DARJEELING: With non-bailable murder, rioting and arson charges being pressed against Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung, his wife Asha and 24 other GJM leaders, holding them responsible for death of 3 GJM leaders and burning of police vehicles and the GJM supremo retorting by daring the police to arrest him after resigning from Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) along with 42 executive members on Friday, the showdown between Mamata Banerjee and her bete noire Bimal Gurung is likely to increase in the hills of West Bengal.
With arrest of Bimal Gurung, who is a wanted man now, likely on the cards after return of Mamata Banerjee from The Hague in Netherlands, the hills may boil soon again after a relative period of lull.
Asked about possibility of Gurung's arrest after return of Mamata Banerjee, Darjeeling SP Akhilesh Chaturvedi told New Indian Express: "We will take legal action very soon. I won't answer question about his arrest after return of the chief minister."
However, the youth of Darjeeling hills, who are the foot-soldiers of the current phase of Gorkhaland statehood agitation, are ready for any development that may increase tension in the hills. "If Bimal daaju (big brother in Nepali) is arrested, we will not keep quite and do Gandhigiri. The hills will burn more," said youth agitator Shailendra Yonzon.
With even parties such as Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) and Jan Andolan Party (JAP), who were former allies of Trinamool Congress, accepting Bimal Gurung as leader of the movement and shunning their flags to come together, the GJM supremo has emerged as the most influential Gorkha leader since Subhash Ghising.
"All the Gorkhas have united under the leadership of Bimal daaju. This was never witnessed since the 1986-88 movement led by Subhash Ghising. Mamata Banerjee's policy of dividing us through formation of ethnic deelopment boards has fallen flat on the face as many members of ethnic development boards have resigned from their posts. It's now or never for us now," said another agitator Rachna Pokhrel.
Despite having 2 columns of Maratha Light Infantry engaged in area domination route marches throughout the serpentine roads of the hills and around 10 companies of central paramilitary forces posted in four major towns Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Mirik, who are completely in control of the situation, the state government is asking for more forces from Centre indicates towards possibility of worsening of situation and West Bengal's likely push to arrest Bimal Gurung.
On the other hand, with BJP not coming strongly in support of the statehood movement, many in the hills feel that the saffron party doesn't want to mar it's political prospects in the plains, where it is slowly growing in strength.
"At most Gorkhaland agitators have 2 MPs and 12 MLAs throughout the entire proposed Gorkhaland state. On the other hand, there are 40 other MPs throughout the plains of West Bengal. BJP doesn't want to support Gorkhaland precisely because of that but it comes in support of Vidarbha statehood," said political analyst Upendra Pradhan.
Others feel that Centre is hesitating to support Gorkhaland statehood fearing that other statehood demands may grow stronger. "BJP is in power in Assam and can't afford to give Bodoland, Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao statehood demands. In Tripura, BJP is slowing growing in strength so can't afford to give away Twipraland statehood demand. In Manipur, it recently came to power riding on the mandate from the Meiteis of the plains so can't afford to give Kukiland demand. In the end, Gorkhaland is suffering due to these equations," said agitator Pema Lama.
With internet ban in effect till June 26 and likely to increase with another government notification and no signs of military boots going off the hills, the agitation days are far from over in the Darjeeling hills.