Evolving Politics in Darjeeling District

By Dr. D.N.S Dhakal                    Published Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Darjeeling district has been the focus of political attention in North Bengal since the foundation of Gorkha League in the 1950s. The struggle had been to secure political space in the greater politics of India leveraging the Gorkha connection in the Indian Army.

The struggle took a different turn when Subash Ghising appeared in the Hill’s politics. His violent agitation took the toll on Darjeeling’s intelligentsia which was once considered bedrock of Nepali culture and literate even by King Mahendra of Nepal.

Rally in celebration of the declaration of Kalimpong District n welcoming Dr Harka Bhadur Chettri

File photo

Ghising’s understudy Bimal Gurung usurped power by forming Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) in which he provided space for retired civil servants, columnists and college teachers to participate in Hills politics. This created breathing space to help overcome fear psychology of violent politics under Ghising’s Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF).

At present, there are intellectuals active in Hills politics. Dr Harka Bahadur Chettri, standing member of Legislative Assembly, has formed Jan Andolan Party (JAP) by breaking away from GJM. Dr Chettri is expected to work in close collaboration with ruling Trimul Congress in the upcoming state election.

Professor Mahendra P Lama, who fought Lok Sabah seat from Darjeeling district as an independent candidate, is steering political movement under the banner of development forum. His aim is to create an economically viable state in North Bengal where Gorkha people and other minorities could share power with majority community.

The ruling Trimul Congress has its own agenda to loosen the grip of tribal politics. Mamata Banerjee has set up development boards for each tribe in the Hills. There are almost a half-dozen development boards, and more are in the pipeline. Eventually, that is expected to halt a sharp division between the hills and plains peoples while creating a strong sense of completion among different ethnic groups.

The left front is not able to make a comeback in the Hills. Formation of breakaway communist faction (CPRM) and the demise of Anand Pathak have created confusion and vacuum among the Ghorkhali communists.

Except for the brutal murder of Madan Tamang, the post-Ghising Darjeeling is crawling towards normalcy. By aligning with BJP Bimal Gurung has created goodwill in Delhi though there are few takers at present for his pet agenda of Gorkhaland. Nevertheless, it has provided an opportunity for the mainstream party like BJP to understand psychology and aspiration of Gorkhali people which is likely to have the positive impact on the welfare of spread-out Diaspora in the northeast.