GJM leader interview: ‘BJP won’t ever give Gorkhas a separate state …They’ve only taken our votes, not done anything’

10 years later, Gorkhaland Gorkha Regional Elections (GTA) It will be held on Sunday. Once it led to agitation for a separate Gorkhaland state, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) is a very diminished political force at present.

The GJM party led by Bimal Gurung opposes the elections and likens the opinion polls conducted by the semi-autonomous body to a “dead child”. Last month, Gurung wrote to Prime Minister Mamata Banerjee, urging her to postpone the elections. At the party office at Singmari in Darjeeling, GJM General Secretary and close aide to Gurung Roshan Giri spoke to Indian Express About the people’s hope in the party as one that can defend Gorkha interests, future GJM strategies, conflict with BJP and alliance with TMC, and changing political dynamics of Darjeeling Hills.

Excerpts:

It seems people have lost hope… Is Gurkhale a dream that can never be fulfilled?

No, we do not believe that it is a dream that cannot be achieved provided that the center realizes the aspirations of the people on earth here. The BJP will not give the Gorkha their homeland, a separate state. It (BJP) exists only to collect votes. Saying something is different but doing it really matters. We have been associated with the BJP for a long time. What did we get? Neither a state nor a tribal position. From 2009 until now they only took our votes, they did nothing for Gurkhas.

Your leader Bimal Gurung sat on an indefinite hunger strike last month, seeking to postpone the elections and expand the council’s jurisdiction. He was then taken to the hospital. What is your position now?

We rejected the GTA elections. It is full of corruption. Moreover, GTA does not even have the power to hire an employee. The GTA has no school service commission, no university commission, no provincial pension funds or people’s provident funds here. The GTA agreement was signed only on paper. From 2012 to 2022, nothing happened.

Our position is clear. We have always believed in protesting for the betterment of the Gurkhas and the people of the hills. We have been fighting for the Gorkhas and will continue to do so.

In 2017, there were 104 days of strikes to push for a separate Gurkhaland. Cases were brought against the demonstrators and many died. How do you look back at that time?

No, we moved in a very peaceful way. Some antisocial elements took the opportunity to make it a violent sensation. We did not believe in violence. We have always believed in the policy of Gandhi J. It was a mass rampage, so you can’t control people’s participation. Cases must be legally resisted. The intention was always right.

How do you view the changing political dynamics in Darjeeling since 2017?

Lots of new parties appeared. In fact, many of our cadres and leaders are competing independently in the GTA public opinion polls. They do it themselves. Yes, things have changed here but we fought for the Gurkha and we will continue to do so. People will eventually understand that it was GJM who fought for their rights.

Voting personnel are on their way to the polling booth for the GTA elections from the Darjeeling State College Distribution Center on Saturday. (Quick photo by Barta Paul)

The JEM abandoned the BJP and allied itself with the Transitional Military Council, which does not support the establishment of a separate state. What is GJM’s position now?

We want the state government to bring 396 mozas (administrative units) in the Terai and Douars regions under the umbrella of GTA. We are not fighting GTA elections. We will go to the people again and ask for their support and make them understand that only GJM is the party that works with the Gorkhas. Politically, we are in the Transitional Military Council, although they do not support the establishment of a separate state. But even the BJP does not.

Was the 2021 General Assembly election a setback for the BJP, as the BJP won two seats in Darjeeling Hills and all five constituencies in Darjeeling district?

It was certainly a setback, but we are working to strengthen the party. We severed our ties with the BJP after we understood that the BJP would not grant Gurkhas a separate state.

How do you see the sudden rise of Hamro’s party in Darjeeling?

Newcomers assure that they will work on local issues, promising them (people) things that have not actually been implemented on the ground. Hamro’s new party. People always want something new. The new is attractive, but in the end, things will be clear and people will realize that it was GJM who really fought for them. Gurkhaland is and will continue to be a problem here.

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