Despite Mutual Interest, Gurung and Tamang Not Ready For a Truce

Bimal Gurung returned to the hills after 3 years, but his rival faction is unhappy. Threats have been exchanged. 

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Politics
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Bimal Gurung Returns A Folk Hero, But His Nemesis Awaits
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A fresh threat to Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM or GJM) leader Bimal Gurung came in the form of a viral video of a man resembling Kunal Pradhan, an anti-Gurung faction leader where he is threatening to kill Gurung if he comes to Kalimpong. This threat, ahead of Gurung’s visit Kalimpong on January 7, simply reiterated the fact that the two factions of the GJM led by Bimal Gurung and Binoy Tamang respectively are not ready to call a truce, despite similar interests.

Gurung returned to the hills after nearly three years of hiding, to a huge crowd waiting to welcome him like a folk hero. He will be holding a public meeting in Kalimpong and subsequent meetings in Kurseong, Mirik, Siliguri, Terrai and Dooars. This comes after the Gurung camp decided to form a national body, and also use the original ‘Morcha’ flag, which is also used by the anti-Gurung faction.

Almost immediately, he reiterated his support for the Trinamool Congress and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. A ray of hope for the TMC who has been trying to make their inroads in Darjeeling for 10 years. Previously, it was the BJP which had been winning the seats in the region since 2009 with Gurung’s support.

BJP was planning to win 49 seats with our support in north Bengal, we will now show BJP by making Mamata CM for the third time...The BJP has not only deceived me, but they have deceived the Gorkha ‘jaati’ and the Gorkhas will punish it 
Bimal Gurung, GJM Leader

With Gurung’s support, the BJP had won seven out of the eight seats in North Bengal (Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Raiganj, Balurghat, North Malda and South Malda), while the TMC failed to win even a single one, in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

We trusted the BJP blindly and helped them win three times in the general elections, along with the MLA and panchayat elections, but they did not give us even a nail. The Darjeeling MP has said that he would bring in Gorkhaland, but they did not even fulfil our tribal status demand. They might have thought that Bimal Gurung will not be able to return to the Hills, so they utilised us. This is why I changed our political course. 
Bimal Gurung, GJM Leader

While a huge crowd maybe a testament to the support that he still commands in Darjeeling, his return did not go down well with the Binoy Tamang and Anit Thapa led anti-Gurung faction of the GJM. Shortly before Gurung went underground, the GJM had split wide open in 2017 during the unrest in Darjeeling over the Gorkhaland agitation, and since then have been at odds with each other.

Bimal Gurung vs Binoy Tamang

Gurung was quick to show his resentment towards his counterpart upon his return. He firstly declared himself the rightful leader of the Morcha before launching a scathing attack on Tamang and Thapa.

Binay Tamang and Anit Thapa will have to leave the Hills within the next 15 days.
Bimal Gurung, GJM Leader

He alleged that “the two had sold off our community” and that they “lost (the elections) because they betrayed the people”. Tamang wasn’t the one to sit quietly. The anti-Gurung faction reiterated their support for the CM and warned that “Gurung could betray anytime”.

We have full faith in the chief minister but I request the state government not to keep two khukris (traditional Gorkha knife) in one sheath. There can be bloodshed.
Anit Thapa, GJM Leader

The two parties have been attacking each other and also exchanging threats at their respective rallies, ever since Gurung’s return. There were allegations that the Gurung camp tried to capture Tamang’s party office at Lebong on 30 December but the latter managed to regain control.

While both the factions seem unlikely to call a truce or work with each other, the predicament lies with the Trinamool Congress who both the parties support.

Being Bimal Gurung

He was once Gorkha National Liberation Front’s (GNLF) president Subash Ghising’s right-hand man, after joining it in1986. They fought for the separate state for the Gorkhas in the Darjeeling district.

Experts argue that the Sixth Schedule which was granted to Darjeeling catapulted Gurung’s rise to power. 

He was expelled from the party in 2007 after which he formed the GJM. He fought against the Sixth Schedule calling it a ploy to weaken the demand for a separate autonomous state. The GJM took to the streets to protest against the memorandum as well as Ghising.

In February 2008, Ghising was not allowed to enter the hills after his trip from Delhi as GJM workers had blocked all entry points to the hills. This officially made Gurung the undisputed hero for the cause.

After the TMC came to power, Gurung signed the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) which set up a second regional body led by him. His relationship with Banerjee severed as she announced the formation of different development boards for communities in Darjeeling in the run-up to the 2016 Assembly Elections. Gurung described this as a “divide-and-rule” policy.

Reportedly the move weakened Gurung’s hold over the Gorkhas as a unified community which resulted in him going back to his old ways of confrontational politics.

He relaunched the demand for a separate state and filed a plea in the Supreme Court against the WB government over not transferring adequate administrative power to the GTA. In June 2017, GJM took to the streets in agitation after the state government had made Bengali compulsory in school, later made optional in the hills. Police raided Gurung’s residence the same month leading him to call for an indefinite strike in the hills.

GJM Splits Wide Open

The GJM split wide open over the decision to withdraw the indefinite strike. Party joint secretary Binoy Tamang, after a meeting with the Morcha central committee, had announced a temporary suspension of the strike till 12 September. However, Gurung rejected the decision.

12 September 2017 was the date of the second round of talks with the state government. Earlier, Banerjee had appealed to withdraw the strike in order to restore normalcy in the region. Despite Tamang’s refusal, the decision to call the strike off was announced, after the GJM delegation returned from Kolkata from a meeting with the state government and held an emergency meeting with the central committee. Gurung, however, was not a part of the meeting.

This marked the split in the party, one being the Bimal Gurung faction, which continued to lend its support to the BJP (since 2009), and the other being the anti-Gurung faction, which lent its support to the TMC post this. Many have alleged that Banerjee had engineered the split. 

Shortly after this, Gurung and his associate Roshan Giri fled after violence during the agitation claimed the life of a police officer Amitabha Malik. Bimal was booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and was slapped with criminal charges under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and turned a fugitive from that fateful day when he disappeared from his hideout in the jungle evidently to avoid police arrest.

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