With the demand for a separate Gorkha state paralyzing life in Darjeeling it needs to be examined how legitimate is the demand for Gorkhaland.
Darjeeling belongs only to the Gorkhas?
Prior to its occupation by the British East India Company in 1835, Darjeeling was part of Sikkim and was known as Sikkim Darjeeling. In fact, the word Darjeeling is derived from the Tibetan words ‘dorje’ meaning thunderbolt and ‘ling’ meaning a land, hence Darjeeling means ‘the land of the thunderbolt’. The original inhabitants of this beautiful hill station were the Lepchas. In 1839 there were not more than 100 Lepchas living in the region.
The importance of Darjeeling emerged from the three ‘Ts’ – Tea, Tourism and Timber. With the slopes of the Darjeeling hills and its climate being ideal for the commercial cultivation of the tea crop, the British administrators in order to develop tea cultivation leased out forestland to the planters. The demand for workers for the expanding tea estates started the influx of the large number of migrants from the neighboring states of Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan. The Nepali-speaking Gorkhas formed the largest migrant community in the Darjeeling Mountains. Within 10 years of British occupation of the region, the population of the region rose from 100 to 10,000 in 1849. The Gorkhas who are claiming a separate state for themselves have actually settled in the region in the last 150 years.
Gorkhas betrayed by their own leaders
During the eighties, Darjeeling was hit by fierce agitation by The Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) under Mr. Subash Ghisingh for a separate Gorkha State or the Gorkhaland. After a series of talks between the government of West Bengal and the central government, the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council was set up as in 1988 as an autonomous body for the social, economic, educational and cultural advancement of the Gorkhas and other people living in the hill areas of the district of Darjeeling.
However, over the past two decades the economic condition of Darjeeling went from bad to worse despite of huge sums of money coming from the West Bengal government to fill the coffer of the Gorkha Hill Council. Development of Darjeeling was restricted to a few roads largely used by the tourists and building temples, a resort in the Dooars, a lavish guest house in Kolkata and of course for increasing the wealth of the GNLF leader Subhas Ghisingh. The West Bengal government was denied permission to audit the accounts of the Gorkha Hill Council.
Two decades of deprivation have suddenly brought to the fore a rejuvenated demand for a separate Gorkha State once again and now under a new leader and new organization – Bimal Gurung and Gorkha Liberation Forum (GLM). The irony of fate is that Mr. Bimal Gurung had been a trusted lieutenant of Ghisingh and had been a part of the Gorkha Hill Council. While their own men have betrayed them, the people of Darjeeling are considering the Bengali-speaking population of the state as their main enemy. Tourists visiting the region had been attacked by the members of the GLM.
With corruption persisting among the leaders of the region, by simply forming a separate state based on ethnicity, will the people of Darjeeling benefit? (Instablogs)