The most-visited mountains of eastern India, Darjeeling in West Bengal has been witnessing a prolonged unrest; however, the socio-economic issues in the mountains might still take a backseat amidst triangular political conflict.
Violence reigned supreme over the last couple of weeks as Darjeeling, the much-loved colonial hill station getaway for eastern Indian travellers; remain under the smoke of strife, strikes and a long withstanding demand of a new Gorkhaland. The normal life in the pre-monsoon tourist season is jeopardised by regular clashes between the supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and the government forces of West Bengal. While the Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader and the chief minister of the state Mamata Banerjee had to seek help from the army, the Bimal Gurung-led protesters started their demonstration primarily on the state law of having Bengali as a compulsory language all over the state.
Not only Darjeeling, neighbouring hills of Kalimpong and Kurseong is also going through serious civil turmoil. It is not just the imposition of language that has spurred the people of the hills to go for an unofficial deadlock, the closest observers assume. Issues such as poor sanitation and garbage management, a pitiable condition of drinking water infrastructure and a slowly fading GJM relevance in the hills prompted the recent unrest. While the last remains a political match between three parties trying to get a hold of the coveted mountains of West Bengal, the perennial crisis of the common mass makes it a tricky as well sensitive hotbed in East India.
#Darjeeling turns to warzone-army deployed, police vehicles injured, buses set on fire and stones pelted. Police lathicharges
— Jayatri@Mirror (@jayatrinag) June 8, 2017
Is Darjeeling becoming Kashmir?
As the ground level problems will once again get diluted in this major political blame game, the haven of picturesque mountains continues to suffer heavy loss from travel cancellations and eventually expecting a major blow to its tourism business.
The roads are blocked due to demonstrations by GJM supporters and a rampant clash between the police during last week and recently announced shutdown have made things worse.
The primary demand with which the GJM was formed was to have a separate state with parts of Siliguri and North Bengal including Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong, and Mirik. The Panchayat election results have injected fresh air to a growing difference between GJM chief Bimal Gurung and West Bengal’s chief minister, Mamata Banerjee.
Mamata Banerjee said a week earlier “Darjeeling Hill is smiling”. Today our beautiful hill is burning.
— Dev Saha (@devworld24) June 8, 2017
Darjeeling looks like a deserted place as a new strike has loomed large. While the GJM urged the people to keep their businesses closed, the supporters also tried to close down government offices in the town. Several hotels and lodges remained closed along with the Toy Train service. The main restaurants, shops and a large section of the markets along with private service giving offices hung locks in support of the GJM party.
The civil unrest in the mountains of Bengal looks ominous for the state government; on the other hand remain conducive as a playground for the BJP to play their cards in favour of Bimal Gurung. Speculations over new political allies were clear after the TMC candidate Bhaichung Bhutia lost to BJP candidate S S Ahluwalia in the last Lok Sabha election. However, the local mass of the hills ends up as the loser in this highly concocted political situation. Lack in the basics such as drinking water, sanitation and lack of a future plan that will take care of employment and usher hopes of development turns the peace loving commoners of Darjeeling mutiny-bound.
The central government along with the states should soon resolve to a more moral introspection than being politically treacherous.