: Preksha Sharma
In terms of socio-cultural, educational and political upliftment, Indian Gorkhas are really orphan sin in Independent India. As the media is regarded as a friend and guide of the people and are also the custodian of the Human rights, the role of media in regional and national issue is really praiseworthy. The media rightly reported the clandestine deal of the State Govt and the Caretaker and/or Administrator of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council. The various electronic media like Kolkata TV, ETV Bangla, and 24 Ghanta organized various panel discussions in the hills inviting diverse political parties, intelligentsia, and the common public highlighting the Sixth Schedule Bill. The issue started getting hotter and the media was successful in creating awareness amongst the people in Kolkata and elsewhere. Even Bengali intellectuals were invited for the panel discussions and panelists came out openly against the dubious role of the Government of West Bengal and caretaker administrator Subash Ghising. The panelist openly advocated the demand of Gorkhaland, citing it a constitutional demand as envisaged in Section 3(a) of the Indian Constitution.
A word of two must be mentioned about the Nandigram episode of 14th March 2007, carried and enacted with meticulous care and communistic precision had exposed nakedly to the world by the media.
Media has always taken up the cause of people and the role of Medias the fourth estate of the largest democracy of the world is evident from the reporting’s made by media on various matters.
In the last Gorkhaland movement of 1986, the media had projected the demand of the Indian Gorkhas a result of influence from the North East and Naxalite movement of the country on the people of West Bengal. The recent panel discussions in the electronic media on Gorkhaland and the identity crisis of the Indian Gorkhas proved to be an eye-opener to the bureaucrats at the centre and other who held the opinion that Indian Gorkhas are immigrants from neighboring countries to work in the tea gardens during 1850s’.
The media rightly remarked that in the evolution of nationality the essential ingredients, the territory, economic life, psychological aspect and cultural affinity are threaded to a thread of common language. But in spite of the language being a major factor for the formation of nationality it could not be the sole agent; nevertheless it is regarded as a dominant cause for cohesiveness. Because the Bengali language of Bangladesh and West Bengal of India is one and the same. But the Bengalese of West Bengal and Bangladesh having similarity of language and facial look, they are two distinct entities.
Media portrays Gorkhas as non Indians. The one who are leading the agitation for Gorkhaland are not making a secessionist demand, it is only a demand for the creation of another state which will give the Gorkhas equal rights to any other citizen in the country. People will know about the Gorkha identity. Since, there are very few Gorkha journalist, it makes difficult for them to write back to the stories published calling a Gorkha demand ‘A Secessionist ‘s Demand.”
The media has very little knowledge about Gorkhaland and either by default the ruling press in the hill have many Bengali employees’ who are attracted to their community. Therefore, they speak for West Bengal. Since the Gorkha journalists are outnumbered, for example in Delhi there are just eight to nine Gorkha journalists; it becomes difficult for them to put their point forward nationally. When a comparison is made between the eighties and now the media has become much more aware of the Gorkhaland demand for a state. Like in the eighties there was no one to reflect the true voice of Gorkhas. When a demand for a state was places which was very much with the constitution just like Telengana, Saurastra, Chhattisgarh and many more, the Gorkhas demand was called a secessionist demand and the Gorkhas has always protected the nation were called terrorist and extremist.
In the eighties the media and West Bengal did whatever they wanted to. Therefore, there was no reflection o f the actual voice of Indian Gorkhas. The agitation then was called a violent agitation but with a little probing into the context a conclusion can be drawn that violence is a part of every agitation. Example being the Uttarkhand and the Gujjar agiation.
Agitation against does have some violence but in the eighties this violence was termed as “Hills is Boiling”. That picturisation was very unfair. Media further portrayed it as people in Darjeeling are fighting against each other and this went un-contradicted due to the lack of media support in the demand for Gorkhaland.
Presently, TV channels and newspapers have understood the demand for Gorkhaland and there are stories to carry out like for example when Urban Development Minster, Govt. of West Bengal, Mr. Ashok Bhattacharya all the Indian Gorkahs as foreigner. He was made to apologize for his statement. Today, when there are ten series published against the Gorkha there are four stories which carry the Gorkha voice too. Even though it may not reach the whole masses but they do make a difference.
The media is instrumental in projecting the incessant stratagem employed by the West Bengal Government for causing weariness against the endeavor of getting the region separated from political, and administrative clutches of Bengal. The state of West Benal becomes the exploiter in this case wherein the social identity of Darjeeling inhabitants is subsumed at physical, emotional and economic levels. This identity crisis leads to aspirations of a separate territory. Identity crisis recognition therefore, has become political and assumed the nature and shape of a political movement. The aspiration towards statehood is thus seen as a validation of organized power group identity. This claim to specific territory marks the essence of nationalistic sentiment, therefore, marking the formation a state as gaining political identity. The attainment of this political identity can validate the Gorkha people’s desire for active participation in nation building and the overall concept of nationalism.
Media is divided into three different groups as per their attitude and approach towards the movement of the Gorkhas for a separate state of their own for their national acceptance and identification. The national media has always been guided by the misconception fed to them by the leaders from time to time. The central leaders of almost all the political parties of India are much prejudicial about their negligible knowledge about this brave community.
They are of the opinion that the Gorkhas are immigrants from the neighboring country Nepal. Most of them have come to earn their livelihood and out of the lot few of them have settled down in this country. They are loyal to Nepal and not to India.
The Indian leaders are completely ignorant about the past history of the Gorkhas and about their presence in India. They are also unaware of the contribution of the Gorkha community in the freedom movement of this country and in making and safeguarding of our motherland after independence.
Eventually they think that the Gorkhas have no rights for the formation of a separate state Gorkhaland in India. Their demand is illogical and illegitimate. The national media are influenced by this logic so they also nurture this concept and are never sincere to find out the reality of the issues. What they thought and wrote about Gorkhaland movement lacked reason and fact finding.
The second group is of the regional media which are always influenced by the regional and communal politics. They never acted independently. They never tried to comprehend the problems of Gorkhas in the county. The regional media appreciated the injustice done to the Gorkha movement. The local media comprising of vernacular press and local channels on the hand are also influenced by the local politics. It must be either their emotional attachment to the demand or the political coercion on them that they exaggerate thing in favor of the movement. They are also not ethical and true to their responsibility. Due to political pressure directly or indirectly they adopt a policy of appeasements and do not incline to write the negative aspect of the movement. Hence, as a whole media have failed to play their exact role towards Gorkhaland movement. But there has been a change in a scenario in the recent times for a number of reasons. The media have changed their attitude towards this movement due to following reasons:
1. The leaders of the movement in the second phase realized that the movement should have exposure in the national level and there should be a lobby in Delhi.
2. A number of journalists in the national papers in Delhi have been helping to enlighten the people of India about the background of the Gorkhas in India and their contribution towards this county.
Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, has also centralized its activities in Delhi and has been endeavoring to give the leaders of the ruling and that of the opposition parties the true picture of the Gorkhas and the injustice done to them even after sixty years of independence. These exercises have certainly changed the concept of the national and regional media to some extent. They are now at least trying to understand the issues. This is undoubtly a positive change.
Most of the national leaders and the members of parliament have also been enlightened about the issues with supporting documents like Why Gorkhaland?
The movement is been given more coverage by the national papers and the channels. This is undoubtly a big plus point to the movement. If the medias without prejudice make people understand who the Gorkhas are, how they differ from the people of Nepal coming to India for different purposes the history of the area which the Gorkhas have been claiming to include in the proposed Gorkhaland the constitutional provision and economic viability of Gorkhaland, then it is believed the negative propaganda regarding the Gorkhas and Gorkhaland will have no footings. Therefore, the success and failure of this movement largely depends on the approach on the role of the media.
(Courtesy: Bishal Kirat Rai, New delhi)