Sougata Mukhopadhyay / CNN-IBN
CNN-IBN takes you inside Darjeeling, a region, which many now believe should be called Gorkhaland. The Gorkhaland demand is one that not only includes Darjeeling, but also Siliguri, Terai and Dooars in its domain – places that the Gorkha leaders believe they are in striking distance of.
Siliguri (Darjeeling): Drills are carried out on the outskirts of Darjeeling town to recruit the youth in the hills of Bengal for the Gorkhaland Personnel (GLP).
This group is meant to act as an independent force for the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM)
GJM is the organisation that has renewed the demand for the separate state of Gorkhaland after two decades. Under the garb of a social service group it’s, for all practical purposes, a cadre force to run a parallel civic and law and order administration in the hills of Darjeeling.
Recruiter Gorkhaland Personnel, K Tshering Bhutia says, “We are going to teach the youth about the IPC, CrPC, Indian Police Act. Also motivating them is very important. We shall have to tell them that you will have to further our aims and objectives and realise our dream, our only dream that is Gorkhaland.”
And there is dearth of excitement amongst the GLP aspirants. Most want to achieve and believe they can achieve Gorkhaland and post that, they want to get into social work.
Raising an autonomous police force for the hills, which could duplicate as the people’s army when required, is a clear indication that the GJM already has one foot firmly grounded on statehood.
To achieve Gorkhaland is over a century old aspiration of the multi-ethnic Gorkhas of Darjeeling hills. However, it gathered momentum in the mid-80s when Subhas Ghising-led Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) ensued a violent struggle, which killed over 1,200 people. Ghising settled for an autonomous hill council but failed to address the identity crisis of the Gorkhas. Scholars trace root of the crisis to a certain mindset.
Former Teacher Loreto College Darjeeling, Amar Rai says, “Why do people still call us foreigners? Just because we have a state near Nepal and they associate us Indian Nepalese with Nepal? I think there lies the problem of identity and that is why this demand for a separate state has become strong.”
In the recent past, the Gorkha demand has resorted to violence, which has spread in the adjacent plains of Siliguri and the hills have witnessed phases of indefinite bandh. GJM leaders like Amar Lama – who is a Central Committee member – justify the Gorkha ethnicity.
“In Darjeeling, Gorkha is not a race. It’s a way of life. Here Gorkhas include even the Bengali. Everybody speaks Nepali language. So language is our common thread,” says Lama.
That’s the long-term goal which the new generation rebel Gorkhas are hell bent on achieving in the days to come.
But who are these new generation leaders who have fired the imagination of the hill people two decades after Ghising’s so-called surrender before the Centre and the Bengal government? Here is a look into their background.
Sougata Mukhopadhyay / CNN-IBN