By DT Correspondent on October 19,2008
In the chapter on people, a very import issue is raised, complimenting the role of Nepali language, as a listed language in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution. Nepali, (originating from Sanskritised Hindi dialect forming the basis of Nepali and complimented to Dev Nagiri script) has been culturally accepted by practically all the Darjeeling hill communities and elsewhere. As a media of communication, lingua franca amongst the various constellations of clans and groups commonly featured as the Gorkhas, Nepali language has unified the hills to a cultural melting point. The Hindu religion is farther said to cement the bond amongst the diverse lot. Thus, Nepali language can be seen as a primarily factor, as a criteria applicable in seeking a state under the provisions of the Constitution. As when new state boundaries were aligned, demarcated and decided in pre and post independence, the commonality of language spoken was on top of the list in deciding the fate of many new states. As already stated, the Indian National Congress in 1921 recognized languages as the principle criteria, followed by the Nehru Committee 1928 who too supported the basis. Finally, the State Reorganisation Committee in 1955 confirmed spoken language of the people as one of the primary factors in determining the boundaries of new states. Arguing on the ground based on Nepali as the spoken language of the Darjeeling hill peoples and 28, 24,575 (Census 2001) others all over India, as well as being the state language in Sikkim state, is Nepali language the roadmap of GJMM?
The language issue maybe further supported by the historical making of the region into its geopolitical unit inhabited by distinctly featured hill people all along the area. 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. Darjeeling hills, Kurseong upto Pankabari was annexed in 1835, Kalimpong and Duars annexed from Bhutan in 1865 (Kalimpong till 1780 formed part of Sikkim, and thence annexed to Bhutan till it was taken over by the British). Darjeeling Terai (Siliguri subdivision) annexed in 1850, was a vital agricultural and important plainsland of erstwhile independent Sikkim. This geophysical and political identity of Darjeeling district and the Duars is territorially connected to erstwhile Assam which formed the entire northeast, thereby the commonality of regional identity between the two divisions. Darjeeling district and Duars, within Bengal was separated from its identical characteristics, those of the northeast regions.
Inspite of the change in ownership and territorial suzerainty, whether from the Sikkim and Bhutan monarchy to the British crown Jewel of India, Nepali language has spread across the land boundaries, emigrating with the ethnic Nepali communities wherever they traveled and settled down uplifting the local natives and rulers beyond bounds. These penigrations combined with migrations predate history. Understandably, Nepali is spoken by substantial population in the length and breadth of entire sub-Himalayan hills, foothills and adjoining plains from Himachal Pradesh (Dehra Dun) in the west, to the Indian states bordering Myanmar. Nepali language can certainly be considered an important constitutional component while demanding a state.
While unifying India with due process of federalizing the many and diverse principalities, provinces and exclusions, the British rulers and post independent Indian leaders meticulously provided the Constitution in order to form the union states out of a federal multi-ethnicity, multi-linguistic, multi-cultural background of diverse Indian population. It is critical to take the above into consideration as Constitution provisions while demanding for a new state. Specific to the northeast region of India certain regional identities were identified particularly to erstwhile Assam from which four new states originated given the above criterias. Darjeeling District as a unit territory in West Bengal for all practical purposes of administration has been emulating Assam units, four of which achieved statehood. This is relevant to mention in process of demanding a state and which factor has somehow been overlooked in larger detail of describing only the identity of the Darjeeling hill peoples.
The chapter on history can well be rephrased as historical documents submitted detailing all the submissions, memorials, demands for a separate unit beginning with year 1907 and duly completing over a century. These documents certainly expose the sincere intent and goodwill of past forefathers demanding separation of Darjeeling dist and Duars from Bengal, British and Indian, citing the latest till 1988 introducing the administrative unit DGHC under Writer’s Building with the blessings of Mr. Subhas Ghissing and the GNLF ruling the Darjeeling hills for 21 long years without let or live, connived with the masters in Kolkata who themselves have brought Bengal to the footage from the title rest of India emulated. Now the West Bengal govt. and the dominant party in power is repenting for the bad seeds it had sown. The fruit is Nandigram and Singur. Whereas the other states are inviting Tata’s Nano takeoff from their soil with compliments to West Bengal. The Memorandum certainly displays the zeal and inspirations of the past leaders. But, the documents are to be regarded as mere appeals akin to a duly filled and posted application forms seen only to express the long standing grievances, though genuine and relevant demanding some sort of immediate resolution for freedom tied with bonds and incompatibility, working together in tandem with the likes of Bengal.
The documents surely prove the genuineness of the action taken report, but do not indicate in any way the snake and ladder and the dice to throw in order to climb up the tree to the finish and pluck the fruit thereof if the tree really existed, that is, the state. When the fathers of the Constitution compiled the comprehensive provisions in conceiving formation of states of the Union, and which, the British had already prepared after meticulously studying the ground realities parameters and territories, these observations were contained in various Govt.of India Acts, Ordinances etc. originating from various Commissions and Reform Committees all very well documented and found in archives detailing the criterias to be fulfilled to gain statehood. The purpose of the exercise was to have a unified code application to entire India, with the consideration in mind that if all the different peoples and communities, diverse in every respect, demand a separate state, there would have been over 500 states in India at the point of receiving independence in 1947. Time was taken after 1947 till 26 February 1950 to await and celebrate the birth of the Indian nation, the birth of the Indian Republic only after duly completing the formalities for unifying the country under due process and provisions, applied to the formation of states. The uses of the yardstick was federalism applied to the diverse communities, tribes and people of India, and thereby gradually and peacefully unite the country into a whole under a democratic central unitary system of government.
The forefathers too seemed to have overlooked the qualifying attributes provided by the Constitution, which require to be fundamentally displayed. Which and what are these conditions are meticulously documented in Govt. of India Acts, Administrative Rules and regulation, Reform Committees, and list of Commission Reports, in which are hidden the true identity of the Darjeeling hills, which often go unobserved for notice due to bureaucratic jargon and political parlance. This is difficult to find unless one studies all records and books to decipher the puzzle. But once the puzzle is unwound the true Regional identity will be unveiled, just as a new born babe, a new state is born, only known by the complimentary Govt. documents. The regional identity of Darjeeling hills is closely connected and tied up with the Northeastern region, and certainly not with Bengal which has hidden the real mother from the child.
India rid its shackles in 1947, but provided its national Constitution only in 1950. Similarly, only now Nepal is determined to discover its regional identity by the overthrow of the Shah monarchy, to herald the birth of a true democratic republic, all the different ethnic groups and communities are in process of discovering their individual regional identities in the federation process just like India did during pre and post independence period. Earlier the Gorkha Shah Kings and the autocratic Ranas, although migrants from India themselves, had sway and ruled Nepal with absolute despotism, by applying the political theory of god kings to a living state just like classical Europe. The federal structure of polity has now taken a full turn again, ensured by ushering to power ethnic Indian Nepalis (Madhesays) to replace the Shah Kings (also ethnic Indians) and become the head and vice-head of states. It is regrettable, however, to find not many ethnic Nepali natives to whom once Nepal belonged are unseen in the centre stage of power, politics, administration and other higher professions occupied by the high castes even under the new Republic, and the true revolutionaries, the Maoists (numbering over 15000) are accommodated presently in barracks and campus, hoping to be inducted into the armed forces just as the proverbial martial race, the Gorkhas! It is hoped the history of Nepal will not be repeated in the Darjeeling hills, and that, Bengal will not be allowed to disband the ongoing demand for a separate state by repeating the history of Subhas Ghissing and the GNLF, or that of Nepal. Subhas Ghissing having engineered his downfall from the status of an icon to that of a scoundrel – a tragedy!
Quite likely as Dr. Mahendra P.Lama determined in his deliberations in a seminar of intellectuals in Kalimpong, the Darjeeling hill people must be prepared to accept a state headed by Asoke Bhattacharjee. After all in the total population of Darjeeling district 16,09,171 it could very well be a plainsmen, the future Chief Minister of Gorkhaland. The Darjeeling hill people and Bengal need note:
As mentioned earlier the 1909-11 Morley Minto Reforms Committee, the Simon Commission Report 1927-30 and others details, are the federation process of state formations. The qualifications for Darjeeling District and the Duars is its Regional identity with Assam (Northeast India) which is identified by reference to ‘Backward Tracts’(1873), Scheduled Districts 1874, Backward Tract (1919) then ‘Excluded and Partially Excluded Area (1936), the Cabinet Mission (1946), Advisory Committee (1947) etc clearly identifying Darjeeling District to Assam (Northeast Regions).
As pointed out in the draft, Bengal Presidency was a large land mass accumulation of all new annexations to the designated Presidency, such as Madras, Bombay, were added the areas for British territorial administration. At a stage in time, the Fort William Bengal Presidency comprised the entire eastern regions of India forming part of Oudd(UP), Bihar, Orissa (became states in 1912) and Assam (the erstwhile state to which Darjeeling district and the continuous plains of Duars and Jalpaiguri District, right up to the borders of Assam), is the regional identity of Darjeeling district to be included with the Northeast states and the respective Northeast Council (a separate Regional identity) in contrast to Bengal and rest of India, ethnologically, geographically, linguistically as well as administratively. This Northeast regional identity is well documented in the various Govt. of India Acts mentioned earlier. Hence just gowning the Darjeeling hill people, superfluously by any sort of dresses will further camouflage the original identity (Northeast region), and thereby complicating the matter and further misunderstanding in resolving a simple issue. It is felt that, it is this misunderstanding of the true identity that has delayed the ‘question of the statehood demand’ till date. This important factor which can deliver statehood for Darjeeling is somehow unseen in the winding literary write up of the Case for Gorkhaland.
In the Case, the main thrust for demanding Gorkhaland seems to be the linguistic regional identity as of this instance, which unfortunately, under successive precedental details defined in some instances, though genuine factorally, is being predicated and being sidelined as one of the major factors in qualification in determining statehood. For instance, during the Premiership of late Rajiv Gandhi, the linguistic factor once the main criterion was being considered to be rejected by Parliament decree.
Therefore to achieve the desired state of Gorkhaland, the only Constitutional provision open to the Darjeeling hill peoples is the regional identity with Assam as well as the Northeast. To support which are archives and documents in the state and central libraries for reference to understanding the intricate details? If these documents are not sufficient, one only requires opening the internet and downloading the gamut of various information’s prepared by the British Govt. on India file concerning administrative reforms.
The information derived from these documents will help fill in the application for a state for the Darjeeling hill people- Gorkhaland. To illustrate this point simply is referred to the British House of Parliament debating how to administer the indigenous people of ‘Backward Tracts’ from the raving exploitation and aggressive character of the dominant people from the plains was coined the phrase ‘Scheduled Districts’, ‘Excluded’ and ‘Partially Excluded Areas’ to exclude these areas from the provincial and central, legislative and judicial application subject to effect and interpretation by the executive, which in this case was the Governor General.
The rest of the details found in the Case for Gorkhaland seem trivial and naïve and observed more as a viability report than including factors determining a new state as provided by Constitutional jurisprudence. It is highly advised that the Case file be presented to Constitutional lawyers at the level of Supreme Court to find the flaws and loopholes, pros and cons, so that neither of the two parties West Bengal govt. nor the Govt. of India will find any hesitation to deny the Darjeeling hill people their regional rights, which has for long being denied under cloak and dagger policy followed by the State. The GJMM is advised to ask the govt. concerns, why a state has been denied to the Darjeeling people when it should have been handed out to them at the time of independence, if not earlier during the British Raj. This is a rhetoric which answer will only be replied when the state of Gorkhaland is formed. (Darjeeling times)