| Gurung at the public meeting and the crowd at the motor stand. Pictures by Suman Tamang
Darjeeling, Oct. 7: A music reality show has managed to create an anti-Subash Ghisingh wave in the hills, something unthinkable even a few months ago.
Thousands of people today raised anti-Ghisingh slogans in the motor stand here while welcoming the formation of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha — a party floated by former GNLF leader Bimal Gurung.
The rebel leader was one of the brains behind Prashant Tamang Fan Club — the organisation that garnered support to send SMS votes for the Indian Idol 3 winner. In the past few days, Gurung has reminded people that Prashant is synonymous with the identity of the hill people and that Ghisingh had never come out in his support.
Though he did not repeat it this afternoon, some of the leaders who took the dais were quick to take the cue. “Why did Subash Ghisingh remain silent on Prashant' These hill leaders bark only when they need money,” said Binay Tamang, one of the speakers.
Gurung got the axe last week and with his expulsion from the GNLF, the anti-Sixth Schedule voice has become stronger here. The rebel leader’s announcement that the people should accept nothing short of statehood came in the wake of the Union cabinet’s approval of the special status bill for the hills.
In the presence of almost 20,000 people, Gurung today launched his campaign against Ghisingh. He started with the GNLF chief’s interference in religious and cultural matters.
“He wants us to offer jhar (local brew) to gods and goddesses. Let him first give the same to his son and family. Every time we want to pay obeisance to the gods he asks us to go down to the rivers and pick up a stone (for sila puja). This time, Durga Puja will take place,” he thundered to a tremendous applause.
Gurung also claimed that none of the GNLF leaders knew what the Sixth Schedule was all about.
“I was part of the 17-member delegation that went to Calcutta with Ghisingh to discuss the special status. The entire team was confined to a room while Ghisingh and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee (the chief minister) went into a huddle for 45 minutes before returning to announce that our problems were solved. This is as far as the GNLF leaders’ knowledge of the bill goes,” said Gurung.
The new party’s trump card was the support it received from the Akhil Bharatiya Nepali Anushuti Jati Sangh — an association of Scheduled Castes who are unhappy with the Sixth Schedule status. In fact, association president K.S. Ramudamu presided over the public meeting. Ramudamu is being seen as the representative of the 9.7 per cent of the hill population, who are Scheduled Castes and have not been given any reservation in the new council to be formed under the special status, and his presence is a major blow to Ghisingh.
Even the All Gorkha Students’ Union came out openly in support of the new outfit.
Gurung was also quick to harp on the sop that he intended to distribute once he had his way.
“Ghisingh gave Rs 8,000 to every Gorkhaland martyr’s family, but we will give them Rs 5 lakh each. They deserve more,” he said.