing I can say for sure that the election in this particular constituency would usher in the beginning of the end of the Left thralldom. I have not come here to return as a frustrated man. I would stay put in this district, globally acclaimed for its natural bounty and would return after accomplishing my preordained work that is bringing about all round development to this ill-treated region,” he said.
Dwelling on the subject of infiltration, the BJP veteran said that his party, if voted back to power, would evolve foolproof mechanism to end incessant stream of infiltration from across Bangladesh. “The infiltration amounts to a veritable invasion having serious bearing on the demographic composition of the country. Yet this problem remains unaddressed because of the myopic and vote-centered vision of the Congress and the Communists,” he said. Mr Asok Bhattacharya, however, expressed apprehension of major flare-ups in the district in the run up to the election. “The EC should deploy para-military forces immediately. We have information that the GJMM would seek help from the dreaded ULFA and the KLO to let loose a reign of terror in the remote areas of the hills. The air of desperation is palpable amongst the GJMM rank and file and it would take any action in its desperation to capture the seat,” he said.

‘Gorkhaland’: GJMM seeks Advani’s intervention

DARJEELING, July 3: The Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha is all set to submit documents pertaining to the separate state of Gorkhaland to the leader of the Opposition in Parliament Mr LK Advani. “The outcome of meetings with the different leaders in New Delhi recently proved fruitful. We will submit various documents of Darjeeling, Dooars, Terai and Siliguri from the time those areas were ceded to Bengal from their respective territories,” said GJMM general secretary Mr Roshan Giri today. With the nuclear deal controversy coming in the way of the Gorkhaland movement, Mr Giri cleared that the larger perspective must be considered before taking any decisions. “The Centre is busy trying to save the UPA-Left coalition, which may collapse any day. It would be wise for us to make our moves according to the present political situation. It is encouraging that the union home minister assured that Gorkhaland is a constitutional demand and has not been ruled out by the Centre. He has even agreed to a tripartite meeting to discuss the demand,” Mr Giri said. Countering the hill-based Opposition parties’ allegation that the GJMM’s actions lacked transparency, party central committee member, Mr Amar Lama said: “There is speculation why we went to Kolkata two days ahead of the meeting with the chief minister. The reason is that our party units are being set up in Kolkata and we had to look over such matters. We had no hidden agenda.” Mr Lama further added: “Some anti-Gorkhaland elements are trying to counter the Gorkhaland movement by linking it with controversial issues like the Greater Nepal theory. It would not affect the movement.” n SNS