With a breakthrough ending the 104-day-long blockade in the Darjeeling hills, the Union and West Bengal governments must move forthwith to consolidate the ‘truce’ and address the setback to livelihoods and the local economy suffered over this period. The announcement on ending the bandhcame from Bimal Gurung of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which had led the agitation.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s appeal to the protesters and his tentative offer of talks brought about this turnaround, but it is his specific mention of the beleaguered Mr. Gurung, who has been on the run from the West Bengal police, that made the difference. The blockade had severely hit life in the hill districts, and it is clear that local support for the agitation was waning. A section of the GJM, led by Binay Tamang, had shown an inclination to negotiate with the State government. In a move to cash in on the differences within the GJM, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had, a week ago, named Mr. Tamang the chairperson of a new board of administrators to head the now-defunct Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, which had been set up in 2012 as a semi-autonomous body with substantive powers. This followed statements from Mr. Tamang asking for a pause in the stir pending talks between the State government and rebel GJM members and allies. Mr. Gurung now found an opening in Mr. Singh’s appeal. While the Minister did not commit to “tripartite talks” on the separate statehood issue as demanded by the GJM, he promised discussions on other issues while impliedly recognising the leadership of the official faction. That the blockade truly ended after Mr. Gurung’s call suggests that the official faction of the GJM enjoys considerably more support in the hills than the rebels.
The current impasse is a direct outcome of the failure to substantively devolve power to the GTA as promised. While this summer’s agitation was sparked by grievances over Ms. Banerjee’s initial statement about Bengali being made a compulsory language of study in the State, the stir revived the demand for statehood. Put together, the maximalist position of the agitators, the discomfort within the BJP government at the Centre on officially responding to such aspirations, and Ms. Banerjee’s ploy of using the issue to sharpen a Bengali chauvinist appeal in the rest of the State to gain more support for her Trinamool Congress, all contributed to the stalemate. Mr. Singh’s appeal provided a face-saver to the GJM. The State government has suggested that it is not averse to tripartite talks over some of the GJM’s demands, but it is not clear whether Ms. Banerjee will agree to talk to Mr. Gurung. Talks involving the Centre, the State government and the GJM are, however, essential. This is the best mechanism to discuss the empowerment of the GTA, which is necessary to address the grievances of the residents of Darjeeling.
Forthwith: immediately; without delay.
Example: We undertake to pay forthwith the money required
Synonyms: immediately, at once, instantly, directly, right away
Consolidate: combine a number of things into a single more effective or coherent whole.
Example: All manufacturing activities have been consolidated in new premises
Synonyms: combine, unite, merge, integrate, amalgamate, fuse
Truce: an agreement between enemies or opponents to stop fighting or arguing for a certain time.
Example: The guerrillas called a three-day truce
Synonyms: ceasefire, armistice, suspension of hostilities, peace
Agitation: a state of anxiety or nervous excitement.
Example: She was wringing her hands in agitation
Tentative: not certain or fixed.
Example: A tentative conclusion
Synonyms: provisional, unconfirmed, penciled in, iffy, preliminary
Beleaguer: lay siege to.
Example: He is leading a relief force to the aid of the beleaguered city
Synonyms: besieged, under siege, blockaded, surrounded
Blockade: an act or means of sealing off a place to prevent goods or people from entering or leaving.
Example: There was a blockade of humanitarian aid
Synonyms: siege, besiegement; barricade, barrier, roadblock, obstacle
Inclination: a person’s natural tendency or urge to act or feel in a particular way.
Example: John was a scientist by training and inclination
Synonyms: tendency, propensity, proclivity, leaning, predisposition, disposition
Defunct: no longer existing or functioning.
Example: A now defunct technology that only people over a certain age remember
Synonyms: disused, unused, inoperative, nonfunctioning, unusable, obsolete
Substantive: having a firm basis in reality and therefore important, meaningful, or considerable.
Example: There is no substantive evidence for the efficacy of these drugs
Impasse: a situation in which no progress is possible, especially because of disagreement; a deadlock.
Example: The current political impasse
Synonyms: deadlock, dead end, stalemate, standoff, standstill, halt
Devolve: transfer or delegate (power) to a lower level, especially from central government to local or regional administration.
Example: Measures to devolve power to the provinces
Synonyms: delegate, depute, pass (down/on), download, hand down/over/on
Grievance: a real or imagined wrong or other cause for complaint or protest, especially unfair treatment.
Example: Failure to redress genuine grievances
Synonyms: injustice, wrong, injury, ill, unfairness, affront, insult, indignity
Revive: restore to life or consciousness.
Example: Both men collapsed, but were revived
Synonyms: resuscitate, bring around, bring back to consciousness; regain consciousness
Ploy: a cunning plan or action designed to turn a situation to one’s own advantage.
Example: The president has dismissed the referendum as a ploy to buy time
Synonyms: ruse, tactic, move, device, stratagem, scheme, trick
Averse: having a strong dislike of or opposition to something.
Example: As a former CIA director, he is not averse to secrecy
Synonyms: opposed to, against, antipathetic to, hostile to, ill-disposed to
Empowerment: authority or power given to someone to do something.
Example: Individuals are given empowerment to create their own dwellings