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Hills aren’t alive to ‘Uttarakhand State’

The Indian Express
June 07 1997

Gopeshwar : The hill people are exhausted. With the regular rallies and dharnas in favour of a separate Uttarakhand state having got them nowhere, the people’s disillusionment is evident more than ever before. “Even if we get a separate Hill State, our fate will remain the same. We are not going to get government jobs and are destined to earn our livelihood selling milk, washing pots or driving taxis,” says Pushkar Singh Bisht.

Bisht, a taxi driver, echoes the general feeling of the hill people. And today, it is because of this feeling of hopelessness that regional leaders are finding it difficult to revive the Uttarakhand movement.

“Till a year ago when we would take out processions to mark the killings at Ramur Tiraha, we had a tough time controlling the crowd,” recalls local activist Bhagwati Prasad Bhatt. “Now we are having a tough time collecting a few individuals for the torch processions,” he says.

Yet rabble-rousers are not discouraged by the people’s cold response. They are desperately trying to turn the public opinion in favour of the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD) threatened to launch a movement if the Centre failed to implement last year’s announcement according statehood to Uttarakhand by August 15.

The UKD’s threat to the Centre is being perceived here as the party’s last-ditch attempt to some how rise from the shadows of the drubbing it received during the last Assembly elections.

“The UKD may not be able to retrieve its lost ground,” says an analyst,” because of its failure to revive the Uttarakhand Movement.” People, tired of dharnas and processions, are now beginning to feel that UT status for Uttarakhand would be far more advantageous than statehood. The turn around is surprising considering the innumerable sacrifices the hill people have made since 1994 to achieve their goal of a separate Hill State.

According to analysts, the UT status suits the hill folk for two reasons. First, they seem to have realised that the United Front (UF) Government, being in a minority is finding it difficult to implement its promise of according statehood to the nine hill districts of Uttarakhand. Another reason is the growing realisation that regional leader’s may not be able to run the affairs of the State properly.