21st DECEMBER, 2009 - THE TRIPARTITE MEETING
THE MINDSETS AND A FEW RELEVANT QUESTIONS
- B.B.Lamichhaney, Gangtok
Gorkhas from all over India are very keenly waiting for the outcome of the forthcoming Tripartite Meeting being held at Darjeeling between the state, the centre and the Gorkha representatives. Well it may not be the ultimate decision making meeting for the Gorkhaland issue, nevertheless, many are hopeful that it may pave a way for the future. The mindsets of the stakeholders participating may not function in unison but still a new thinking process may evolve, even from their disagreement. On the positive side there may be some points of agreement. At least they may agree to disagree which is definitely better than disagreeing to agree.
As far as the political pundits are concerned, barring some die-hard protagonists, all predict this meeting will prove to be a damp squib, a straight ‘no can do’ thing. But again, we are well aware unpredictable things do happen sometimes. One thing that is of most interest in this meeting is the appointment of the INTERLOCUTOR to oversee and mediate through the proceedings. One high ranking officer of the Gorkha Regiment is being entrusted with this tricky TASK of maintaining equilibrium between three viewpoints that are poles apart. No less a feat than capturing a Pak occupied territory. We wish him good luck.
Also this is the first time that an ‘interlocutor’ is being appointed for such a case. There is not a single instance of this kind of an appointment in the past when such meetings were held for creation of a new state under the provision of article 3(a) of the Indian Constitution. Only in a bilateral or matters of Territorial Dispute, an ‘interlocutor’ has been pressed into the service. But the ensuing tripartite meeting being neither a case of bilateral nature nor a territorial dispute an appointment of such kind has raised quite a few eyebrows.
Is the Central Government deliberately trying to confuse or complicate the matter or is it totally unaware of the raison d’etre of the Gorkhaland movement, is the question in the minds of the people following the issue with an avid interest. Does the Government think that this demand has something to do with Nepal? Or does it visualize it as other separatist demands of the north-east? Had this been the case then the presence of an interlocutor would have been justified but his presence in a simple matter of carving out a state from the already existing one smacks of some ulterior political motive. Furthermore, why an army officer is being engaged in such a matter of out and out political nature is also another intriguing question. Wouldn’t a political observer with sound knowledge about the Indian Gorkhas and the north-eastern geopolitics have been a better choice? That is, if the Government is keen on the idea of having an interlocutor at all.
Now coming to the mindsets of the participants at the tripartite meeting, there are three distinct diverse mindsets who will sit on the table and all of them will try to pull the conclusion of the discussion towards their own end.
The overall tussle will be, primarily, on the following subjects:
1- The Govt. of West Bengal representatives will try to play the ‘Development Card’ and appease the Gorkha delegation by lucrative offers like more administrative and financial power. They may even go to the extent of offering limited legislative power as given to the BODOLAND TERRITORIAL COUNCIL. But their bottom line will be – all these structural changes will be within the framework of the state of West Bengal. That is no ‘BANGA-BHANGA’.
2- The members of the Gorkha delegation will stick to their guns on the Gorkhaland Demand. For them, they will say, Gorkhaland is not a developmental issue. Indian Gorkhas have not struggled for the past hundred and two years just for the economic benefit of the people of Darjeeling. Both the Governments at the Centre and the State must see it in a broader perspective. They may put forward two strong points defining the basic reason behind the Gorkhaland movement:
(A) Though the movement is concentrated and intensified within the region of the district of Darjeeling and the adjoining Dooars area only, we believe and it is also a fact, creation of a separate state of Gorkhaland is the only solution to solve the problem of the IDENTITY CRISIS faced by the Indian Gorkhas all over India. (from the published literatures of GJMM and CPRM.)
(B) A state being the lowest unit of the governance at the national level, the Indian Gorkhas can have a participation in the national governance only if they have a state of their own, without which they will be forced to live in India as the victims of a misconstrued and misconceived identity. All the north-eastern ethnic communities who can be loosely described as the ‘un-INDIAN-like-INDIANS’, like Gorkhas, have established their pucca INDIAN IDENTITY by having a state of their own. The West Bengal Government, presenting the case of the Gorkhas as a developmental issue, has totally ignored the political aspiration of 12.5 crore Indian Gorkhas, nearly 80 per cent of whom live outside Bengal. (from the published literatures of BHARATIYA GORKHA PARISANGHA).
3- The participants from the Central Government may or may not come with a fixed agenda in mind as such. They may like to hear first what the others have to say. Definitely, they would like to play their cards close to their chest this time. It is for everybody to see that the Gorkhas have a very logical and justified case if they present it as a national issue of 12.5 million Indian Gorkhas. If the whole issue is visualized as for the ‘National Identity’ crisis of the Indian Gorkhas and not against the government of West Bengal then the state Government also has to counter it at that level, not a very easy task to perform. Now the pertinent questions rising here at this juncture will be-
(a) Will the Central Government representatives, mostly high level bureaucrats and administrators, have the acumen to understand and grasp the highly sensitive political ethos of such nature?
(b) Will they admit to the fact that the Gorkhaland issue is a national issue of the Indian Gorkhas and has a national support base?
(c) Will they realize that this issue is the most sentimental and emotional one for all the Indian Gorkhas scattered all over the country?
(d) Will they sensibly judge the magnitude of the demand and that if not handled properly the agitation, regional at present, has a potential to spill over to the other states, since they already have a strong Gorkha Organisation operating in 22 states of India?
(e) Will they be sensible enough, at least for once, and try to analyze this problem in a modern pragmatic way and abandon the old habit of depending upon the Home Ministry’s files of Nehru and Patel era?
(f) Will they have the POLITICAL WILL to give justice to the fiercely patriotic Gorkha citizens of India who want to live as Indians and die as Indians, with a place to show where they belong to?
And as for the INTERLOCUTOR sahib, I believe, he will have to burn quite a few liters of midnight oil for his homework. Till then let us keep our eyes focused on the D-DAY, the 21st Day of December, 2009.