Fifteen years after coming into existence over the demand for a separate state, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has finally decided to drop the issue and seek a political solution for the region.
The GJM, changing its stance, said on Monday that staying within the ambit of Bengal would be more beneficial for the Gorkhas and the hill population – a significant development that is likely to have far-reaching consequences in the northern part of the state.
During the day, a GJM delegation, along with members of Hamro Party, held a meeting with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is on a scheduled five-day visit to North Bengal.
Shortly after, GJM general secretary Roshan Giri told PTI, “We no longer want a separate state of Gorkhaland. Rather, we want a solution within the state. We want to stay within West Bengal and work to develop the hills.”
The change of heart of the GJM, which always had statehood as the major poll plank since its formation in 2007, comes at a time when some of the BJP MLAs from the hills are making a similar noise, seeking a separate state of North Bengal.
The TMC and several other political outfits, however, hailed the GJM move.
“We welcome the GJM’s decision. The hills, for several decades, have witnessed a lot of bloodshed. Under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee, we hope there will be an era of development in the region,” senior TMC leader Goutam Deb said.
The BJP MLA from Kurseong, Bishnu Prasad Sharma, who had recently sought a separate state of Darjeeling, claimed that the GJM could no longer be trusted.
“They (GJM) have compromised with the cause and the sacrifice made by people for the cause. They have lost public support. We want a separate state… it is (the) dream of local residents,” Sharma said.
According to sources in GJM, the change in stance came amid the rise of the newly formed Hamro Party in the civic elections earlier this month which grabbed the Darjeeling Municipality, leaving behind traditional heavyweight hill outfits like the GJM.
Darjeeling, a picturesque hill town, is majorly dominated by ethnic Gorkhas. Other communities that reside there include Lepchas, Sherpas, Bhutias and other tribal communities.
The demand for a separate state was first made in the 1980s, with the Subhas Ghisingh-led GNLF launching a violent agitation in 1986, which went on for 43 days and led to the death of around 1,200 people in the Hills.
The separate statehood demand gained momentum again in 2007 after the formation of the GJM, under the leadership of Bimal Gurung, who was once a trusted aide of Ghisingh.
In 2011, after the TMC took over the reins of Bengal, the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) was formed with Gurung as its chief. But peace was short-lived in the area as Gurung led an agitation over the statehood demand, first in 2013, and then in 2017, accusing the TMC government of trying to “wipe out” the Gorkha identity.
The strike also led to a split in the GJM, with Tamang, his deputy, taking over the reins. Gurung and his loyalists were expelled from the party.
In October 2020, Gurung walked out of an alliance with the BJP and aligned with the TMC ahead of the assembly polls. Tamang joined the TMC in December last year.