Redrawing the map of Gorkhaland
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There is an indefinite bandh in Darjeeling and tourists have been stranded. What is happening there?
The three hill subdivisions of Darjeeling district—Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong—have been closed down for an indefinite period by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) as part of their agitation for the formation of a separate state of Gorkhaland. The GJM, formed late in 2007, has revived the demand for Gorkhaland and has been holding protests and rallies in support of a state that is to be carved out of West Bengal.
What is the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and who is leading it?
The GJM was formed by Bimal Gurung, earlier a councillor of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council. He was a close associate of Subhas Ghising, president of the Gorkha National Liberation Force (GNLF). The two fell out in 2007 over the attempt to extend 6th Schedule status to Darjeeling. Under the 6th Schedule of the Indian Constitution, certain tribal-majority areas are given autonomy in administration. While the GNLF wanted the 6th Schedule status with enhanced powers for the Hill Council, the GJM desired full statehood. The Centre introduced the 6th Schedule to the Constitution Amendment Bills in Parliament in December 2007 but it was shelved.
So where is Subhas Ghising and what has happened to the GNLF?
While the GNLF exists as a political organisation, almost its entire support base has moved to the GJM. After a visit to Kolkata in March this year, Ghising was barred from entering Darjeeling by the GJM until he resigned as caretaker administrator of the Hill Council. The term of the last Hill Council expired in 2004, and no elections were held thereafter. The West Bengal Government appointed Ghising as caretaker administrator, extending his term every six months until his resignation in March. Thereafter, Ghising has remained confined to his home in Darjeeling.