October 25, 2008


Kolkata, 23rd October (INN): Whenever there is a signpost in English or Bengali, the Gorkhaland Mukti Morcha (GJM) goons would be sure to spot and ladling it over with glue, stick on crude, handwritten graffito that would say ‘Gorkhaland (GL) government.’ The GJM has been doing this for some time now, and the GJM sympaticos have written extensively and for a long time now, on the divisive newspaper Darjeeling Times that actively espouses the cause of the separatist hungmawallahs, proclaiming how the ‘revolution’ can only be achieved by forcefully advocating a change in the signboards, shamelessly and unconstitutionally calling upon certain hill social groups to become free from the ‘discriminating reign of the plains people.’ Apparently, the forced change in the signposts is held up as a banner that proclaims the ‘first step towards separation – and a even more liberating times farther on,’ according to one GJM supporter.

The Bengal unit secretary of the CPI (M) Biman Basu has been strident in castigating the move clearly and directly-- calling the ruse unconstitutional and attracting of punishment as an offence against the Indian Constitution. The Darjeeling CPI (M) has strongly condemned the separatist moves but has stopped short of direct confrontation, leaving the matter to be sorted out during the much-awaited tri-partite meeting between the central and the state governments and the fractious and quarrelling GJM leadership. Over telephone, the state home secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty informed us that ‘all legal steps would be initiated against the perpetrators of these acts.’

The dangerous dimension of the movement was seen by us recently whilst on trip to north Bengal. Such graffito ‘transference’ of administrative authority has spread –well, trickled down would be a better politically correct term – across the plains as well. We saw such acts of what we can dub and condemn as ‘hasty pasting,’ on signposts and signboards in the plains as well, especially in Naxalbari in Darjeeling where the Kanu Sanyal fraction of the CPI (M-L) is active yet, and at Banarhaat and Bagrokote in the district of Jalpaiguri dooars areas.

The ‘signpost disfiguring movement’ actually started several months back, unnoticed by most political outfits in the hills. The beginning comprised surreptitious pasting of ‘GL’ on the license plates of cars and all other motor vehicles. We were present on one such occasion when a car had its number plate disfigured. This is what happened and we quote from our later entry in the notebook that we carry.

I recall the date and time perfectly. I was taking a stroll on the mall at the ‘queen of the hill resorts’ in Bengal, on a rainy morning of 22 June and the time was exactly nine hours. I espied a shiny new car – one of those new-fangled foreshortened hatchbacks – slip by me. What was that on the number plate? Was it a ‘GL?’

I was stumped, bi-focals and all. I strolled towards where the car had parked and the man at the steering was about to get off, shopping bag at the ready. The harassed-looking man was in a hurry too as the ‘unlimited’ bandh had just been taken off for a day or so.

I peered, and then asked courteously, what is with the number plate, sir? Well, it seemed GJM chieftain Gurung (of whom a certain woman leader of a violent outfit is so politically-ideationally enamoured ) and his henchmen had just decreed an ‘order’ for all motor vehicles plying in the hill areas to stick a piece of something on the number plate with the letters GL prominently displayed. An order in the hills is an order where the separatist outfits go.

The man furtively slipped away guiltily and I was left staring at the small square of paper with the appropriate letters, hastily glued askew on the legitimate registered number starting with a ‘WB zero dash’ followed by the vehicles assigned, registered serial number. Is this something that is possible to do?

No, says Bengal LF government’s transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, and he is quite correct. The letters WB are assigned for Bengal just as the letters MH, to take a random example, are referred to for Maharashtra and both are done at the behest of the union government.

It is the union government alone that can assign letters and numerals for registered motor vehicles for purposes of identification and registration, and this is a worldwide reality.

Gurung’s formal request in this regard, sent post facto, to the transport minister during the later afternoon hours of 30 June, has legitimately been turned down. Nevertheless, the growingly public and brash attempts at subverting the Indian Constitution go on.

Gurung’s game lies elsewhere.

By initiating in the hill areas of the Darjeeling district, the (clearly illegitimate) debate in a move to ‘legitimise’ ‘Gorkhaland’ through the backdoor, Gurung, his cronies, and his advisors in the hills and on the dooars are playing a pretty dangerous game, a game replete with violent implications.

Then again, when did Gurung and his lackeys clearly deny that the demand for ‘Gorkhaland’ would remain free of the use of ‘legitimate force of the people?’ Read the pieces that appear in the Darjeeling Times and you would have no doubt about the pure hatred the Gurung men and women preaches and practices.
B. Prasant

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