Topical Arguments for Gorkhaland

By Niraj Lama 

For the Indian Gurkhas the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland is a very emotional issue. The political leaders scale new heights of passion while delivering public speeches at Chowrasta or the Motor Stand. However, when addressing also an equally, if not more important audience on the national tv, there is a need to temper emotions and argue more effectively. Terms like “identity” and “fight for existence” need to be fleshed out.

For a country mired in inflation woes, a sinking Sensex and a tottering Centre it is reasonable that the demand for Gorkhaland would be dismissed as yet another local problem of law and order in a far flung corner. If we are to go beyond the five minutes of prime time and are actually able to persuade the nation, there is a crying need for us to provide more sharp and cogent arguments for the cause. Opinion has to be built at least in Delhi and Kolkata for Gorkhaland, especially when we have begun hearing sympathetic voices from certain quarters over there. 

When we talk about identity, it is hard to imagine that it would echo in the national consciousness like in the way it resounds in our parts. The struggle for ethno-political identity within the framework of the Constitution is something that an average Indian would find difficult to comprehend. On the other hand the country’s elite dubs it as “identity politics”, a fashionable parlance to describe the struggle of dalits, feminists, forest dwellers, ST seekers, homosexuals and such other kinds – all of these are devoid of the self-determination quality that the struggle for identity has in the hills. The casual description of the Gorkhaland movement as identity politics undermines the urgency and the poignancy of the issue. 

At the heart of the matter lies the 1950 Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship. This treaty, which has greatly benefited India, has been a curse for the Indian Gurkhas. The Treaty allows citizens of both countries to freely reside, buy property, own businesses and work in each other’s land. Obviously a lot of Nepali citizens migrated to India after the agreement, and continue to do so, seeking better opportunities here. Likewise, taking advantage of the same opportunity, there has been a significant influx of Indians into Nepal, where they now largely control the commerce. 

At the time the Treaty was signed, it was an important strategic advantage India had secured vis-à-vis China. In a rather impatient display of excitement (of India), the Treaty after making a token reference to “everlasting peace and friendship”, goes on immediately to declare in its second article: “The two governments hereby undertake to inform each other of any serious friction or misunderstanding with any other State likely to cause any breach in the friendly relations subsisting between the two Governments.” As a result of this provision, Nepal was required to consult India on matters of regional security, while India was obligated to ensure the national defense and military preparedness of Nepal. Instead of just being a buffer nation, Nepal became an active ally of India.

Most Indians have not been able to appreciate the significance of this Treaty and the huge strategic advantage that the country enjoys due to it. Not to forget that all Indian citizens living in Nepal have personally benefited from the relations of the two countries. It is no surprise that they have little understanding of the Indian Gorkhas who have become the unintended victims of the agreement. It is because of this open border policy that those opposed to Gorkhaland have used the Treaty – which actually benefits India – as a stick to beat the Indian Gorkhas with. Because of the large number of Nepali Gorkhas residing in India, it has been easy for the detractors of Gorkhaland to club the Indian Gorkhas with them. The separate state demand is described as “illegitimate” because “all Nepalis are foreigners.”  Their ignorance is underlined by their call to abrogate the Indo-Nepal Treaty. 

Ironically, the Indian Gorkhas have themselves been crying hoarse for a long time demanding that the Treaty be scrapped, or at least the provision that allows for the open border. Arising out of this Treaty is a political nightmare for an average Indian Gorkha, who has to almost daily distinguish himself as being from India and not Nepal. For the rest of time-pressed India, Gorkhas exist in some sort of twilight zone. 

This is where the demand for Gorkhaland is different from the other demands for separate states. While other demands are based mainly on grounds of discrimination and underdevelopment, the issue of identity is paramount in the case of the former. Because of an unintended fallout of an international agreement, the nationality of Indian Gorkhas has been compromised. By creating Gorkhaland, not only a serious problem of its nearly one crore citizens would be resolved, but a Treaty that serves national interests could be kept happily without demands being raised for its annulment. 

Further, the issue of identity for the Indian Gorkhas is poignant not just because of the foreigner tag. Recent history of state-sponsored evictions of Gorkhas in Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya has scarred their psyche. Although in some instances the Gorkhas were clubbed together with other “outsiders” like Bengalis and displaced from the North East, there was active cooperation from Indian authorities including the West Bengal government to drive the refugees to the Indo-Nepal border. This, the other evicted communities did not have to experience.

During the most recent displacement of Gorkhas that happened from Southern Bhutan, the West Bengal government again actively supported the movement of the refugees to the border. Once across the line, they were disallowed to return again. While the question of the refugees’ nationality might be debated over, it would be absurd to expect the marginalized Indian Gorkhas not to reflect negatively on the treatment meted out to their cultural brethren by the Indian authorities. 

The displacements experienced by Gorkhas in post-Independent India add urgency to their demand for a separate state. Such experience fortunately has not been the lot of others demanding their own separate states in India.        

Behind the persecution of the Gorkhas there has always been an insidious hint that the community harbours a divided loyalty. On the question of Gorkhaland, critics claim the Gorkhas cannot be trusted to have their own state at the nation’s border. In today’s context the geopolitical concerns that are aired regarding Darjeeling, are nothing more than a bogey. It might have made sense during the British Raj to consider the region “sensitive”. Those were the days of the Great Game, when the British were trying to counter the influence of the Russians and the Germans over Central Asia. 

The argument that the Gorkhas cannot be trusted at the borders is hilarious. Sikkim where the “sensitive” border actually lies is populated by over 70 percent of Gorkhas. One has never heard of the Gorkhas in Sikkim compromising the nation’s security. Rather the Chinese have after a long standoff finally recognized Sikkim as part of India. 

Those raising questions about Gorkha’s trustworthiness, should be reminded that Sikkim would not have been merged with India had it not been for the Gorkha politicians who gave Indira Gandhi a foothold in the then Himalayan kingdom. Such is the irony of history that revered journalist like Sunanda Dutta Ray would see the role of the Gorkhas in Sikkim as “Indian agents” who had been disloyal to the monarch.  

The argument for Gorkhaland also needs to be couched in contemporary reality. That reality informs that there is room for new smaller states in India. It is a fact one of the primary reasons for India lagging behind is its sheer size. A study conducted by India Today showed that smaller states like Puducherry(earlier known as Pondicherry), Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand were better governed than say Bihar or Uttar Pradesh. To the success stories of smaller states may be added Goa and Sikkim. Mind you Puducherry is smaller in size than even just the three hill sub-divisions, which is part of the proposed state of Gorkhaland. Like Sikkim it also has less population than ours. Chandigarh, a Union Territory, is only 114 sq km, and has one of the highest per capita incomes in the country.

With three seats in the West Bengal State Assembly and “half” a seat in the Parliament, the Indian Gorkhas have scarcely a chance to determine their destiny. Call this a fault of democracy – where numbers matter. For the minorities, India as the world’s largest democracy is indeed a challenge. However, the Constitution of India safeguards the rights of minorities, and the nation’s federal structure is premised on linguistic and cultural basis. Therefore to disregard the claim of Gorkhas, who have a distinct culture and language, for a separate state on the grounds of that they have marginal representation in the Assembly and the Parliament is to selectively interpret the Indian Constitution. 

In the end it seems like the opposition to the creation of new states in more a mind block than anything. The demands for new states are seen as separatist movements, even secessionists. Both of these are exaggerations of a mind that refuses to move forward with changing times. It is a mind the shies away from creatively engaging with challenges. It is a mind of a loser. 

Having said that it is also important for the hill people to move away from hysterical declamations and be able to provide convincing arguments for Gorkhaland. We have greater expectations from the current movement which has been claiming the higher ground of political standards. 
(Source: Darjeeling times)

10 Responses

  1. Please visit the provided link to Initaite Justice for Chhatrey Subba : http://freechattrey.cwahi.net/

  2. We appreciate comments of Itihas/history as shown in your blog. But due to unknown reason you have deleted it. PEOPLE MUST KNOW THE FACTS :

    GORKHAS ARE CREATING PROBLEM EVERY WHERE

    ****IN NEPAL THEY ARE DEMANDING MAHA NEPAL ‘वृहत्तर नेपाल’ की मांग शुरू

    ‘वृहत्तर नेपाल’ की मांग शुरू नेपाली फिल्म निर्माता मनोज पंडित की वृहत्तर नेपाल के निर्माण विषय पर बने वृत्तचित्र में दिखाया गया है कि 19 वीं सदी में भारत पर शासन करने वाली ईस्ट इंडिया कंपनी और नेपाल के बीच हुए युद्ध में हार के बाद सुगौली संधि के द्वारा नेपाल की एक-तिहाई जमीन पर भारत का कब्जा हो गया।नेपाली फिल्म निर्माता मनोज पंडित की वृहत्तर नेपाल के निर्माण विषय पर बने वृत्तचित्र में दिखाया गया है कि 19 वीं सदी में भारत पर शासन करने वाली ईस्ट इंडिया कंपनी और नेपाल के बीच हुए युद्ध में हार के बाद सुगौली संधि के द्वारा नेपाल की एक-तिहाई जमीन पर भारत का कब्जा हो गया।एकीकृत नेपाल नेशनल फ्रंट नामक संगठन ने भारत से जमीन वापस करने की मांग शुरू की है। इसके अध्यक्ष फणींद्र नेपाल द्वारा लिखित पुस्तक ‘वृहत्तर नेपाल’ ने मनोज पंडित के वृत्तचित्र के लिए मूल सामग्री का काम किया है।नेपाल के राष्ट्रवादियों का कहना है कि 1950 में भारत-नेपाल के बीच हुई मैत्री और शांति संधि के बाद सुगौली संधि समाप्त हो चुकी है। एकीकृत नेपाल नेशनल फ्रंट नामक संगठन ने भारत से जमीन वापस करने की मांग शुरू की है। इसके अध्यक्ष फणींद्र नेपाल द्वारा लिखित पुस्तक ‘वृहत्तर नेपाल’ ने मनोज पंडित के वृत्तचित्र के लिए मूल सामग्री का काम किया है।नेपाल के राष्ट्रवादियों का कहना है कि 1950 में भारत-नेपाल के बीच हुई मैत्री और शांति संधि के बाद सुगौली संधि समाप्त हो चुकी है। उनका कहना है कि भारत को पहले की संधि के प्रावधानों को समाप्त करके कब्जा की गई जमीन नेपाल को वापस कर देनी चाहिए।

    *****IN ASSAM THEY ARE DEMANDING GORKHA AUTONOMOUS COUNCIL

    Activists of Volunteer Cell of of All Assam Gorkha Students’ Union (AAGSU) and Gorkha Autonomous Council Demand Committee (GACDC) participating in a mass rally at Sonaram High School, Bharalumukh in Guwahati on 26-12-04 organized in demand of Gorkha Autonomous Council.

    ******IN WEST BENGAL THEY ARE DEMANDING GORKHA LAND.

    *****IN BHUTAN THEY ARE DEMANDING CITIZENSHIP OF BHUTAN.

    GORKHAS ARE CREATING PROBLEM EVERY WHERE.

  3. Bhutan must claim kalimpong

    Bhutan army has a presence in kalimpong and the residence of the queen mother in kalimpong is guarded by contingents of the bhutanese army and the indian army. There are huge areas of territory in kalimpong that is owned by the bhutanese royal family and Govt. of Bhutan.People of Kalimpong are still paying rent that goes directly to the bhutan government. Sometime when you seek to buy these ‘Bhutan’ owned lands in kalimpong you need to seek FERA clearance for those transactions.In view of the above Bhutan must claim kalimpong from India.

  4. Question OF CITIZENSHIP , MAHANEPAL/GORKHALAND:
    Darjeeling was not a Nepalese territory. Before 1947, that district was much smaller than what it is today; British used to use that only for their sanitariums and tea gardens. There were not Nepalese much, but only Bhutias and Lepchas and some Tibetans. Nepalese came after Nehru made another blunder to sign Indo-Nepal Treaty of 1950. Nepalese came after that in millions, particularly when in 1980s Nehru’s grandson Rajeev Gandhi made another blunder to create Darjeeling autonomous area, giving total control of the hills to the Nepalese. All retired Nepalese soldiers were allowed to settle down in Darjeeling. Now Nepalese do not allow other non-Nepalese to live in Darjeeling District and they are now expanding their new Nepal within India by demanding the whole of North Bengal. It is really a scandal that CPI (M) chief minister does not know administration; he is not taking action against these Nepalese, but allows them to create a total lawlessness situation in the North Bengal.

    Prachanda wants to change the Indo-Nepal Treaty of 1950. Excellent. It has to start with the issue of the people. Nepalese who cannot prove that their ancestors used to live in India before 1950 must get Nepalese passports? That includes every part of India, Sikkim Darjeeling, Kumaun, and North Bihar etc. In that case there will be very few Indian Nepalese in Darjeeling. Most of the Nepalese in West Bengal, Sikkim are foreigners, i.e., those who came after 1950. They are not Indian by any means. Nepalese or gorkhas from Nepal cannot be claimed as Indian because Nepal is a separate country. Example is there. Yes, Pawan Chamling is a Nepalese but not an Indian, his ancestors came from Nepal. Baichung Bhutia is very proud to be a Bhutanese, he has never claimed that he is an Indian. Nepalese coming from Nepal has no claim at all; they are foreigners. So Nepalese/gurkhas cannot demand a separate state within India for the Nepalese/gurkhas communities. Maoism is much more dangerous than anything, as they believe in mindless violence, which has destroyed Nepal. That is the reason all Nepalese/gurkhas are coming to India. India should follow Bhutan and expel all Nepalese/gurkhas from India and cancel this defunct Indo-Nepal treaty of 1950. This is not racism, but a question of citizenship. Nepalese cannot be Indian.

    LOOTS OVER THE LAST 20 YEARS:
    All the money given to the Darjeeling Hill Council, over the last 20 years, were stolen by the very people who are now demanding Gurkhaland, because they do not want any investigations on their theft. This is the character of the leaders of the Gurkhas. Bimal Guring, the current leader of the Gurkhas was a truck driver, but now he is a Millionaire. Subhas Ghising was a primary school teacher, now he is a Billionaire. They have stolen all development fund meant for the Darjeeling Hill Council over the last 20 years. This is the true face of the Gurkhas. The current demand for Gorkhaland has started after the West Bengal government was about to appoint an auditor to investigate who has stolen the money (more than Rs.5000 Crores) given to the Darjeeling Hill Council. Immediately Subhas Ghessing said, in that case they will start the Gorkhaland movement again. Then his assistant Bimal Gurung started this current trouble, as he was also involved in that massive theft. There should be CBI investigation about this money and must identify the culprits irrespective of the threat of violence from GJJM.

    Darjeeling Hill is not a part of Nepal. Nepalese/gurkhas of Nepal has no right to create trouble in a foreign country. There are lots of Pakistanis, Gujarati, and Sikhs in Britain. There is lots of Turkish in Germany. There are lots of Punjabis in Canada. There are millions of Chinese in Australia. Do they dare to demand separate states for them?

    Nepal is now controlled by the most violent people, Maoists, They are demanding MAHA NEPAL and they want to destroy India, as that would please their master China. They want to expand Nepal with the help of Bimal Gurung and North Bengal is the first target.

  5. in re. comments by beakononline…the comment posted on 27/11/08 with regard to gorkhas creating trouble everywhere are flawed in certain respects. first of all, events that take place in nepal and bhutan are in no way connected to the demand for gorkhaland in the darjeeling hill region which is in india. the issue in Assam is the demand for an autonomous gorkha council is again a local issue confined to the demands of gorkhas domiciled in the state of assam, it should not be confused with another local issue viz. the demand for gorkhaland in west bengal simply because the demands in both cases come from people of the same community. the formation of an autonomous council does not mean that the gorkhas are trying to take over parts of assam or anything as provocative as you have suggested. your comments seem to reflect a poor understanding of politics, systems of governance, constitutional machinery and unfortunately basic geography also.

  6. in re. comments made by beakononline on 29/11/08….
    para 1. it is not disputed that the darjeeling area was ceded to the british by sikkim and not nepal. it is however incorrect to say that there was never a nepali presence in darjeeling even then. in fact if you will refer to the history of the region to dates that precede your research by about a century or so then you will see that the darjeeling area was at different times controlled by nepal too. this whole debate is however only ancillary to the present demand for gorkhaland and it is a supporting argument at best and does not really form the crux of the issue.
    the treaty of 1950 is a bilateral treaty and had a mutual agenda. nepalis and indians alike have benefited from the terms of the treaty. a majority of the business community in nepal are people of indian origin. guess which treaty facilitated their migration to nepal!
    after the british left india the “nepalese soldiers” that you refer to were integrated with the indian army because they were “indian soldiers” not “nepalese soldiers”.
    as far as the “nepalese” not letting any “non-nepalese” settle in darjeeling goes, i am myself from darjeeling where generations of my family have lived and i am not of nepali origin either.
    “Total” control of Darjeeling was never given to the “nepalese”. the autonomous hill council was only semi-autonomous. total control is only to be gained by establishing a state separate from india. that is neither desired or demanded by the gorkhaland movement.
    your idea of a political movement is also flawed because when one protests against the existing system one has to do so in the most expedient and effective way. the method of non cooperation being used in the gorkhaland movement is one adopted by the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi himself. one must understand that there has to be some kind of collateral damage within acceptable limits in every political movement. i do not think that the peaceful non-cooperation movement in darjeeling has crossed these limits.

  7. in re. comments made by beakononline on 29/11/08….
    para 2. perhaps it would be wise to read a little bit on Indian Laws regarding citizenship and the Indian Constitution. people who have been residing in India since 1950 i.e. over 50 years are citizens of India. in fact the legal requirement is much less (around 12 years). the term that you use to describe the Indians of Nepali origin is therefore very incorrect. calling these people Nepali implies that they are from Nepal. the gorkha identity has been created to remedy this very issue i.e. so that people do not confuse indians of nepali origin with nepalis from nepal. your argument of citizenship is therefore flawed from its very conception because of your ignorance of indian laws regarding citizenship and naturalization. do you even know what any of this means? please be more informed the next time you decide to post irresponsible comments with no real basis.
    As for calling the chief minister of Sikkim and the captain of the Indian football team foreigners…well it is an insult to indians everywhere. what great claim do you have to being a true indian? what is your locus standi? how do you define a true indian in a multicultural india where the origins of all its people are diverse and varied? what is india? do you even know that there was no “india” before the british came? your points have so many holes in them it is actually laughable to just read them. you need to go back to school and get your facts right. if you are in school then you better study harder because you might just end up failing your exams miserably.
    Btw…Bhaichung Bhutia is not of Bhutanese origin. He is from Sikkim, India and the Bhutias are originally from Tibet not Bhutan. At least get your basic facts right if you want to make arguments in a public forum based on them. its a good thing you aren’t using your real name otherwise i imagine it would be very embarassing for you to be so wrong about so many things. In fact why dont you write something more so that i can point out what a fool you are. i just love smashing the pretentious illusions that people like you have about yourself and your so called intellect.

  8. in re. comments made by beakononline on 29/11/08….
    para 3: LOOTS OVER THE LAST 20 YEARS:
    Had enough yet or is your tiny intellect still reeling from all that information? Regardless, here is some more.
    If you are going to make controversial accusations against politicians then firstly i would suggest that you get some real proof. Hard evidence to prove your theory. Its easy to just say that someone is stealing. I mean if you can get hard evidence then i swear to god that any court in India will prosecute the accused. Now will you say that the Courts are corrupt or the police maybe?
    The movement for Gorkhaland has the full support of the people who live in the area. It is a movement by the people living in Gorkhaland of which one of the aims is to establish a responsible government that is answerable to the people and not to the govt. of West Bengal. It is a movement of a people and not a whim of a politician.
    I agree that Darjeeling is not a part of Nepal, but the Nepali-Indian’s are also not a part of Nepal. They are Indian. Do you understand that? Your primary assumption that the Gorkhaland movement is a movement by Nepali foreigners is incorrect. It is a movement that is not just confined to Nepali-Indians, it supported by every community that is indigenous to the hills and by the other communities that have adopted the hills as their home.
    Furthermore, the Gorkhaland Movement is not creating trouble. In a liberal democracy what usually happens is that people elect to have the kind of government that they want. The replacement of a defunct government with a more efficient and representative government is not creating trouble, it is simply democratic political process. Change is not always bad. Furthermore the movement is hardly unpatriotic since the demand is for a separate state within india but separate from West Bengal. It is a non-violent movement that adopts Gandhian methods of protest.
    On the point of why people who settle abroad in Britain, Germany, Canada and Australia don’t ask for a separate state then maybe you should realize that there is a vast difference between their situation out there and the situation of the gorkhas in India. But i believe that if they have enough support and cause that entitles them to demand a separate state for themselves then maybe they should demand a separate state. If their cause is justified and legal then there is nothing stopping them. Reflect on what i have said here before you come up with an idiotic and stupid retort. I do not debate with people with a slower and limited mental disposition.
    BTW Maoism is just a political ideology popularised by Mao Tse Tung. It does not imply that the Maoists of Nepal are the agents of China you moron. If one is to follow your line of reasoning then since Maoism is a school of communism and communism was espoused primarily by the Russians notably Karl Marx, then we would really have a international conspiracy theory that implicates the Chinese and the Russians as the master-minds behind it. Hahahahaha! this stuff is so funny! What a colossal idiot you are!

  9. in re. comments made by beakononline on 29/11/08….
    The recommendation that you made that India should follow the example of Bhutan and expel all people of Nepali origin from India is just uncalled for. Do you know that the expulsion of Bhutanese of Nepali origin has created one of the biggest international refugee fiascos ever known. Added to that there have been many cases of human rights violations also. If you want to cite examples that our country should follow then maybe you should choose one which is not morally reprehensible and which has been the cause of suffering to so many human beings. You should know that most of the Bhutanese refugees are internationally recognized as being genuinely legal citizens of Bhutan.
    Just because a country like Bhutan goes ahead and engages in an act that is a blatant violation of basic human rights, it does not mean that India should follow suit. As an Indian myself i do not believe that my country should follow such an unreasonable and reprehensible course of action. Maybe you should keep your twisted ideas to yourself because i don’t think this kind of hate propaganda is going to help anyone.

  10. Hey ponam tashi….why don’t you and your Govt. go ahead and try it. See what happens you dumb shit. Why do you think Bhutan has never made that demand? Here’s some advice…. go and get a REAL basis for your claim, then get some bargaining power, and then try claiming Kalimpong for Bhutan. Do not try to undermine the valid claims for Gorkhaland with your petty opportunism.

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