SILIGURI:With Gorkha Janmukti Yuva Morcha (GJYM) president Prakash Gurung on Monday threatening to immolate himself for statehood while Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) activists slated to break tube-lights on their bodies and then burn the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) Accord on Tuesday, tensions may escalate in the Darjeeling hills after a relative lull in violence during West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s absence from India.
“The last time Gorkhas burnt the Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty, 1950 on July 27, 1986; the CRPF opened fire on agitators in Kalimpong, killing 13 of them and sparking off a violent rebellion that led to the deaths of at least 1,200 Gorkhas till 1988. If the police and CRPF open fire on people again on Tuesday, tension will grip the hills,” said political analyst Upendra Pradhan.
The Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty of 1950 allows free movement of people across the border, which the then agitators were against as it led to confusion among Nepalis and Indian Gorkhas.
While West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has returned to Kolkata from her visit to the Netherlands, she did not mention the Gorkhaland agitation or show signs of negotiations with the agitators.
GJM chief Bimal Gurung also stated that they will only speak with the Centre on the one-point agenda of Gorkhaland statehood. He is currently in and around his residence at Patlebas near Darjeeling, where he is conducting press conferences.
Though the police pressed murder charges against Gurung, his wife Asha and 24 other mid-level GJM leaders, no arrests have been made so far.
With GJM leaders either in hiding or out of the Darjeeling hills, the statehood agitation has now been taken over by the people, who regularly conduct small rallies even at small hamlets in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts.
Due to the turn taken by the Gorkhaland agitation from being led by political parties to now showing signs of a mass movement, call for self-immolations can have serious repercussions in the hills where frustration due to the long-pending demand for statehood coupled with pressing issue of unemployment is rife.
“The call for self-immolation shows the desperation of the people of the hills for a Gorkhaland statehood. However, GJM supporters had in 2013 been warned by Telangana agitators not to take the self-immolation path for statehood,” Pradhan added.
The last time Gorkha youth committed self-immolations was in 2013 when the Centre had announced plans to carve Telangana out of united Andhra Pradesh.
While 45-year-old GJM supporter Mangal Singh Rajput sustained 90 per cent burns after he set himself on fire at Dambar Chowk in Kalimpong on June 30, 2013, and died in a Siliguri hospital on August 3, physically-challenged GJM supporter Phurba Sherpa (32) sustained 55 per cent burns but survived when he attempted the same at Chowk Bazar in Darjeeling on August 9.
However, Gorkha youth have, since then, not threatened to take the self-destructive route for statehood.
Many Telangana agitators had resorted to self-immolations and suicides to demand a separate state.
An estimated 800 people who died for statehood were honoured as ‘Telangana martyrs’ by the state government.
Their families also received due compensation from the K Chandrasekhar Rao government of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti.
Meanwhile, security personnel and senior officers of the West Bengal police marched in Darjeeling to oversee law and order.Several monks in Tibet, who are demanding independence from China have also resorted to self-immolations.