Panchayat poll shows our base is intact in Darjeeling, says Bimal Gurung

Bimal Gurung
GJM chief, Bimal Gurung who has been in hiding, says fight for a separate homeland will continue and that the Union government has to be part of any dialogue in the hills

The separate Gorkha homeland movement spread like wildfire in the hills of Darjeeling in July 2017. Following its collapse, the man who led the movement as the chief of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, Bimal Gurung, disappeared. A year later, Bimal Gurung spoke for the first time on telephone from his hideout.

One year into the agitation and many are saying Bimal Gurung’s time is over. What do you think?

Our fight is for our people, for our community. In such fights, various policies are adopted ... it is one such policy to go underground due to the oppressive policies of the Mamata Banerjee government. The movement will not be finished, even if I’m sacrificed. I will not betray my people.
You gifted the Bharatiya Janata Party the Lok Sabha seat. Do you think that they have let you down by not providing much support at a crucial time?
We [Bimal Gurung and his faction] are still an alliance partner of the BJP. They [BJP] have not engaged us in this fight for our community.
We led the movement on our own and we’re fighting our legal battles now. There are false charges against us and we are fighting those out.

Is the BJP helping you in your legal battles?
They have not told us to have our legal battles. But they are expected to help us.

If they don’t — politically or legally — will you ask your people to support them in 2019?
2019 is far away…

Your name is not even on the voter list now. You may not be able to contest elections
That is strange. I was a councillor [of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council] first and then the Chairman of the Gorkha Territorial Administration [GTA]. Agreements were signed between us and the governments.
My question is, were these bodies [Hill Council, GTA] unconstitutional … if I was heading the GTA, how as a citizen can I be dropped from the list? Everything needs to be challenged legally and responsible people should be taken to task.

Your supporters lost lives, went to jail and were tortured. Aren’t they losing faith in you, if they have not already.
They will not. They know me. See, there are phases in politics … there is a time of happiness and a time of deep sadness. But they also need to run their daily chores, their life, their kitchens … but their atma [soul] is with us. They know who spoke about them and their rights … it is not these fake leaders like Binay Tamang or Anit Thapa.
It was we who led the fight and people will remember. That is precisely why — even after several attempts by the State government — BJP candidates backed by us in Dooars performed so well at the grassroots level in the recent panchayat election. People know that we have not taken money and not compromised on our position. So they voted for us in a poll conducted by the State government.

In the context of last year’s movement where did you go wrong — you overestimated the support of the BJP or underestimated Mamata Banerjee?
The Bengal government started this movement … they attacked our language and it flared up …

But did you underestimate Mamata Banerjee?
How can we say that? She is the Chief Minister … we can’t underestimate her… She insisted on having meetings in the hills which worsened the situation.

Are you saying that it was not your movement but triggered by the Trinamool Congress?

Wohi kiya hai…[That is what they did]

What you are saying means the Bengal government led this movement to defuse you and your movement and you had no role to play in the movement?
Look, they started this politics of language chauvinism. They imposed their language on us and people were disappointed. It spread like wildfire. They made it an issue to remove Bimal Gurung.

So, was it a wrong decision on your part to launch the movement … when you look back after a year?
See, we have to fight anyway. As long as I’m alive, I will have to fight for the homeland. And the Trinamool Congress may not be there tomorrow… a new party will come. Our struggle will continue.

While it continues, will you be ready to talk to the State government?
Possible … we should talk.

You mean direct talks with the State government without involving the Centre is possible?

It has to be tripartite. The Central government has always been part of any dialogue in the hills. The GTA agreement was tripartite. It has to be so.

What is your and your factions’ future especially when you are absconding?
We should not be blamed constantly. This process of witch-hunting and arrests — for participating in a legitimate and democratic movement — by Mamata didi should stop. If it continues, there will be fire in the hills again. They should not try to suppress genuine grievances by force.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/
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GJM chief, Bimal Gurung who has been in hiding, says fight for a separate homeland will continue and that the Union government has to be part of any dialogue in the hills

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