SNS, Editorial | 28 August, 2015: Mamata Banerjee has effected a deft balancing act in Darjeeling, verily an exercise in tokenism to address the persistent manifestations of sub-regional jingoism.
In a single stroke of the chief ministerial pen, she has put in place a development board for the Bhutias; in parallel she has dropped no fewer than 115 cases against leaders of the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha.
Further comment on whether this initiative will placate the dominant group and the Bhutias will depend largely on whether several other segments accept the arrangement. The announcement in Darjeeling’s Chowrasta that the board for Bhutias would be the last such outfit for hill groups has predictably been greeted with sullen silence. The Chief Minister may well have a point when she rules out a multiplicity of development boards, each taking care of a particular group.
Equally, the one size-fits all formula is unlikely to be effective; her decision to “tag various communities to the four boards that have been set up over the years” cannot readily inspire optimism. It is improbable that the groups that are out in the cold will be agreeable to the patchwork quilt that stops far short of an umbrella organisation for holistic hill development. By forming the board for Bhutias, she may have responded to the cavil that resonates across the Hills, chiefly that the formation of boards for the Lepchas - the original settlers - Tamangs and Sherpas were actually attempts by the government to pursue a policy of divide-and-rule.
Nonetheless, it shall not be easy to dispel the impression that she is engaged in selective redressal of festering grievances. The Chief Minister cannot be impervious to the fact that an additional board for the Bhutias might not be acceptable to the Gorkhas. Hence the anxiety to mollify the leading lights of the GJMM at a meeting soon after the programme for Bhutias, and the decision to withdraw cases against the morcha for blocking roads before 2011. Effectively, she has reversed a CPI-M action.
A still more prickly issue is the GJMM demand for withdrawal of cases filed between 2007 and 2011 against statehood agitators, with many among the 650 such cases related to murder. On closer reflection, the withdrawal of such cases does seem to be peripheral to the core issue - the independent functioning of the Gorkha Territorial Authority, verily a loose form of self-government that is short of statehood. More than a year after its inauguration, the pivotal issue of devolution of powers is yet to be sorted out. Most particularly in the segment of education, with several schools and colleges still under the state government’s control.
The GTA cannot be run on terms dictated by the state government. Small wonder the morcha is yet to firm up its response to this week’s twin strategy of Miss Banerjee.
News published in the Statesman shared by KalimNews at http://kalimpongonlinenews.blogspot.com/2015/08/imbalance-in-darjeeling.html and http://kalimpongnews.net/2015/08/28/imbalance-darjeeling/