New twist: Bimal Gurung resurfaces
Sir — The resurfacing of Bimal Gurung, the founder of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, and his decision to extend support to the chief minister of Bengal may have serious ramifications for the politics of the state as a whole and, in particular, for Darjeeling (“Bimal back, supports Mamata”, Oct 22). Gurung had been absconding since September 2017, after the Trinamul Congress-led government slapped a number of criminal charges on him — including those under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act — following a prolonged violent agitation in the hills for a separate state of Gorkhaland.
Snapping ties with the National Democratic Alliance, Gurung has claimed that Mamata Banerjee always kept her promises. This exposes his duplicity. In 2017, when the government gave a short shrift to the GJM’s demand for a written assurance that it would not impose the teaching of Bengali in Darjeeling, Gurung had claimed that the TMC government had made a number of promises to the residents of North Bengal when it came to power in 2011 but none of them was remotely near completion.
Interestingly, when Gurung was on the run, the GJM broke up. The faction led by Binay Tamang allied itself with the state government and established itself at the helm of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration. Now that the ruling party in Bengal has welcomed Gurung’s support, it remains to be seen how the two warring factions of the GJM will be reconciled.
Gurung, however, has emphasized that his party is not moving away from their demand for Gorkhaland; he has pledged to support the party which takes that demand forward. The question is whether Banerjee will yield to the demand and withdraw all cases against him in the hope that Gurung’s support will reverse the political fortune of the TMC in the hills.
Sir — The dramatic appearance of Bimal Gurung after three years of hiding has created quite a stir. Gurung was not arrested as an offender. Rather, he was allowed to hold a press conference in Calcutta. Gurung’s proclamation that the NDA has not fulfilled the aspirations of the hill people — he has vowed allegiance to the TMC — shows that the chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, has been working to secure her position in the state ahead of the 2021 assembly elections.
It is likely that there was a secret deal between Banerjee and Gurung, with eyes on upcoming polls. But the people of the hills, including Siliguri, are still unsure whether the demand for a separate state has been given up by the Gorkha leader or the chief minister has given him any assurance on the matter. Speculation on social media seems to suggest that the hill people are not ready to accept Gurung as a ‘surrendered’ leader. But the ultimate question is this: between Banerjee and Gurung, who has actually surrendered?
Birkha Khadka Duvarseli,
Sir — After a prolonged disappearance, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader, Bimal Gurung, has suddenly arrived in Calcutta and proclaimed to join hands with the TMC to bring back Mamata Banerjee to power in the 2021 assembly elections. Gurung has also stated his intent to continue his struggle for the creation of Gorkhaland. However, Banerjee has time and again asserted that Bengal will not be bifurcated.
If Gurung knows that his demand for Gorkhaland will not be met, then his support for the TMC could simply be a bid to have the cases against him and his associates withdrawn. He must also have seen through the political games played by the Bharatiya Janata Party, which have now jeopardized his political career. It now remains to be seen how the TMC tackles him.
Mrinal Kanti Kundu,
Sir — Only a few months ago, people were rejoicing over the fact that one positive effect of the lockdown was the stark decrease in pollution levels, particularly that of water bodies. Some of us were even hoping that given this second chance, people would live more responsibly — they would refrain from polluting lakes and rivers with effluents, garbage or plastic. But this appears to have been wishful thinking.
With the recent festivities — Navratri, for instance — all awareness has clearly been forgotten. This year, once again, devotees dumped puja offerings into the Yamuna, making its condition worse. Urgent and systematic government intervention is necessary to prevent people from polluting the waters before it is too late.
Sir — After expressing support for migrant communities and refugees as well as same-sex unions, Pope Francis has taken yet another progressive step: he has appointed Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, as cardinal, making him the first African American person to hold the position. This is an unprecedented decision, and must be appreciated by all, regardless of one’s faith or ethnicity. At a time when political leaders across the world seem to be trying to polarize the world along the lines of religion, race or gender, the pope’s gestures might go a long way in spreading the message of harmony and tolerance.