Gorkhaland, Mamata and the Chinese factor by Imran Chowdhury

Gorkhaland, Mamata and the Chinese factor by Imran Chowdhury

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Just a few days ago I warned two young student leaders in Darjeeling of West Bengal, against the violent movement which has started there for a separate Gorkhaland. I told them in no way should they support this demand. This has multifarious geo-political risks. If a Gorkhaland state is formed, this will be the second split of Bengal since 1905. Its political significance is of Himalayan dimensions and the people of West Bengal have a historical obligation to prevent it.

From the very outset, I was certain that the unrest in Darjeeling was suddenly provoked in order to create pressure on the Chicken Neck, that is, the Shilliguri corridor. PK Balachandra’s column reflected exactly what I feared. During Narendra Modi’s American trip, he wrote about the China attack on the border of Sikkim, which had been peaceful for quite a few years. ‘By its action on Monday, China has also shown that it can strike Indian interests at a most critical point, namely, the tri-junction between Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet and threaten the Siliguri corridor. The Siliguri corridor is the chicken neck linking West Bengal and Assam as Bangladesh juts into the space between West Bengal and Assam. The Siliguri area in West Bengal is particularly vulnerable now in the context of the violent agitation of the Gorkhas of North Bengal for an autonomous Gorkhaland.’

Believable or not, India’s ruling party BJP and West Bengal’s Trinamool Congress have aided and abetted this in some way. Both Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and West Bengal’s BJP president Dilip Ghosh have instigated further agitation rather than calming things down. Firstly, upon coming to power, Mamata Banerjee formed the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, thus giving recognition to the name ‘Gorkhaland’. And BJP has openly expressed its support for the Gorkhaland state. In fact, it is no longer a secret that it was at the instigation of BJP’s state leader Dilip Ghosh that violence flared up in Darjeeling under Gorkha leadership last month.

If the equation is laid out systematically, the results will be disastrous. A few days ago I had written that China becoming active in Bangladesh, means that it is becoming active in West Bengal too. Many of us are aware of what’s happening in Nepal. In recent times, China at times sends its consul general, sometimes its ambassador in Delhi, to Kolkata to build a bond with Mamata.

Right back from 2011 I have been thinking that Mamata can’t be viewed on the same footing as the chief ministers of India’s other states. She was quite a favourite with America for managing to topple the firmly established left rule in West Bengal. That is why Hilary Clinton, US Secretary of State at the time, dropped in to pat Mamata Banerjee on the back while returning from her Dhaka visit in 2012. It is apparent that Mamata is in China’s good books too. This will have an impact of the next elections in West Bengal. Unlike rural polls, this will not be a simple game of local muscle!


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