Heinous act

The brutal murder of Akhil Bhartiya Gorkha League (ABGL) president Madan Tamang in broad daylight on a Darjeeling street is an indication of the violent political culture practised by the dominant Gorkha outfit Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) led by Bimal Gurung and the failure of the West Bengal government to protect the lives of citizens. Tamang was killed in the presence of many policemen who were supposed to protect him. It was well-known he was a target of the GJM which had gained ascendancy in Darjeeling through threats, terror and murder of political opponents. It had eclipsed Subhash Ghising’s Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) and has been holding the people and the government to ransom on the demand for a separate state and acceptance as the sole representative of  the people.

Tamang was also a supporter of statehood but he advocated a more moderate line, opposing the strong-arm tactics of the GJM including blockades, violence and intimidation. He also exposed the corruption of the GJM leadership. He had the courage to advocate democratic politics in a milieu vitiated by authoritarianism. Gurung had threatened to banish him from the hills as he was seen to be weaning away GJM supporters. The lack of progress in the Gorkhaland talks had on one side created discontent and on the other made the GJM more militant. However, the state government could not anticipate the punishment that the GJM had decided to impose on Madan Tamang. It does not help calling the GJM a fascist force, after it had struck. The government’s policy of appeasement and inaction in the case of Ghising’s GNLF once and later in the case of GJM was responsible for shrinking the space for democratic politics in Darjeeling. It also sent out the wrong message that militancy pays.

Tamang’s killing underlines the importance of taking forward the tripartite talks. The talks broke down recently on the GJM’s demand for greater territorial jurisdiction for the proposed Darjeeling Regional Authority while the state government was willing to discuss only greater devolution of powers. It should be made clear to the GJM that its coercive tactics will not be accepted. The first thing the government should do is to assert its authority and enforce the rule of law in Darjeeling.

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