The recent developments in Darjeeling nearly four months after the withdrawal of the 104-day-long bandh seem to point towards normalcy but there remain undercurrents of discontent. While Bimal Gurung of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) was petitioning the Supreme Court, rebel GJM leaders Anit Thapa and Binay Tamang began the process of consolidating their power. They were appointed to elected posts by the West Bengal government although no election had been held. There have been pockets of resistance within the party as many are still loyal to Gurung and his acolyte Roshan Giri. The result was that the houses of Gurung, Giri and their supporters were systematically burned down by ‘unknown miscreants’. Tamang also responded by replacing the heads of several GJM wings with his own supporters. The GJM of Gurung and Giri appears to be finished but Thapa just made a major faux pas.
On January 21, at a public gathering in Sukna, a small hamlet bordering the commercial hub of Siliguri town, Tamang warned Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling against ‘meddling in the affairs’ of Darjeeling. He further threatened that in future he would meddle in Sikkim if the chief minister did not refrain.
These comments, made in reference to the alleged ‘sanctuary’ that Chamling has given Gurung while he has been on the run and hiding in the neighbouring state, have been met by a backlash, not from the Sikkim chief minister, or anybody from the state, but from within the GJM’s own ranks. On January 23, a Morcha youth leader and Bimal Gurung supporter, Prakash Gurung, called the comments “politically immature” and that they had the potential to ruin the “good relations” the people of the Darjeeling Hills share with the people of Sikkim. On January 24, several political parties from Kalimpong also condemned Tamang’s comments.
Jan Andolan Party chief Harka Bahadur Chettri said that “those speaking against Sikkim are speaking in the West Bengal government’s voice”. All India Gorkha League spokesperson Pratap Khati termed Tamang as “just a watchman of the Bengal government”. Reseeka Chettri of the newly formed Gorkha United Liberation Front said that the people have been shamed by leaders like Binay Tamang.
These comments, however, have now made crystal clear that Tamang and Thapa are in fact agents of the West Bengal government. That they decided to revive the GTA, a body that their party had condemned, quit, and dissolved, was the first indicator of their aims.
The second was when supporters of Gurung were targeted.
The third, was when they made no attempt to seek justice for the 13 killed in the agitation, including Barun Bhujel, a Kalimpong municipal councillor who died in police custody allegedly from pre-existing health conditions, although his family claims he was of perfect health when arrested.
The comments against Chamling must be seen in the context of the agitation. During the agitation, due to Chamling’s open support for Gorkhaland, Sikkimese people began to be targeted in Siliguri by Bengali chauvinists. The Sikkim government responded by threatening to sue the West Bengal government to the tune of Rs 60 thousand crore. This effectively ended the violence against Sikkimese people. When a team of West Bengal police shot at a taxi killing one man while in Sikkim jurisdiction, Sikkim responded by filing murder charges against the Kalimpong SP.