Monday, 6 April 2020

The Politics Of Divide And Rule

Updated: August 24, 2013 11:09 am

One year ahead of the general elections, the Congress led UPA government is mired in corruption, rising prices, internal strife and failed governance. It has tried to give itself a breather by attempting to gain popular support from its nod to the formation of Telangana, but this move too has blown up in their face, it had ended up in a mess, with violent repercussions.

The statehood demands for Gorkhaland, Karbi Anglong, Bodoland in the North East, Vidarbha in the West, demand for a separate Leh and Jammu in the North etc. have been manifested in the form of bandhs, rallies and violence. The Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati too has revived her three-year-old demand of splitting Uttar Pradesh into four states—Purvanchal, Bundelkhand, Awadh Pradesh and Pashchim Pradesh.

The nation has seen separatist movements in the eastern and northeastern part ever since it became a republic. These have remained political issues with little support from people. However, these hydra headed demands, keep surfacing intermittently. This time, after the declaration of Telangana, rallies and violence have been reported in Assam and Bengal, forcing the Centre to ask security forces to stay extra vigilant to counter law and order problems.

In Assam’s Karbi Anglong, agitators belonging to Karbi Students Association and Karbi Riso Adorba attacked the houses of Congress MP Birensing Ingti and MLA Bidyasing Engleng. The demand for separate Karbi Anglong state was first raised in 1951. The banned militant outfit, Karbi Peoples’ Liberation Tigers (KPLT), has now threatened an indefinite bandh if the issue is not taken up in Parliament’s monsoon session.

Similarly, the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) has also threatened to launch a mass movement for Bodoland. The executive council of the Bodoland Territorial Council has decided to adopt a resolution to demand creation of a separate state and has sent a delegation to the Union Home Ministry. Meanwhile, blockades and bandhs have also been called in the state of Assam. The movement which began in the 1970s saw an accord being inked between the NDA government and ABSU which led to the formation of the Bodoland Territorial Council under the Sixth Schedule in 2003. ABSU leaders said they had accepted the BTC as the NDA government had said there was no policy for creation of another state. “But now as the Centre has approved the creation of Telangana state, a separate Bodoland state should also be created,” an ABSU leader said.

Gorkhaland: The Gorkha Janam-ukti Morcha (GJM) which supports Gorkhaland has launched an indefinite strike in North Bengal. “Our demand for Gorkhaland is older than the demand for Telangana. If the Centre announces a Telangana state then it should also declare a Gorkhaland state,” GJM leader Bimal Gurung said. He too is heading a delegation which is now in Delhi to push forth the demand. “The people are on the streets in support of their demand for Gorkhaland. The state government cannot stifle their voices. We want Gorkhaland. It is our legitimate and constitutional demand,” the Morcha leader said.

On the other hand, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee has made it clear when she said “Darjeeling is part and parcel of West Bengal. There is no question of division of West Bengal. We are united, we will be united and we will be together”. Apparently referring to the recent visit by a six member GJM team headed by its General Secretary Roshan Giri to Delhi, Mamata Banerjee alleged “I am sorry to say, I will write to Prime Minister whether it was a right step or not that some central ministers invited three or four Morcha leaders to Delhi some days back.”

Accusing a few Central Ministers of the Congress led UPA government without naming anyone, Mamata Banerjee said “a meeting was also held with them. They have reported back that some Central leaders have advised them to revive their movement in Darjeeling hills. There was also an assurance of according autonomy to them. A union territory without taking consent of the state? It is funny. Is it a lollipop in a child’s hand?” Stating that peace had been prevailing in Darjeeling and would continue, she said “I request the Centre that has responsibility to see that peace is not disturbed in Darjeeling.”

Trinamool Congress General Secretary Mukul Roy and close aid of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also accused the centre saying, “The centre is instigating it for political purpose which is unfair and unethical”.

The Congress on the other hand has said that the Centre did not provide any instigation in the hills and the TMC was accusing it as it could not manage the situation. “The Centre did not give any instigation. They can’t manage the situation and that is why they are accusing the Centre,” WBPCC President Pradip Bhattacharya, MP, said. “They used to say that the hills are smiling. Now when the hills are crying, they have sought central forces. The Centre has given the forces,” Pradip Bhattacharya also suggested the state government should convene an all-party meeting on the situation in the hills.

The Left, who was at the helm of affairs in the state for 34 years. Stand in the dock as it was under its rule the GNLF was formed. Criticizing the pact between the Centre, State and the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha, Left front Chairman Biman Bose said “We had said the pact was a complete eyewash, our Chief Minister is all the time saying Darjeeling is smiling, shinning smile. This result is now known to all of us to see.”

Gorkhas demanded for a separate state for themselves from the British and have been reiterating their demand ever since independence. In 1980s, Gorkha leader Subhash Ghising led a violent agitation seeking autonomy. Consequently in 1988, the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, a body with certain administrative powers, was formed. After Mamata Banerjee took over as West Bengal’s chief minister, she formed the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration dissolving Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, giving the Gorkhas a semblance of an autonomous administration.

Ahead of the general elections 2009 in India, the BJP announced its policy of having smaller states and promised to create two more states, Telangana and Gorkhaland, if they won the general election. GJM supported the candidature of Jaswant Singh of the BJP, who later won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat with 51.5 per cent votes in his favor. Although, during the July 2009 budget session of Parliament, three Parliamentarians— Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Sushma Swaraj and Jaswant Singh —strongly pleaded for creating a state of Gorkhaland, it went unheard. Now just before general elections of 2014, the UPA has declared the formation of Telangana and the repercussion are to be seen everywhere.

After the general elections 2009, when the UPA government was formed under the leadership of the Congress, a renewed demand for separate statehood was stirred up after when New Delhi approved the formation of Telangana state (a decision, the Congress party-led government later backtracked on, choosing instead to form a five-member panel to assess the issue.). In 2011, the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha and the state and federal government signed an agreement forming a new autonomous body – the GTA – to govern regional affairs making the Chief of Gorkha Janamukti Morcha, Bimal Gurung as the Head of GTA. But now Bimal Gurung has resigned from the Post following the demand of separate Gorkhaland.

Whether in centre or the state, political parties have taken advantage of the people time and again. The division and formation of states within the states is justifiable or not is a matter of conjunction, but repeated playing with the sentiments of the people for mere political gains is not at all justified.

By Joydeep Dasgupta

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