Roadmap on the Trail to Gorkhaland II

By Hillman- The Analyst

(Continuation to): Roadmap on the Trail to Gorkhaland    

The creation of a separate state for the Darjeeling hill people out of Bengal becomes a more relevant issue to concretize further increasing importance of strategic demand to a limited geophysical territory existing as a corridor landmass (namely the strip of area comprising Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri Districts extending to Kokrajhar and Dhubri in Assam), dividing India from Bangladesh, significantly, from its northern neighbour Nepal, Tibet (TARC) and Bhutan. Locationally, Bangladesh after its liberation from erstwhile Pakistan has become the chief source of multifarious problems originating as source in all the surrounding bordering states to that country, impacting West Bengal irrecoverly. The problem ensuing from this neighbouring country will be a virulent factor to note while reconsidering the external and international security threat perception immediate to northerly neighbours intention to destabilise the northeast regions. The use of this link corridor to drag the Trojan horse as entry point is militarily strategic considering the northerly neighbours consistent reiteration, the state of Arunachal Pradesh as Chinese Tibet as well as the state of Sikkim (which accession to India has truly not been documented by China. Instead, recently the Chinese govt. in its latest publication has shown Sikkim as an independent country alongwith Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar). Creating a new state of Darjeeling hills will fill in the chasm in further buffering its parent state Sikkim, from any external adventurism from the north, as well as check the growth and future inflow of foreign immigrants from adjacent neighbouring countries.

The oft touted Siliguri intellectuals expressing concerns about the ethnic Darjeeling Nepali communities as immigrants is part of historically truth, infact, thereby history justifying them as sons of the soil. To illustrate this, one only has to refer to the source: Sasi Bhusan Dutt, Report on Darjeeling Terai Settlement, Bengal Secretariat Press, Calcutta -1898, Table 2 and 3 highlight basic demographic features of Darjeeling Terai in the second half of 19th century.

Table 2: Darjeeling Terai population: 1872-91 

 Source of information  Total population   Male    Female   Area in square mile
 Census taken in 1872     47985   25682   22303     271
 Census taken in 1881    63241  35410      27831    – do –
 Census taken in 1891  72097  41808   31120     – do –
Table 3: Demographic characters of Darjeeling Terai:1872-91
 Census year  Sex Ration(females/1000 males)  Population Density (per sq mile)
 1872    868   177
 1881  786   233
 1891   744   266

  Table 4:
1 to 23 numbers communities (no mention of Bengali)
Table 5 Percentage share of different ethnic groups in Darjeeling Terai: 1891

 Ethnic group   Percentage Share
 Lepcha     3.0
 Bhutia   1.1
 Nepali/Gorkha   26.9
 Bengali   0.0
 Others   68.9
 Total    100
   The various other census indicate progressive rise in ethnic Darjeeling Nepali communities population since the British were granted Darjeeling estate, including Kurseong upto Pankabari as grant in 1835: Dalimkote (present Kalimpong subdivision, which prior to 1706, the easterly boundary of Teesta formed part of Sikkim), again annexed by the British as Bhutanese Duars (present Duars) in 1865. Siliguri Terai annexed in 1850.

The various ethnic Nepalese communities alongwith the plain tribals, Kachh (Koch-Cooch Bihar), Mechis and tribals inducted from Bihar and Orissa, the Santals and Oraons, together are the true builders of the entire district, the Duars and further east to Assam, having toiled on land and labour for more than two centuries. They were the prime movers employed by the British to change the entire topography of the district from pristine densely forested and swampy malaria infected unused territory to prosperous Darjeeling hills and the Duars plains into sprawling belts of tea gardens, commercial forest, agriculture areas, trade commerce, business activities and above all introducing tourism the mainstay of the local people. Later on, with aggressive tea plantations and industrialization other sources of cheap labour were imported to the region, and still are, with ever progressing land use for agriculture, tea industry and industrial development.  

After the Anglo-Nepal war 1814-15, all the Nepali troops even before the cessation of hostilities compelled General Amar Singh Thapa to the recruitment of his soldiers in the British Indian army. In 1815 the first Nepali ‘Gorkha’ soldiers were incorporated into three battalions –the 1st and 2nd Nasiri (friendly) Battalions and the Sirmoor Battalion.
When the war was virtually over a total of 4,650 Nepali soldiers, practically the entire Nepali soldiers joined British Indian army. In 1829, the 2nd Nasiri Battalion was absorbed into the 1st and the Corps became the 66th Native Infantry Battalion in 1850 and the ‘Nasiri’ (friendly) was given to another battalion. This subsequently became the King Edwards Own, 2nd Gorkha Rifles.

After due permission granted for the induction of Nepali soldiers to the British Indian Army by the Gorkha King, Maharaja Bir Bikram Shah, Rajah of Nepal, it is presumed the term Gorkha nomenclature was used to define that the Nepali nationals were sanctioned by the Gorkha king, which bilateral terms /agreement may exist but unknown. However, at the time of Indian Independence a Tripartite agreement was reached between the three parties –India, Nepal and UK in 9 November 1947 for induction of Nepali Gorkha troops in respective countries. Only restrictions on the use of Nepali Gorkhas are to be found in Annexure III to the Agreement and Paragraphs 3 & 4 which state, ‘the Gorkha troops should not be used against Hindu or any other unnamed mobs’ and ‘to avoid any clash between the Gorkhas themselves, Gorkha troops should not be used in any contingency of their having to serve in opposite camps arises’. It is to be noted that many Bhotanese Nepali speaking Lhothampa and Sharchhop communities also served in the Indian army.                   

In the same vein, it is worth citing in many and any of the British participated wars, mentioned in the book Mongolism in Nepalese Politics p5, by Gopal Gurung that ‘from 1911 it is estimated till 1965, 24,28,575 indigenous people  (mostly Gurung, Magar, Rai, Limbus, Tamang, communities) were killed in different battles and countries’. The numbers that perished before 1911 and post 1965 -2008 remains to be ascertained by the govt. of India records.   

It goes to show that for the existence of every one Nepali (8th Schedule language) speaking Indian, 28,71,745 (Census 2001) has been compensated in kind by one ethnic Nepali speaking ancestor, to allow their descendants  create a niche of their living space above their burial grounds. These sacrificial lambs having become cannon fodder for the British and Indian army are now being declared by the plain based (Siliguri) Bengali intellectual groups, considered migrants. While in fact reverse is the situation. The space     occupied by the hill people in Darjeeling (ex-Sikkim) and Duars (ex-Bhutan) identical in constellation in forming the hill communities, are further being depressed and marginalized by the migrating aggressive communities form the Indian plains but more acute and divisively by illegal migrants from lebensraum  population from Bangladesh. This is not justified at all-     humanely, morally, legally, politically, nationally and internationally.   
(Notes on the first article)  Roadmap on the Trail to Gorkhaland     

The GoI Act, 1964 enacted by the British Parliament to bring certain territories in India, including Kamrup, Darang, Newgong, Sibsagar, Lakimpur (Garo Hills, Khasi & Jaintia Hills, Naga Hills, Cachar & Goalpara of erstwhile Assam) under the immediate authority and management of the Governor-in-Council. (Surely, Darjeeling was not left out from the purview, considering by then Sikkim had already presented Darjeeling to the East India Company in 1835). Interesting to allude is the fact that Garo Hills, Khasi & Jaintia Hills broke up Assam to form a new state, Meghlaya (1972), Naga Hills (Tuensang) became State of Nagaland in 1963.

The Simon Commission however, recommended the use of the term ‘Excluded Areas’ instead of ‘Backward Tracts’ and proposed that their administration should be transferred from Provincial Governments to the Government of India. The Joint Parliamentary Committee which examined the proposals of the White Paper observed:- ‘It is proposed that the powers of a Provincial Legislature shall not extend to any part of the Province which is declared to be an ‘Excluded Area’ or a ‘Partially Excluded Area’ . In relation to the former, the Governor will himself direct and control the administration; in the case of the latter he is declared to have a special responsibility.                                       
As far as ‘Excluded Areas’ were concerned the proposals were approved as both necessary and reasonable. However, a distinction was drawn in this respect between ‘Excluded Areas’ and ‘Partially Excluded Areas’,  and that the application of Acts to, or the framing of Regulations for the latter areas being an executive act  might appropriately be performed by the Governor on the advice of his Ministers, the decision taken in each case being, of course, subject to the Governor’s special responsibility for ‘Partially Excluded Areas’, that is to say, ‘being subject to his right to differ from the proposals of his Ministers is he thinks fit’.      

It was argued that the British India system of administration will bring about a complete breakdown of the primitive communal organisations and will sap the economic and moral lives of these tribes (presently the Darjeeling hill people- tribes and non-tribes). Similarly, since and inspite of Indian independence from British rule ushering a new republican democracy, direct application of central and state rules and regulations is seen to completely break down the subsistence and existence of the indigenous hill organisations losing their regional identity, land and space occupied by their ancestors for generations only to be filled in by exodus of migration from the plains below (both inland and foreign-Bangladesh) and surrounding adjacent countries.

To illustrate this point the example of the Northeast states and the new state of Sikkim maybe drawn, which are seen from a different light to the rest of India and hence the creation of the Northeast Council. The history, origination and regional identity of these states are attached to the Darjeeling hills, which territory coincidently being included in Bengal has been marginalized in respect to its original identity which is lost in the multitudinous number and dominance of the majority community.

Had Bengal not gobbled up the Darjeeling hills and Duars, these areas would now have formed part of the Northeast Council. To wit, Sikkim (the erstwhile whole of Darjeeling) under special constitutional status Article 371 F since its absorption into the Indian Union in 1975 have outpaced Darjeeling district by leaps and bound. While on the other hand, Darjeeling district which was the bottle feeder for erstwhile monarchial Sikkim has been left behind to a point of complete degradation, in contrast to the all round development and progress of the former. The demand for a state in the Union by the Darjeeling hill people and the Duars must be seen in the light of the above socio-economical and political background, and not with the dim light of Bengal parochial sentiments. Rather, Bengal must come above board by releasing the Darjeeling hills, as constitutionally justifiable to choose its own path towards its destination by granting a separate state. Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh has magnanimously, without much fuss, relieved its population by creation of three new states a few years back.  
Accordingly, Assam Frontier Tracts Regulation, 1880 was promulgated to give the power to the Chief Commissioner of Assam, to remove any part of that area from the coverage of extent of the laws in force in such tract. It was extended to the frontier tracts including the erstwhile Lushai Hills District of Assam which formerly became a State in 1986.

While discussing the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution (Amendment)Bill 2007 and the Constitution (one hundred and seventh amendment)Bill 2007 by the Parliamentary Standing Committee Home Affairs in Feb 2008 that the idea that certain states may demand similar constitution status for certain areas in the respective states and it may open the Pandora’s Box, the Chief Secretary Govt. of West Bengal, stated as under  ‘…so far as Darjeeling hills are concerned, historically, there has always been a demand for treating Darjeeling areas and the Gorkhas of Darjeeling somewhat separately from the rest of the country and rest of Bengal. This dates back to Morley Minto reforms. There also they had represented for a separate identity for them. So, over a period of time, they have been staying with the West Bengal Govt. and we tried to accommodate their aspiration that brought us to this state of DGHC and they are now asking for 6th Schedule status. We think we should consider this practically.
So far as the rest of the tribal conglomerates and concentrations are there in our State, their integration with the general population is much higher, much closer compared to the hill areas of Darjeeling. Since they have been agitating fir long, I think, this is a practical solution for the problem’,  

After a careful examination of the whole issue the Governor General by a notification under the GoI Act 1915-19, declared certain territories in the then Province of Assam as ‘backward tracts’, which later split into new states of Nagaland (1963), Meghlaya (1972) and Mizoram(1986).  

In a statement on 16th May 1946, the Cabinet Mission reiterated the need for special attention of the Constituent Assembly to these excluded and partially excluded areas and tribal areas while drafting the new Constitution of India. An Advisory committee was planned on Fundamental Rights and minorities in such manner that it should contain due representation of all the interests likely to be affected and should advise the Constituent Assembly on framing an appropriate scheme for the administration of tribal and excluded areas.

The Advisory Committee in its meeting held on 27th February 1947, set up three Sub Committees – one to consider the tribal and excluded and partially excluded areas in Assam, another to consider the tribal areas in the North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan, and a third Sub Committee to consider the position of the excluded and partially excluded areas in the Provinces other than Assam. Can Darjeeling district be presumed to be included in the third Sub Committee report?

The Sub Committee on tribal and excluded and partially excluded areas submitted their report on 28th July 1947, while the other Sub Committee on the excluded and partially excluded areas in the provinces other than Assam submitted its interim report on 18th Aug 1947 and final report in September 1947.

It would be considered most pertinent for the govt. to place the final report of September 1947 for public information relevant to the case study of a separate state for the Darjeeling hills and Duars.   

The composition of the Darjeeling hills and adjoining Duars plains are racially distinctive being of Mongoloid origins like Khambu Rai, Gurung, Mangar, Sunwar, Thami, Dewan, Bhujel, Newars etc. Of course many are Hinduised by migrating high caste Hindus from Nepal as well as culturally influenced particularly by dress and language, Nepali which has become the spoken lingua franca of the various Himalayan tribes to the extent that Nepali is one of the listed language of the 8th Schedule, spoken by 28,71,749 (census 2001) ethnic-Nepali Indians, (Indo Aryan Nepali Chettri, Bahauns, Jaises, & Co., Indo-Dravidic Kami, Damay, Sarkis and the above Mongoloid communities presently without tribal status) Mongoloid communities/tribes including the existing Scheduled tribes Bhotias, Sherpas, Lepchas, Limbus and Tamangs.

The Scheduled Tribes consisting of 85,047; (DGHC 10.76%; Darjeeling District 5.29%) with addition of recently recognized Scheduled tribes Limbus & Tamangs 1,63,178; (DGHC-20.64%; Darjeeling District 10.17%), Schedule Caste 49,412 (DGHC 6.25%;) and Khas (Chettri, Bahaun, Thakuri) consisting of 1,42,306.

In the Standing Committee on Home Affairs concerning the 6th Schedule to the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2007 and the Constitution (One Hundred and Seventh Amendment) Bill 2007 herein the statement made by Shri. Madhukar Gupta, Home Secretary regarding the tribal population. ‘About the tribal population being artificially or otherwise inflated, I would only like to bring before the Hon Committee two facts.

For a long time demands had been continuing when in 2001 (in Hindi – the demand was raised for the second time and also earlier) that a number of communities like Gurungs, Rai, Nehars and several other communities in that area should also be declared as Scheduled Tribes  (in Hindi – at the time of discussing this issue the results were not known) and a feeling was that so many tribal community or communities who are wanting to be declared as Scheduled Tribes, it is basically aimed at the idea that you have a larger than 50 per cent tribal community and so on’. He further elaborates (in Hindi – four or five more communities was applied for Scheduled tribe status have not been taken into consideration in reference here.) Even in the backdrop of this particular Memorandum settlement it was not accepted. What was accepted was with reference to two communities (meaning Tamang and Limbus) which have also been declared on their substantive merit I presume as Scheduled Tribes in the neighbouring state of Sikkim’.

This is further iterated by Additional Chief Secretary P.K.Roy, ‘infact right from 1950…there were a number of communities, including these two communities that you have mentioned, Rais and Gurungs, who have filed petitions before the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Commission largely in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s and some in the late 1990’s. ….there are other petitions also pending before the Commission on which they have not taken any final view as such. So we understand that is the position….Now, we had made an approximate calculation which showed it to be ……’.      

In this regard it is to be noted that the entire Indo –Nepal sub Himalayan ranges since ancient times, ethnologically, are inhabited by primary Mongoloid stock and are distinct to observation by physiognomy  and physical stature speaking Tibeto Burman group of languages and dialects. Although now many are Hinduised (Nepalisized in language structure and speech) but still follow the age old traditional and ancestral part. Most are meat eaters by birth and greatly addicted to alcoholic brews which is the bane of all the hill communities. There is however certain special characteristics in that they have cultural affiliation within and among themselves which really distinguish them from rest of West Bengal, infact rest of India, but more than usual affinity  to the people of the Northeast.       

Darjeeling hills constellation of communities have been mentioned specifically with the intent in consideration and relevance to the B.K.Roy Burman Commission of Review of Social and Environmental Sector Policies, Plans & Programmes (CRESP), Govt. of Sikkim has submitted an executive report declaring all the communities of Sikkim belonging to the Nepali constellation as Scheduled tribes, giving the following criterias as tribal attributes (a). historical right to claim special treatment (b). social structured attribute  (c). Need right (d). Justice right.

In para – 3.21 of the Executive Report has discussed the subjects as a territorial tribe. ‘Here we have taken a note of a theoretical development in Anthropology. Drawing upon evidences from different parts of the world Morton Fried has pointed out that many tribes are secondary formations of recent origin in the context of functioning of the state as an institution. This theory is presently being applied to Sikkim under the Sikkim Citizenship Regulation of 1961 seems to have been the galvanizing factor where reverse inequality prevails in the population, social structure taken care of, and that in consideration of the historical rights and need rights are respected, the justice right of the entire indigenous population of Sikkim to be considered as Scheduled Tribe must receive due consideration’. 

(Originally published in  Darjeeling Times   on October 3, 2008)                        

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: