A New Gorkhaland State: How Justified is the Demand?

The famed and famous honeymoon haunt of Darjeeling is again in the news, this time for a wrong reason. The Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM) almost barred the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police from entering Darjeeling recently thereby forcing both the DM and SP to cool their heels in Siliguri for almost five days before they were finally allowed in. GJMM’s decision followed skirmishes between the police and its supporters in Siliguri where the latter were demonstrating to press their demand for a new Gorkhaland state.

During the said skirmish, many policemen and GJMM supporters including ex-servicemen were badly injured. The government wisely decided against advising DM and SP to force their way into the district so as not to precipitate things further. The wisdom somewhere also emanated from the way things turned out in recent past in such far flung places as Singur, Nandigram, Cochbehar and Dinhata in West Bengal.


However, GJMM’s decision to bar DM and SP from entering the district has been roundly denounced by all and sundry. One of their key allies in the ongoing movement, CPI (ML) has castigated the GJMM’s barring of DM and SP out of the district. Referring to GJMM’s recent ban on the entry of DM and SP to Darjeeling, Mr. Kanu Sanyal, the General Secretary of CPI (ML) said, ‘This is an entirely irresponsible act’, further adding that such irresponsible moves can actually spoil the statehood movement.

GJMM as a political organisation rose to prominence since its success with an agitation launched in the wake of a Radio Jockey’s indiscretion against Prashant Tamang, the Indian Idol winner. Since then, it has been trying hard to find some issues for its political survival. Another shot in its arm was the dissolution of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) following its successful movement for the same, forcing the redoubtable Subhash Ghishing to step down as head of the Council.

Encouraged by these successes, GJMM led by Bimal Gurung has decided to keep its flock mobilised on one cause or the other to press the Government into accepting its demand for a separate Gorkhaland state. Bimal Gurung, a trusted confidant of Subhash Ghishing at one time fell out with him when the latter demanded and almost succeeded in getting the Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling.

Bimal Gurung, reading the mood of the people correctly, not only led a successful coup against Ghishing thereby getting the leadership mantle for Darjeeling, but also decided to rake up the long pigeon-holed issue of a separate Gorkhaland state instead of settling just for the Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling, something which was strongly advocated by Ghishing. In its bid to do so, GJMM has found support from such other disparate outfits as Kamtapur People’s Party (KPP) and Greater Cochbehar Democratic Party (GCDP). They together have found a convenient ground to hog media attention for their long-forgotten causes, more so in an election year. Be it noted that West Bengal is supposed to have its panchayat election in the month of May to be followed by parliamentary election very soon.

But many feel that the present bonhomie among GJMM, KPP and GCDP is not likely to last long because of their conflicting interests. After all, the proposed Gorkhaland, Kamtapur and Greater Cochbehar states for which these parties have been agitating have overlapping areas and in case of the last two, almost the same area. So, the friends today may turn foes tomorrow and may not share the same platform in future as things stand on date unless they agree to redefine and restructure their respective movements.

The electoral factors coupled with incidents in Nandigram, Singur and Cochbehar over the last one year have restrained the government to go for the ‘Big Bang’ approach while tackling the instant Darjeeling crisis. Because of the turbulence and disturbances seen in the last few days owing to the ongoing GJMM agitation in Darjeeling, the developmental work in the DGHC area has been negatively affected, resulting in great loss to the local people for whom the said movement has been launched. The experiment of DGHC would have been better able to provide all that the local people wanted, but if it failed the reasons therefor can be attributed simply to those who had been at the helm of its affairs all these past years.

The fact that Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha has raised a new demand by asking for inclusion of Siliguri and Dooars in the proposed Gorkhaland state has also raised many hackles. Referring to this demand of GJMM, Mr. Kanu Sanyal said that ‘a demand must be based on logic and not merely on emotions’. The CPI (ML) hence supports the inclusion of only adjacent and contiguous areas in the proposed Gorkhaland state. Many believe that such a demand is meant to create a divide between the hills and the plains on ethnic lines which is a dangerous trend. Many observers believe that the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state comprising the three sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong may have some justification, but that of inclusion of Dooars and Siliguri is not supported by history.

The fact remains that Darjeeling Hills did not have notable Nepalese population until 1865. The Lepchas, a distinct ethnic tribe, dominated the hills in terms of population. In 1865, when the tea estates came into being, ethnic Nepalese began pouring in in large numbers from Nepal in search of jobs in the upcoming tea estates. The number further grew with the introduction of Darjeeling Himalayan Railways in 1880. As far as Siliguri and Dooars are concerned, ethnic Nepalese were negligible in numbers until 1950 when Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty was signed between the two countries. Even now the ethnic Nepali population is not more than 60,000 in Siliguri out of the total estimated population of 70 million.

One does not know as to how much merit is there in such demands for statehood from different quarters, but one thing can be definitely said that there does exist a case for a second State Reorganisation Commission.

Instead of a populist and political approach to such demands for statehood, it is advisable that the entire issue of state reorganisation be considered afresh on such grounds as to ensure a holistic economic development and a compact, self-contained geographical entity. The merit of such demands for statehood as Telangana, Vidharbha, Mithilanchal, Purvanchal, Harit Prades, Gorkhaland and Kamtapur should all be considered on objective criteria rather than being subject to such demands pressed through the media of militant movements.

Also, the experiments in our own country with regards to formation of such new states tell a mixed story. While many big states are quite better governed, there are many small ones who continue to languish despite becoming a separate state. One believes that the issue here definitely is not the formation of a separate state, often the desire of the local elite than being rooted in popular demand.

What should be important is the fact as to how well the state is administered and how viable can such a new entity be, economically and geographically. In West Bengal, the successful panchayat system did guarrantee the popular participation in the process of governance, still DGHC was created. 

But as DGHC remained a one-man show devoid of any real popular participation, the experiment naturally failed. So, one has to really tread very cautiously before even toying with the idea of a separate state. (My news.in)

  by Saumitra Mohan













One Response

  1. The article looks like the publication of the West Bengal Government. The author appears to be devoid of insight of the subject he is authoring. A more detail study of the movement and its goal and purpose is recommended to the author. The article is superficial and collection of news from not so friendly newspapers.

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