The weather is synonymous with two different kinds of mood and aspirations of the people in the plains and in the hills. Gorkhas in Darjeeling hills demand separate homeland within Indian federal structure like Vanvasis have their Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. All the political parties in the plains are unanimous in their views that the demand for a separate state is actually a conspiracy to partition Bengal for the second time. Three major political parties of the state, the CPM, Trinamool Congress and the Congress have made it their main political issue during their electioneering in North Bengal. This is the lone exception where both Mamata Banerjee and Buddhadev Bhattacharjee have buried their hatchets and ready to oppose the long cherished aspirations of the Gorkhas living for centuries in Darjeeling hills
It is only the BJP that feels the demand of the Gorkhas should be discussed in Parliament considering the strategic location, called Chicken'sNeck, of the area in North Bengal. Darjeeling hills share boundaries with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. The area is also close to China. Any ethnic unrest in this sensitive region will only harm the country'sintegrity and sovereignty. The BJP candidate for Darjeeling constituency, Jaswant Singh, while speaking at a election rally at Kurseong said, ?I have come here to integrate the region with the rest of India.? This has earned him all round support of the people in the hills as well as ethnic communities living in the foot-hills of Dooars. In fact, there is no physical existence of any political party other than the BJP in Darjeeling hills after Jaswant Singh filed his nomination for Darjeeling constituency.
Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung believes that it will be a sure victory for the BJP candidates not only in Darjeeling hills but also in the Alipurduar constituency in the Dooars. ?We will win the Alipurduar seat as demography shows a 45 per cent Gorkha votes and 25 per cent Vanvasi votes there. Not only this, Gorkha voters can influence polling results in 15 constituencies all over the country. We have more than 1.5 crore population in India. We have asked Gorkha voters to vote for the BJP only throughout the country in support of our demand for homeland,? Shri Gurung said.
Posters carrying pictures of LK Advani along with the GJM chief Bimal Gurung adorn on roads, lanes and even in serpentine by-lanes in the hills. But why Gorkhas want a separate state so desperately? Ask this simple question to any local people in Darjeeling hills and one will get an angry reply, ?We are fighting for our identity and physical existence. We do not want to end up like Bhutan's120,000 Nepalis who were thrown out from Bhutan in the Nineties. We want a homeland of our own so that no one in India calls us foreigners.?
No doubt, hills and dales divide policy of the Left during the past three decades has now boomeranged and swept out not only the Left parties but also the Congress and Trinamool Congress from the Hills as well as from the Dooars tea gardens in Alipurduar parliamentary constituency. The constituency is reserved for Scheduled Tribes and always returned RSP nominees since 1977. But this time Vanvasi workers of closed tea gardens have decided not to vote for the Left candidate. Hunger, disease and no work, as almost all tea gardens in the constituency are closed for decades have driven Vanvasis back to the wall. They are now united in their resolve not to cast a single vote for the RSP nominee. Rajesh Barla, a spokesman of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikash Parishad (ABAVP) said, ?We have been continuously sending Left candidates to Parliament and the Assembly since 1977. But they never showed any concern for us.?
In fact, Vanvasi fury against the Left was inevitable due to divide and rule policy of the Left Front government in Bengal. The Left parties have always pitted Vanvasi tea workers against Gorkhas to keep Alipurduar constituency a red bastion. Tea workers of the two communities had lived in peace and harmony till the time Left Front government assumed power in the state in 1977. Now both the communities are in a belligerent mood and decided to teach a lesson to Left bosses who are dictating terms from Writers? Buildings in Kolkata.
(VSK, Kolkata Feature Service)