KOLKATA: Rival Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) factions led by party chief Bimal Gurung and chief coordinator Binay Tamang are fighting a bitter war of attrition to garner support of residents of the Darjeeling Hills. The area has been reeling under an indefinite strike for the past 90 days.
While the Tamang faction, which has indirect support of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, is trying to bring back the hills to normalcy, the hardline Gurung faction is doing all it can to prevent lifting of the strike. Stuck in between is the public whose resources have touched rock bottom. “A majority of the residents are against the indefinite strike. The dialogue process on Gorkhaland has already started with the state government. Normalcy has to return,” said Tamang.
The rebel Gorkha leader is now busy meeting GJM activists who have been lodged in various prisons in Jalpaiguri and Siliguri in connection with cases related to violence during the present phase of Gorkhaland agitation. Withdrawal of cases against these prisoners has been one of the top agenda for talks with the state government.
Meanwhile, Gurung, who is in hiding and is wanted in several cases under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), has refused to take a step back from the single-point agenda of Gorkhaland.
“It was decided in the second round of talks with the state government that the issue of tripartite talks would be discussed in the third round on October 16. Until then, the strike would not be withdrawn,” Gurung said in an audio clip released from an undisclosed location. Also, with the Nepalese Dassain (coinciding with Durga Puja) festival just a week away, this ensuing confusion has put most of the residents in a tizzy.
Several residents of Kalimpong district said that supporters of the Gurung faction are visiting residences and asking people to send at least one member of each family to the rallies organised against withdrawal of the strike. The Gurung faction has even indulged in stopping Darjeeling and Kalimpong-bound state buses from Siliguri and organised massive rallies in Kalimpong and Darjeeling in support of the strike.
But with police and administration aiding the Tamang faction, and at times allegedly forcing shops to open and even resorting to lathicharge and firing rubber bullets, the government seems to have successfully created a massive confusion among people.