Giri addresses the meeting in Darjeeling on Sunday. Picture by Suman Tamang
Darjeeling, Jan. 20: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today kicked off a fresh round of agitation for Gorkhaland with a rally but Bimal Gurung was absent and the party didn’t announce any bandh or strike, unlike earlier occasions.
Nobody explained Gurung’s absence from the first big rally in Darjeeling to renew the movement. That the hill party also did not announce any disruptive prolonged protest plan had made supporters wondering if the Morcha was treading cautiously, probably because it did not want to antagonise the Centre.
Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the Morcha who was the main speaker, said: “On January 11, our delegation met Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. We told him that Gorkhaland must be formed if Telangana was created. We told him that we would immediately start an agitation for Gorkhaland.”
Giri quoted Shinde as responding: “Don’t worry; you will not have to agitate for Gorkhaland.”
Giri said: “We want the home minister to be more specific on what his thoughts are on the demand for Gorkhaland. Nevertheless, if Telangana is formed, we will not sit quietly, we will agitate. We should not be politically victimised.”
Observers believe the Morcha has interpreted Shinde’s statement to its own advantage and is convinced that the party shouldn’t antagonise the Centre by starting an intensified agitation in the form of general strikes and bandhs.
“Earlier, whenever the Morcha called a meeting to press for the demand for the separate state, it would announce general strikes or blockades. But today the party was comparatively soft in its approach. It shows the Morcha doesn’t want to bother the Centre at this moment. If the Centre decides not to create Telangana, much of the problem will be solved for the party as it is happy with the GTA at the moment,” an observer said.
Giri called upon the people of the hills to be “ready” for an agitation.
“If Telangana is formed, a political volcano will erupt in the hills,” he said.
Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the Morcha MLA from Kalimpong, said: “Telangana has 10 districts compared to our one district. They have 17 MPs and 119 MLAs, while we have one MP and four MLAs. Our population is merely 20-25 lakh but the population of the Telangana districts is 3.5 crore. Yet, we have forced the government to sit with us for 11 tripartite talks. The demand is alive and we are ready to resign as members of the Assembly as and when the party thinks so.”
The Morcha will hold a similar rally in Kurseong on January 27 followed by one in Kalimpong on January 29.
“A meeting will be held in Mirik also but the date hasn’t been finalised. After that, a meeting will be held in Darjeeling. Our party president is expected to attend the Darjeeling meeting,” said a source.