Sir — A people’s movement is under way in the hills. The Gorkhas there are determined to have their voices heard in the higher echelons of power. They have a three-point agenda — and this includes the removal of Subash Ghisingh from the post of administrator of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, immediate scrapping of the Sixth Schedule bill and the recognition of their land as a state of the Indian Union.
The people are frustrated with Ghisingh, who started the agitation for Gorkhaland in the Eighties but has now sold himself to the government of West Bengal. He would now rather have the Sixth Schedule status for the hill people than a separate state. According to the provision of the Sixth Schedule, the governor of a state can declare certain tribal areas as autonomous in order to rule those pockets better. This status cannot be applied to the Gorkhas, as only 31 per cent of the community is strictly tribal. Yet the state government, in an unholy alliance with Ghisingh, is eager to bring the Gorkhas under the schedule and make them give up their demand for statehood.
When members of the pro-Gorkhaland Gorkha Janmukti Morcha started a fast-unto-death in front of the subdivisional office in Kurseong, Kalimpong and Darjeeling, the minister of urban development, Asok Bhattacharya, promptly called the Gorkhas “outsiders” in Siliguri (“Parties seek Asok apology”, Feb 24). This is strange, for Siliguri is within the district of Darjeeling, and yet Gorkhas here are criticized for carrying out democratic forms of protest. Even Tibetans have the right to hold agitations for their homeland in India’s capital, but the Gorkhas are being condemned for protesting in their own land.
Years of being in power have made the Left in West Bengal over-confident of its might. Singur and Nandigram stand as proof of Left despotism. And now the Left leaders are bent on making the hill people toe their line. This autocracy cannot go on. India can no longer be called a democracy if the voice of the people is suppressed by force time and again.
Devendra Kr. Bhandari, Darjeeling
Sir — I could not agree more with Asok Bhattacharya’s comment that Gorkhas are outsiders in Siliguri. Perhaps not the ordinary Gorkhas, but their political leaders create trouble in the hills at the drop of a hat — be it over Prashant Tamang or over the creation of Gorkhaland. Supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha have no right to sit in dharna in towns where most of the people are opposed to their demands. It seems that the only intention of the Gorkha leaders is to test the patience of the people living in the plains, and ultimately assert the supremacy of their community in Siliguri. I am opposed to Bhattacharya over many issues but shall stand by his comment about the Gorkhas.
As usual, the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Trinamul Congress are now supporting the Morcha to win Gorkha votes. These parties will do anything to get more votes, even if it means splitting up the nation into tiny states.
Pradip Chanda, Siliguri
Sir — For the first time in 21 years, the people of Darjeeling district have woken up to their rights, which had long been trampled under Subash Ghisingh’s ‘reign of terror’. Ghisingh could rule unchallenged as the caretaker administrator of the DGHC for so many years because he had the support of the West Bengal government. But now the voice of the people demanding his removal has grown strong and some of his own supporters have turned against him. The fact that he was holed up in Pintail village for five days and no one came to his aid indicates the extent to which he has lost public favour. It is time that he is asked to step down from his throne and the hill people get the Gorkhaland for which they have fought long. It is ironic that Gorkhas, the majority of whom serve and protect the country, are referred to as outsiders by Asok Bhattacharya.
Shreyashi Chettri, Darjeeling
Sir — The strike in Darjeeling, called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, is creating immense problems for ordinary people, especially for the residents of Siliguri. These being the last few days of the month, the amount of expendable money in our hands is already low. And now, since transportation is blocked, we are being compelled to pay around Rs 600 for an LPG cylinder, which can be bought for Rs 308 under normal conditions. Our food stock is depleting by the day and we cannot get new supplies because of the bandh. The Morcha had relaxed the bandh for four hours on February 23 to allow people to replenish their stock (“Four-hour breather from bandh”, Feb 24). This might have benefited the people in the hills but those of us in Siliguri got no respite. My parents, who live uphill, tried their best but failed to send me money within the four hours that the bandh was relaxed.
It seems that whether we support the Morcha’s agenda or not, it is hellbent on making us follow its diktat. I am a student about to take my annual examination. Lack of cash and food has made it almost impossible for me to concentrate on my studies. Now that Asok Bhattacharya has called Gorkhas outsiders in Siliguri, and the Morcha, in turn, has labelled him an outsider in the Darjeeling Hills, I fear that the tension in the hills might just explode. To avoid unpleasantness, the Morcha should take its complaints to the Centre instead of disrupting life in the hills. It should spare a thought for students and daily wage-earners, whose lives are jeopardized every time a bandh is called.
Pranay Pradhan, Siliguri