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Darjeeling Sikkim merger issue likely to drive wedge between Morcha - Pawan Chamling

Bimal Gurung Pawan Chamling
Bimal Gurung’s proposal to merge the Darjeeling hills with Sikkim is likely to drive a wedge between the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president and Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling, a month after the two leaders had agreed to spearhead a movement to demand Schedule Tribe status for 10 communities.  

Yesterday, at a programme to mark the ninth foundation day of the Morcha in Darjeeling, Gurung had said he would propose to the Centre that the Darjeeling hills be merged with Sikkim if forming the Gorkhaland state was difficult.
“On October 3, I had a talk with a BJP leader and he told me that the NDA did not have a majority in Rajya Sabha now. But once they get a majority, they are thinking of settling the issues of not just this region but also three-four places like Vidarbha. I am proposing that if creating a separate state of Gorkhaland is difficult, you merge Darjeeling with Sikkim,” Gurung had said. “Anyhow, we have to separate from Bengal. I am proposing that if separating from Bengal can be achieved by merging Darjeeling with Sikkim, the issue would have to be looked into.”
In the neighbouring state, both the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front and its rival Sikkim Krantikari Morcha have opposed Gurung’s proposal.
Today, SKM, the party in Opposition, cornered Chamling on the issue. 
“The statement on the merger is not of Bimal Gurung but of Sikkim chief minister. After losing the trust of people of Sikkim, Chamling now wants to regain his popularity by using Bimal Gurung on the merger issue. Sikkim-Darjeeling merger is out of question and we strongly oppose it,” SKM spokesperson Kunga Nima Lepcha said.
Referring to the recent bonhomie between Chamling and Gurung, Lepcha said: “The growing proximity between the two (leaders) is not for tribal (status) demand but on the agenda of Sikkim-Darjeeling merger. We will come out on the streets to protest.” 
On August 21, Gurung had called on Chamling in Gangtok and they had decided to join hands to pursue the demand for inclusion of 10 communities in the ST list. On September 20, Chamling had attended a symposium on the issue in Darjeeling. It was decided that a national committee would be formed to look into the demand and Gurung had asked Chamling to lead it.
Today, SDF spokesperson K.T. Gyalsen issued a press release stating Chamling’s party was not supporting the merger and trained guns at SKM leader P.S. Golay.
“When the SDF government passed a resolution of a separate state of Gorkhaland in Sikkim assembly on March 29, 2011, PS Golay was not present in the assembly session and later protested the resolution. The SKM is misinterpreting the initiative of the chief minister who is voicing for trial status to Gorkha community,” reads the release. 
According to observers, at a time the political parties in Sikkim are opposing the merger proposal raised by Gurung, it will not be possible for any leader to support the Morcha chief on any issue. “Given the immediate stand taken by the Sikkim-based parties, no political leader in the state, including Pawan Chamling, can afford to stand along Gurung in any forum now. Any such move would mean doom for that leader now,” said an observer.
In Darjeeling, Bhanu Lama, the organisational secretary of the GNLF said Gurung’s proposal was not realistic. “That is next to impossible. On December 5, 1950, Sikkim and India had signed a treaty where all previous treaties between Sikkim and British India were annulled. Thus, Sikkim cannot claim Darjeeling and moreover, no Sikkimese will support the idea as the natives, Lepchas and Bhutias, will be in a minority there,” he said.
ABGL general secretary Pratap Khati said Gurung was the wrong person to raise the issue. “The issue is good as  all states in the country are being formed on linguist lines. We share the same language and culture with Sikkim and the boundary as well. But Bimal Gurung is a wrong person to raise the issue as he is not a sincere leader.”
He said the ABGL would support either a separate state of Gorkhaland, or merger with Sikkim or a Union Territory status for the region.
CPRM spokesperson Govind Chhetri said Gurung should try and get the support of the people in Sikkim. “A merger with Sikkim would mean separation from Bengal. Instead of separating and then merging, why not just create Gorkhaland? Instead of going on a padayatra in the Darjeeling hills, Gurung should be takin out a march in Sikkim to first try and garner support from the people and the leaders there.” (TT)

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