Thursday’s strike called by nine Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) Sabha members in the Opposition was called off on Wednesday, within 24 hours of its announcement, amid murmurs that those who called it realised the general resistance against any disruptive activity in the hills.
A source said that the strike was called off following “feedback” from the ground.
The “feedback” is a clear indication that residents of Darjeeling hills, who suffered economically because of the record 104-day general strike in 2017, followed by the lull during the Covid-19-induced lockdowns, are not in favour of shutdowns, even if the issue concerns the emotive issue of Gorkhaland.
Ajoy Edwards, president of the Hamro Party, and eight others in the GTA Sabha who started a 24-hour hunger strike in front of the Gorkhaland martyr’s column at Gorkha Rangamanch Bhavan in Darjeeling, announced the suspension of the strike at the end of their fast on Wednesday afternoon.
The 12-hour general strike had been called moments after they started the hunger strike on Tuesday.
“Following feedback from our supporters, we decided to suspend the appeal for a closure (strike). We will, however, work out a strategy to voice our protest,” said Edwards.
While most hill people support the demand for Gorkhaland, they have second thoughts about backing shutdowns.
“Nothing was achieved even when the hills shut for 104 days, the longest in the history of the region, and we see no reason to support a similar protest,” said a hill resident, wondering what prompted GTA Sabha members to give another strike call.
The nine Opposition GTA Sabha members, which include six from Hamro Party, one from Bimal Gurung’s Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, an Independent and hill leader Binay Tamang, had started the protest against the state government’s motion against the division of Bengal.
“The GTA Sabha had passed a resolution in favour of Gorkhaland. Apart from us nine, the others decided to side with the motion. It is clear that the motion passed by Anit Thapa’s party (the BGPM at the helm of the GTA) is an eyewash,” said Edwards.
The 45 elected and five nominated GTA Sabha members had adopted a resolution in favour of Gorkhaland during its first Sabha meeting.
While Edwards and Opposition members chose to corner archrival BGPM, many in the hills admitted that the Opposition erred on many counts with their kneejerk reaction to call a strike.
“The hunger strike was fine and the protest found overall support in the hills. But when Edwards and Binay Tamang, leaders who were opposed to strikes, called the first strike in five years, it did not go down well with the public,” said an observer.
While Bimal Gurung’s GTA Sabha participated in the hunger strike, the lack of a public statement from Gurung or his party’s general secretary Roshan Giri did not go unnoticed.
“Their silence at a time when there are reports that Gurung wants an appointment with Mamata Banerjeeand Trinamul general secretary Abhishek Banerjee was noted,” said an observer.
Many felt the Opposition leaders’ decision to call a strike on the day Madhyamikis to start generated backlash.
“No matter what, no guardian will want any disturbance when his child is taking his board exam,” said a guardian.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had also threatened stern action if there were disruptions during the exam period.
“We had exempted educational institutions,” Edwards said.