IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE

 

The demand for a separate state is being heard loudly again all over the Darjeeling hills for more than a year now. But the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, the party at the forefront of the movement, seems to have landed itself in a quagmire now by practising a kind of politics that discards the ground realities. One year into the movement, it is time for the Morcha to reassess it programmes and strategies to pull off something beyond symbolic victories.

Overthrowing Subash Ghisingh, the leader of the Gorkha National Liberation Front, who had ruled the hills for nearly twenty years, was easy for the Morcha. The GJM leader, Bimal Gurung, could capitalize on the people’s frustration for having to endure years of political ineptitude and constant interference in their socio-cultural life. Having got rid of Ghisingh, the Morcha suddenly seems to have lost itself in an open playfield from where there are no roads down which it can go. This is perhaps the most challenging phase of the Gorkhaland movement and the leaders are yet to prove that they have identified the right path.

Instead of making sustained efforts to generate goodwill towards the statehood demand in the Centre, Gurung’s party is now busy enlisting the support of the hill people, who are in any case total converts to the cause of Gorkhaland. The Morcha’s earlier strategy of non-cooperation with the state government was understandable as a policy aimed at hurting the enemy. The hill people had stopped paying all forms of state taxes, including telephone and electricity bills, to the government. However, when the state government had just started feeling the pinch, with the collective electricity bill dues crossing the Rs 9 crore mark, the Morcha decided to pay the bills for a period of three months starting from October.

Then the Morcha decided to go ahead with its agenda of switching the number plates of cars from WB (West Bengal) to GL (Gorkhaland) as part of its “home rule” movement. This is a sore issue, which threatens to divide the hills and the plains once again. The area of the proposed Gorkhaland includes Siliguri and parts of the Terai and the Dooars (that falls in the Jalpaiguri district), apart from the three hill subdivisions of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong. The majority of the people living in Siliguri and Dooars have not taken kindly to the switching of number plates, largely refusing to use GL in their vehicles.

The Morcha’s programme of making the people wear traditional dresses during the festive season also hit a sour note with the front turning it into a diktat. An appeal would have been more acceptable. And when the hill people had virtually accepted the dress code, those who had refused to wear the attire were smeared with black paint right in the heart of Darjeeling.

There are some basic principles of politics that even novice politicians should understand. A party cannot keep inconveniencing its supporters and still hope to get their support, especially when it is unable to deliver the goods with any consistency. If one gets branded as anti-Gorkhaland simply on refusing to accept the party’s diktat, one is bound to be offended. The Morcha needs to consider the people’s psychology before being brash with them.

The political history of the hills show that the civil society here has always lived under the shadow of the political bigwigs. When Morcha supporters applied black paint on the people, few came forward to condemn the act. This only goes to show the helplessness of the hill people. There is a clear need for the people of the hills to be more aware of their rights and responsibilities. Political parties too must start functioning on the basis of ideologies, and not just emotions.

Politics in the hills has never been practised in a systematic way. It is well known that the Gorkhaland movement largely owes its success to the support it receives from the adivasi community in the Terai and Dooars. And yet, apart from changing the name of the Morcha to the Gorkha Janmukti Adivasi Morcha in the region, no sustained effort to retain the tribal community’s cooperation has yet been made. It comes as no surprise then that the Adivasi Vikash Parishad is gradually convincing the tribal community to refrain from joining the Gorkhaland movement. It is time that the Morcha concentrates more on the Dooars and the Terai than on the Darjeeling hills.

It is also time that the intellectuals debate whether the demand for Gorkhaland is to be argued on the basis of identity or of development. If Gorkhaland is about differentiating the Indian Gorkhas from the citizens of Nepal and asserting their place in the mainstream, then there can be no plausible reason for the adivasi communities to support the movement. However, if the Morcha maintains that better development is why the new state needs to be created, then, of course, there is a slew of other alternatives to statehood that can serve that cause just as well .

Gurung had repeatedly promised a Gorkhaland by 2010, and the hill people have unconditionally stood by him. If Gurung’s promise is to come true in two years, the front has to stop going round and round in the Darjeeling hills. It should expand its support base by taking into account the wishes and desires of people living elsewhere as well.

 (The Telegraph)

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West Bengal Legislative Assembly Member from Darjeeling Mr. Gaulan Lepcha’s speech to the Floor

THE HIMALAYAN BEACON (BEACON ONLINE) EXCLUSIVE

The house must know why Gorkha community of Darjeeling Hill and Dooars feel alienated from Bengal? They spent their blood and toil to convert the rugged hilly terrain and unhygienic infected plains into beautiful tea garden and rich forest a huge source of revenue to the government. Darjeeling tea is considered as green gold in the world market but what could have prevented the government to remain a mute spectator when the Terai commended a Kanchanzanga Stadium, Tenzing Norgay Bus terminus and science city, north Bengal University leaving the Hallow pathways that carved for the states attentions, needless to mentions since 1907.

Sir, 3Ts in Darjeeling has become a matter of documentaries and editorials. You have stopped thinking of dying tea Industries, you have established no forest based industries and even discouraged tourist from visiting Darjeeling Hill station.

Tourism and education which form the core of sustainable economy of the hills today witnesses the Smudge of neglect. The present day mass movement of the hills wakeup call which ‘beacons’ that attentions of the state and the centre, which parse speak up political aspiration of the Gorkha community and therefore desire to remain as an intricate part of Indian Society.

Further more, I call upon the attention of this house which echoed the political aspiration hill by the Communist Party of India voicing Gorkhasthan needless to mentioned before this enlightened the birth of Gorkha League in 1943 which carved Uttar Khand. Post 1986 till present is the reverberation of the hills longing for identity of Indian Gorkhas.

The present motion is a Charade in the chess board of politics. Ironically on the other hand repeatedly I call upon the benign vibrant Honorable Chief Minister to immediately leave no stone unturned call for a tripartite meeting which will spells as panacea to the present day problem of the hills, ushering a new dawn of peace, harmony, development and fraternity.

I end by suggesting all my honourable colleagues of this house let noble thought come to us from every side.

This address is dated: 31st July 2008

West Bengal Legislative Assembly Member from Darjeeling Mr. Pranai Rai’s speech to the Floor

THE HIMALAYAN BEACON (BEACON ONLINE) EXCLUSIVE

Its totally confusion hearing our fellow members speak in favour of the motion against the formation of the statehood of Gorkhaland purely based on party – rather limited political principles, guidd by emotions and baseless arguments which cannot at all be in conformity to the legalities and statistics of the questionable legal status of the Hill areas, no wonder the leftist could not win the hearts of the millions oppressed labour class Gorkha because of many instances of theory rather practical measures. Do you remember we GORKHAS were the first martyrs of labour class struggle in the Tea Industry at Margarets Hope in the year 1955. We believe in Leninism “Right of Self Determination” in practiciality and Gorkhaland is the basis of these theory.

Let me take you back as to what the opinion of your party was way back before independence. They were of the opinion that the District of Darjeeling belongs to the Gorkhas and it was their homeland. The CPI vehemently opposed the sinister British imperialists plan of excluding the District Darjeeling from the rest of India and its constitution into a separate Chief Commissioners province as had been put forward by the Darjeeling Hill Men’s Association and its memorandum to Ld Patrick Lawrence, secretary state for the state of India in December, 1941. The CPI also demanded that an immediate end must be made of the present status of the district of Darjeeling described in the Government of India Act 1935, as a “partially excluded area” and with it all the special powers of the Bureacracy, as a preliminary step to further the political economic and cultural conditions of the Gorkhas and the Hill tribes living in the District. Was given by Darjeeling District Committee C. P. I. Ratanlal Brahmin, Late Ganeshlal Subba to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Vice President of the Interim Government and Liaquat Ali Khan, Finance member, Interim Government Leader of Muslim League Assembly Party, presented on the 6th Day of April 1947 to the Constituent Assembly. The Communist Party of India was of the opinion that the only way to further the national development of the Gorkha people was by granting them their right of determination on the basis of complete democracy which means that the British imperialism and its satellites. The medieval feudal regimes of the native state of Sikkim and the so called independent state of Nepal must be ended. The Communist Party of India therefore demanded that after making necessary revisions of the existing boundaries, the three contiguous areas of Darjeeling District, southern Sikkim and Nepal be formed into one single zone to be called GORKHASTHAN. To again remind you my friends the opinion of the CPIM after nearly three decades:

On principle the Communist Party of India (Marxist) had accepted to grant SPECIAL PROVISIONS RELATING TO HILL AREAS OF DISTRICT OF DARJEELING, vide the Constitution (Amendment) Bill No. 59 of 1982 headed by Shri Ananda Pathak Samar Mukherjee and Shri Somnath Chatterjee, MP’s and subsequently on the 9th Day of August 1985 Bill Number 122 of 1985 by Shri Ananda Pathak, M. P. the bill was never passed BUT it is surprising that at the signing of the tripartite accord the volume of autonomy that was reflected in the said Bill 6 years ago and accepted on principle by the CPIM was not at all reflected in the said DGHC accord rather limited to just vesting of Executive powers in the newly formed DGHC, which proves the malfide and bad intention of the CPIM towards the Hill people, having no, whatsoever interest in the socio-economic, educational development of the Hills. When on principle the CPIM had advocated about the special provision to the hills since before Independence till 1985 then why was such proposal not laid at the very inception of the Gorkhaland agitation which began in the year 1986, resulting into death of more than 1200 martyrs, even your cadres have died embracing your principles against Gorkhaland but all in vain with the DGHC accord.

Some of my learned friends need to be historically corrected. Please remember, the state of Sikkim vide the 35th amendment in the year 1974, Article 2A was made an associate state. And the 36th Amendment 1975 amended the First Schedule of the Constitution to include Sikkim as the 22nd State of the Indian Union 371F granted special provision to Sikkim. Vide the 53rd Amendment Act 1986 statehood was granted to the Union Territory of Mizoram inserting Article 371G granting special status to this new state. Similarly vide 55th Amendment Act 1986 Arunachal Pradesh Article 371H, 56th; Goa etc. But the legal status of Darjeeling remains challenged, questioned and a debatable issue till date. To corroborate my statement I would like to refer to the Historical background of Darjeeling vis-à-vis with British East India Company, India and Nepal on the backdrop.

Darjeeling historically ipso facto was by exigency of political annexations by the Britishers whose tacit and irresponsible steps incorporated Darjeeling to the Union of India. Nepal was never annexed to the British despite of the Anglo Nepalese War which took place somewhere in the month of November 1814-1816. The Britishers led by General Ochterlony was more successful and the Gorkhas were driven eastward beyond the Kali River, and began to negotiate for peace. Arms however, were soon taken up again and Ochterlony who was put in command, in January 1816, advanced directly on the capital in the line of the route that is now in use. The Nepalese sued for peace. A treaty was concluded in March by which the Nepalese relinquished much of the newly acquired territory, and allowed a British residency to be established at Kathmandu. The British were victorious and by The Sugauli Treaty signed on the December 2nd 1815 and ratified by March 4th 1816 between the British and Nepal, vide the 3rd Article the Rajah of Nepal ceded to the East India Company in perpetuity all the under mentioned territories:

First: The whole of the low lands between the River Kali and Rapti.

Secondly: The whole of the lowlands (with the exception of Bootwul Khass) lying between the Rapti and the Gunduk.

Thirdly: The whole of the low lands between the Gunduk and Coosah in which authority of the British Government has been introduced or is in actual course of introduction.

Fourthly: All the low lands between the River Mitchee and the Teestah.

Fifthly: All the territories within the hills eastward of the River Mitchee including the Fort and lands of Nagree and the Pass of Nagarcote leading from Morung into the hills together with the territory lying between that pass and Nagree. The British wer given possession of the West of Nepal in Kumaon and Garhwal, it conceded about one third of its territory to the British. Sikkim, Kumaon and Garhwal which are now part of the Indian State of Uttarkhanad, much of the Terai plains in the South and some area that is now Himalchal Pradesh were wrested from Nepal and became a part of India as per the Treaty. Territory west of Kali River like Kumaon present Indian state of Uttarkhand, Garhwal (Uttarkhand), some territories to the West of the Sutlej River like Kangra (present day Himachal Pradesh), and much of the Terai region. Vide the Treaty of Titalia dated 10th of February 1817 vide Article 1 all the areas of Darjeeling was given to Sikkim under the then Raja of Sikkimputtee. Vide Deed of Grant 1.2.1835 again the Hills of Darjeeling was returned back to the East India company all the land South of the great Rungneet River east of the Balasun, Kahail and little Rungneet Rivers and west of the Rungno and the Mahanadi Rivers. The Governor General in Council reluctantly resolved to occupy permanently somewhere on the 12th Day of November 1864 to the British territory the Bengal Doars of Bhutan and so much of the Hill territory the Bengal Dooars of Bhutan and so much of the Hill territory, including the fort of Dalingkot, Panakha and Dewangiri and vide Treaty of Sinchula dated 11.11.1865 the whole tract known as the eighteen Doars, bordering the Districts of Rungnoor, Coochbehar and Assam together the Talook of Ambaree Fallahcottah and the Hill territory on the left bank of River Teesta was concluded between the East India Co, represented by Colonel Herbert Bruce, and by virtue of full powers to that effect vested in him by the Viceroy and Governor General, Sir John Lawrence and Shri Samdojey Deb Jimpey and Temseyrensey Donai, full powers conferred on them by the Dhum and Deb Rajahs.

Subsequently, our independent and sovereign state of India after independence decided to further strengthen and develop friendly ties to perpetuate peace in between the two countries and came onto an INDO NEPAL TREATY dated 31st Day of July 1950 between the Government of India and Nepal, which abrogated earlier treaties, CLAUSE VIII states, “so far matters dealt with herein are concerned, the Treaty cancels all previous Treaties, agreements and engagements entered into on behalf of India between the British Government and the Government of Nepal. From this THREE conclusions irresistibly follow the foregoing bipartite agreement. First on the lapse of paramountcy, all rights and powers of sovereign exercised by the British Government in and over Darjeeling would automatically de jure revert back to either Nepal or Sikkim. Secondly the Deed of Grant will on the termination of British Authority in India cease to be operative and the rights of Property in respect of Darjeeling area would re-vest either in Sikkim or Nepal.

Thus it was therefore imperatively necessary the territories in question should have been retroceded either to Sikkim or Nepal, which nevertheless concludes the areas that was annexed by virtue of Sugaolee still stands and remains undisputed. We Gorkhas are proud Indians who sacrifice our lives at the borders in the protection and greater interest of the nation and feel the need of the hour is to give back our land with Constitutional Recognition within the sovereign state of India.

GORKHALAND, sine qua non is not simply a desire but a necessity felt a Century ago. It is economically viable then any other states in India, we have the capacity to provide enough intellectual resources. The stigma of communal character within it is all fabricated and manufactured by anti social statements of the state who never believe in giving back the RIGHTS OF THE PEOPLE OF DOOARS AND DARJEELING. We are strong believers of Secular State and the cry of the people not only denotes of the Gorkhas but even other communities like the Bhutias, Bengali, Muslim, Bihari, Marwari, Punjabi etc who live united as a large family with inter community marriages. The nomenclature GORKHALAND cannot connote communalism when it did not in the year 1947 when the CPI coined GORKHASTHAN then why today. Other states can have according to their community why not GORKHALAND.

All the important political parties functioning in the region are unanimous that the Nepali speaking region in question should be administratively separated from West Bengal.

I am of the opinion that nothing sort of full fledged statehood for Darjeeling and Dooars region will meet the aspirations of the Hill people and no other administrative schemes such as the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council will ultimately be found to be workable.

Thus under the stated factum and legalities I hope my fellow members will be of the opinion that this land of ours still remain unattached and legally disputed and needs constitutional recognition by paving a way for creation of a separate state of Gorkhaland.

JAI GORKHA

JAI GORKHALAND

JAI HIND

This address is dated: 31st July 2008

Thinking about my place, my people

By Mende Lama

The issue of Gorkhaland has come back with a bang this time amidst much protest from Nepalis and Non-Nepalis alike. The Gorkhaland issue was not just a fight for a separate state but it was a battle of identity for the gorkhas of Darjeeling. The people in the hills of West Bengal have been very touché about the separate identity that they have been craving for, since the early 1900’s.It of course did not help that some leaders both regional as well as national in the shadow of ignorance, one would like to believe have called the gorkhas “illegal immigrants”.

As I write this, I receive a mail from my friend in Bombay and it reads: Dear all, India Today a leading magazine has started a survey if Gorkhaland demand is justified… This poll will have a huge impact on the decision makers in Delhi… so far the Naysayers are winning… I request you all to kindly vote in favor of Gorkhaland.

Please forward this mail to everyone you know…

Please vote in favour of Gorkhaland. I go to the site and vote. I try to vote again it says “You already voted for this poll today!”

And I am torn between my desire to see a separate state of Gorkhaland, the state that I so badly want, and seeing our people back home suffering because of the strike.

Ever since I could, I’ve been reviewing the political situation in Darjeeling. Every time I think it’ll get better it manages to get a little worse. I still remember the Gorkhaland agitation of 1986 although I was never exposed to the violence that followed. I didn’t know anything about the issue then, I didn’t even try.

Finally the agitation was called off after the formulation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council whose chairman was one so-called “Subhash Ghising”. This man ruled our land for nearly two decades and what we got years later was water at Rs 20 per litre, potholes, rampant corruption and no elections.

Darjeeling is rightly supposed to be a part of democratic India but which India is it where elections go unheard of, for four years after the expiry of a five-year term.

Darjeeling supposed to be the ‘Queen of Hills’, which I hold so close to my heart, has deteriorated so badly that I hardly feel like going back to the place I love. Once famous for it’s tea, tourism and the toy train it is not what it was, anymore. Darjeeling has become synonymous with strikes.

 I do not know what will come of the political talks that are happening between the hill parties and the centre but I do know that if ever Gorkhaland becomes a reality I, will be glad.