Saturday, March 01, 2008

Darjeeling strike called off, Ghising to quit soon

Sougata Mukhopadhyay / CNN-IBN

Kolkata: The Gorkha rebels have finally broken their 13-day long hunger strike.

The Bengal government has accepted their demands to scrap the proposed tribal status for the people of the hills under the Constitution’s Sixth Schedule

The government also pacified them by assuring them that Gorkha National Liberation Front leader Subhas Ghising would be removed from the post of caretaker chairman within the next 10 days.

“We are fighting for your rights. We fasted for nine days and will even fast for 9,000 days if we need to,” says a hunger striker, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM).

The government has always been uneasy about Ghising and his demands, but could do little to tame the maverick leader for the past two decades.

Increasing support for the rebels in the hills, however, gave the government the opportunity it was looking for.

“He corrupted a whole lot of things and misused crores of rupees. He siphoned off money from funds of rations, Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, and even from roads and drinking water. We didn't question because the Bengal government was supposed to monitor and do audits, which it didn't,” says President, GJM, Bimal Gurung.

But the victory has also emboldened the newly formed GJM, which sees this as the first step in achieving their demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.

“An evil has crossed our path and we are throwing it out. The cat was obstructing our path to Gorkhaland and we are only getting it removed,” says Gurung.

So the West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's relief at having ended the crisis could well be short lived because in the process of removing one thorn from its flesh, the West Bengal government might just have stepped on another.