Bimal Gurung’s return to Darjeeling sparks fresh tension among GJM factions

By Soudhriti Bhabani
Kolkata, Oct 31 : The sudden resurfacing of Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) leader Bimal Gurung, who had been absconding since 2017 after he was charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, gave birth to a whole new political equation in West Bengals hill district Darjeeling.

A faction led by Binoy Tamang, who became the president of GJM after Gurung’s disappearance, staged protests taking out rallies in the hills. The situation went so out of control that West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had to step in to iron out differences between the warring factions of the hill party. Banerjee also made it clear that Tamang would remain the chairperson of the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA).

The GTA is the regional autonomous body formed as a result of the State, Centre and the GJM tripartite agreement in 2011. Former GJM president Bimal Gurung was elected as the chief executive of the body in 2012 but he and other office bearers of the GTA had resigned on June 23, 2017 when the agitation for the separate Gorkhaland State once again gained momentum in the hills.

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According to sources at the state secretariat Nabanno, both Binoy Tamang and Anit Thapa have been called by the CM on November 3 for a meeting in the wake of the current political situation in the Darjeeling hills. When contacted by IANS repeatedly over phone, Tamang said: “I am busy”.

On October 24, supporters of Bimal Gurung raised flags with the former GJM chief’s picture in the heart of the city. Advance announcement of Bimal Gurung’s return to the hill was made. The youth wing of the GJM also staged a big procession in the town of Sonada on October 25 morning hoisting the flag which had Gurung’s picture on it, sources said.

Meanwhile, supporters of Binoy Tamang and Anit Thapa also took out a peace rally in Darjeeling town on Saturday protesting against Gurung’s return to the hills. Neither Binoy Tamang nor any of the frontline leaders of his camp were present in the procession.

An uneasy calm prevailed in the hills as Binoy or Anit Thapa never opened their mouths since Gurung announced in public that he would be supporting the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress in the coming state Assembly polls scheduled in 2021.

“We are not moving away from our Gorkhaland demand. We will only support the party which will take it forward…The Centre didn’t meet the commitment they made to us. But West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee fulfilled all promises she made,” Gurung had told a press conference in Kolkata on October 21.

He had announced that his party would snap ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre.

“I am breaking all my ties with the BJP-led NDA as they never fulfilled the promise of a separate statehood Gorkhaland. I would like to separate myself from NDA. I would like to break our relation with the BJP,” he had said.

Gurung said that GJM would now forge an alliance with the Trinamool Congress and give a befitting reply to the BJP through an electoral mandate in the hills. Gurung’s move was supported by his relatives and followers who have welcomed the former GJM chief’s decision to support Mamata Banerjee in 2021.

Gurung was charged under UAPA in connection with a grenade attack at Kalimpong police station and an explosion in Darjeeling’s Chowk Bazaar area in 2017 and he was absconding for the past three years.


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