I used to think, all our efforts were in vain……

Swaroop Sharma

Everything has come back to normalcy, as it was before. A 104 days of indefinite strike in the Darjeeling hills has been called off. The center moved with intervention in the hills, with an invitation to have a talk with the regional party GJM.  A breakthrough ending of 104-day-long ‘bandh’ in the hills , the Center and State  governments ( West Bengal) must move straightaway to join the truce and address to bring back peace, and normal situation to livelihoods and the local economy which has suffered over this period.

Declaration on ending the bandh came from Bimal Gurung of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha( (GJM), which had led this agitation, which build into people’s movement of the hills. The Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s plea to the supporters and his tentative offer of talks brought about this change, but it is his specific mention of the long-suffering Mr. Gurung, who has been on the run from the eyes of West Bengal police, which made a difference.

Blockade had severely paralysed the life in the Darjeeling hills, and it is clear that local support for the agitation was weakening. GJM a section of the party led by Binay Tamang, had shown an preference to negotiate with the Bengal government, in this to create a clash in on the differences within the GJM, Honble. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee a few week ago, gave Mr. Tamang the chairperson of a new board of administrators by bringing back dissolved Gorkhaland Territorial Administration to life, which had been set up in 2012 as a semi-autonomous body with some powers. Hearing this common people were flabbergasted, as they felt that a betrayer was born amidst their movement which drowned their hopes and sacrifices. But they were wrong in this as , 104 days of this sacrifice gave a new look to the Queen of hills – Darjeeling. It seemed like Darjeeling has walked down its memory lane of its 80s and 90s , as hearing some age old people , the Darjeeling now during this 104 days bandh has given them the feel as if they were going back a way back. Although the life was not there but people were living in this hills how?

During this 104 days i.e., 3 ½ months approx, the hills used to wake up early morning before the dawn and get down to their daily chores. The people whose only means of livelihood were agriculture , they use to start their day very early morning. Before the day breaks the market used to get closed, in this even the consumers or the buyers too cooperated with the producers. In this it seemed like a different kind of society exist in the hills which showed love, support and bonding between the hill people during the times of such crisis. Hill people should feel that they have gained a lot, as their future generation now has felt the importance of language and motherland. It’s the language which gives identity which the youths have been able to feel, as well as better picture of the consequences which takes place if somebody language is been dishonored. The history of Darjeeling was never been inscribed or taught to these children. So the history is what made the youngers to dig upon to know their past through this struggle of 104 days in the hills as well as this age old demand from 1907 was what our youths learnt about.

Current standoff is a direct result of the failure to practically regionalize power to the GTA as assured. This summer agitation was sparked by grievances over Ms. Banerjee’s initial statement about Bengali being made a compulsory language of in the State, which stirred people’s sentiments and re-energized the demand for statehood- Gorkhaland.  Putting together, the maximalist position of the protesters, the uneasiness within the government at the Centre on officially responding to such ambitions, and Ms. Banerjee’s trick of using the issue to sharpen a Bengali chauvinist appeal in the rest of the State to gain more support for her Trinamool Congress, all contributed to the stalemate. Mr. Singh’s appeal provided a face-saver to the GJM. The State government has suggested that it is not averse to three-way talks over some of the GJM’s demands, but it is not clear whether Ms. Banerjee will agree to talk to Mr. Gurung. Talks involving the Centre, the State government and the GJM are, however, essential. This is the best mechanism to discuss the empowerment of the age statehood demand of Gorkhaland, which is necessary to address the grievances of the residents of Darjeeling hills.

Swaroop Sharma 


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