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6 Jul 2017

Sikkim did not merge with India to become a sandwich between China and Bengal: CM Pawan Chamling

SikkimPramod Giri, HT, 5 July 2017: Sandwiched between China and West Bengal, the state of Sikkim is suffering terribly, remarked Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling, adding the tiny Himalayan state has lost about Rs 60,000 crore in the past 30 years due to intermittent blockades in Darjeeling. The state of Sikkim is connected with two highways, both of which pass through the north Bengal hills.

“The people of Sikkim did not merged the state with the Indian union to become a sandwich between China and Bengal,” Chamling said on Wednesday in a public function in Namchi, Sikkim. Chamling is serving the fifth term as a chief minister.

The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Sikkim became the 22nd state of India in 1975. It is connected with the rest of the state by NH 10 that passes through the troubled areas of Darjeeling and Kalimpong hills witnessing indefinite bandh from June 15.

The Sikkim government has been compelled to ration essential commodities to cope with the disruption in supply due to the indefinite bandh in Darjeeling hills. (HT Photo)
“A fight may break out in Nathu La border… There is unrest up there. We are also feeling insecure from down (Siliguri). They are saying that they will not allow food grains and petrol to come to Sikkim. Our people are being harassed in Siliguri, our goods are being stopped,” said the Sikkim chief minister.

“NH 10 is our lifeline but it has always been a weak point for Sikkim in these 30 years of Gorkhaland agitation,” said Chamling, pegging the total loss suffered by the state at Rs 60,000 crores in the three decades.

“Sikkim has suffered terribly in the past 30 years due to the Gorkhaland agitation in the neighbouring Darjeeling hills. Our development process has been disturbed for three decades,” he said. Chamling also mentioned how hotels are empty and vehicles are lying idle in Sikkim due to the absence of tourists.
Chamling’s statement comes at a time when the state is witnessing a continuing standoff between Chinese and Indian troops on the eastern border that shows no indication of quick resolution. In the south, the continuing indefinite bandh in the Darjeeling hills has already resulted in a crisis of supplies, forcing the administration to ration various essential commodities including petro products.

Both troubles have also combined to drive away tourists, who contribute considerable revenue to the state.

Though the demand for a separate Gorkha administrative unit dates back to 1907, the violent phase of the struggle started only in 1986 when Subhash Ghising set up Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) and launched a movement that witnessed as many as 1,200 deaths between 1986 and 1988. The hills were regularly paralysed by bandhs called by GNLF.

In 2007 Gorkha Janmukti Morcha was set up by Bimal Gurung, but the culture of sudden bandhs continued. The current phase of indefinite bandhs began on June 15 and shows no sign of being lifted.

Significantly, on June 20 Chamling wrote a letter to Union home minister Rajnath Singh expressing support for a separate state of Gorkhaland that infuriated ruling Trinamool Congress leaders in Bengal. Since then Sikkim-bound vehicles are often being targeted in Siliguri (in Bengal).

Chamling said that he in contact with the Union government over the blocking of goods and harassment to Sikkim vehicles at Siliguri. “I have made up my mind to go to Supreme Court,” he said.

“People of Sikkim are defending the nation by working as unpaid soldiers in this border state,” he said.

He pointed out that the Himalayan state is a water reservoir for the nation. Water from Sikkim, flows to states such as Bengal. “Despite our contributions, our roads are being blocked,” he said.

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