Thursday, February 28, 2008

Morcha warns govts and rivals - Two decades on, women switch roles

Kalimpong, Feb. 27: Thousands of women have joined the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in its agitation for statehood. Two decades ago, the scene was different: women at best were passive participants in the movement for Gorkhaland led by the GNLF.

Conversations that The Telegraph had with a crosssection of women reveal that the sudden show of strength is not a result of the Morcha strategy alone, but a paroxysm of anger against the 21 years of GNLF rule.

Not that everybody is ready to admit it. One of them is Urmila Rumba, the convener of the Gorkha Janmukti Nari Morcha. While she agreed that resentment against the GNLF was the catalyst for the current uprising, she rejected the notion that the agitation was entirely spontaneous. “Women’s participation you see today in the agitation is a result of the groundwork done by our core committee,” Rumba said over phone from Darjeeling.

In Darjeeling and its surrounding areas alone, Rumba said, her organisation had formed more than 140 units. “We started from the tea gardens. We explained to women how Subash Ghisingh was fooling us all these years.”

She may have a point, but the pace with which the political tide has turned against Ghisingh suggests that women were waiting for an opportunity to express themselves. Or, it could be, as many analysts said, that the Morcha succeeded in bringing the disgruntled people under its umbrella.

A combination of factors, not least the Prashant Tamang phenomenon, created a situation in which people joined together to vent their anger on the authorities, said an analyst.

The political language of Bimal Gurung, too, seemed to have motivated the women. Non-violence and democratic means of protest had struck a chord with the women. “We found that the Morcha could provide leadership in a democratic movement and play an important role in realising the goal of Gorkhaland,” said Nanita Gautam, the Nari Morcha’s Kalimpong convener.

There were many instances in the past few weeks when women had reined in excited men at the slightest hint of trouble. “As mothers and sisters, we don’t want our sons and brothers to get caught in the circle of violence. Ghisingh did that to an entire generation in the eighties, but what was its outcome,” Gautam asked.