Tamang floats new front plan

Darjeeling, Nov. 10: The ABGL is contemplating forming a new front in support of Gorkhaland by organising a meeting of “all political parties and intellectuals across Bengal”.

“We plan to organise a meeting on the lines of the All Party Hill Leader’s Conference that had been chaired by Capt. William Sangma in Shillong in 1971 before carving Meghalaya (out of Assam),” said Madan Tamang, the ABGL president, today.

The proposed meeting is likely to be held here at the end of the month.

“However, the parties will have to adopt a resolution, even if at the district-level, before participating in the meeting,” said Tamang.

The ABGL leader said all political parties from the hills also would be invited. “If the CPM, too, adopts a resolution in favour of Gorkhaland, it will be welcomed,” said Tamang and added that he was not eager to lead the front, a clear roadmap for which is yet to emerge.

“Many intellectuals in Calcutta are in support of Gorkhaland. They have expressed their willingness to attend the meet. However, we will lay a stress on achieving Gorkhaland through democratic means,” Tamang added.

Asked about the fate of the People’s Democratic Front, an anti-GNLF forum that was headed by Tamang, the ABGL leader said the coalition was “not defunct but is merely maintaining a low profile”.

“At one point, there was an indication that even the new party (the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha) would be a forum only. However, they registered with the Election Commission as a political outfit,” said Tamang.

Observers, however, believe that the success of the new front will largely depend on the Morcha response as it still enjoys the support of the majority of the hill people. Given the animosity between Bimal Gurung’s party and the ABGL, the prospects of a new front look bleak.

Today, the student wing of the Morcha brought out a rally against Tamang.

The students, mainly from schools, had come to attend a meeting called by the Morcha.

Tamang criticised B.B. Gooroong, the political adviser to the Sikkim chief minister, for his comments against some “hill parties” at a book release programme yesterday.

“If Gooroong is concerned about the hill problems, Sikkim should claim Darjeeling as its own for the hills originally belong to the Himalayan kingdom. The ABGL has been passing a resolution on the merger of Darjeeling and Sikkim since 1943,” said Tamang. (The Telegraph)

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Discursive Hills – Book Review

Discursive Hills (295 pages)
Price Rs 450
Publishers: St Joseph’s College

Requires Recall 
-by Sonam B Wangyal 

From: Darjeeling Times: (Must read review which clarifies the fallacies found in the two articles of the book Discursive Hills)
Only the first two most important essays in this collection of academic papers will be considered and the readers are left to decide whether these articles justify the continued the sale of the book. My opinion is that a stray error is admissible but a series of distortions, disinformation and misinformation, should drive the publishers from taking the book down from the sale counters. The Publishers have a formidable reputation built up over decades of good record and this book tarnishes their so-far-unshakeable reputation. 

 
(1)    KEYNOTE ADDRESS: “The History and Development of the Hill Stations in India” Professor Mahendra P. Lama (Vice Chancellor, Sikkim University)

 
The Keynote Address by the redoubtable scholar, Prof. Mahendra P. Lama, must not be taken as the gospel truth on account of his formidable reputation and weighty scholarship.  The first page of the paper has it that Csoma de Koros, along with three other illustrious writers, put into record, “the enchanting mountains and the socio-cultural dynamics of hill societies in their travelogues.” Let it be known that Alexander Csoma never wrote a travelogue and in whatever else he penned there was nothing about “the social-cultural dynamics of hill people”. The author is from Darjeeling and the scholar extraordinaire, Alexander Csoma of Koros, also lived for sometime, died and was interred in Darjeeling and therefore the proximity of association should have precluded such a massive error. As a note of interest I would like to add that Alexander Csoma’s writings can be divided into two categories: (a) Tibetan Grammar and Dictionary and the essays published in various journals and (b) his manuscripts.
 
Lama states that “The Anglo-Gorkha War created cantonment in Dehradun and the Anglo-Bhutan War (1864-65) [did the same] in and around Darjeeling.” (P 13) One cannot ignore the fact that the territory could not have been British without the war, and going by the same logic the hill stations there could not have been possible without the conquered land. These give rise to the notion that the Himalayan hill stations were a direct product of the Anglo-Gorkha War and almost all historians unanimously swear by this assumption. But history is not a dead subject and must be probed regularly and wherever possible a fresh breath of life has to be injected. Consequently, I would like to propose a different version. 

The War was only partially and somewhat indirectly responsible for the cantonments/hill stations but never directly responsible. First, it must be emphasized, the objective of the war was not cantonments/hill stations. Second, following the successful campaign the victorious British did not go searching for spots that would eventually metamorphose into cantonments/hill stations (nor were there official decrees to search for such a place), third, when most of the cantonments/hill stations were discovered they were generally results of unintended discovery. Fourth, even after their discoveries there was no immediate enthusiasm to make these havens into European habitats, and fifth, there were considerable gaps between termination of the war to the discoveries and subsequent development of the station/cantonment. 

Derhadun, in fact, was accidentally discovered in 1826 by Captain Young and the first house came up in 1827, i.e. after twelve years of the war and the cantonment grew sluggishly over the decades. Now compare this with Darjeeling which was ‘ceded’ in 1835 and by 1839 there was already a Superintendent. One must be wary of conferring undue credit to an event and to admit the discovery and development of Dheradun to the Anglo-Gorkha War would be equivalent to saying that the old Tista Bridge would have never come about if the British had not taken over our district. It may be apt to add that Simla too does not fit into the proposed conjecture since historical records show that it was “acquired” in 1830, fourteen years subsequent to the war through an exchange agreement with the Maharaja of Patiala and the Rana of Keonthal, the joint proprietors of the land. Two Scots brothers, Gerad, while on a survey mission discovered Simla on 30 August 1817 (note the proximity of the year to the war) but nothing emerged from the sighting. The fillip came only in 1827 (note the distance of the year to the war) when Lord Amherst decided to spend his summer at Simla. His entourage consisted of about 12,000 people, 850 fully loaded camels, several hundred horses, and 150 elephants, complete with mahouts The tiny village of Simla became a prosperous town overnight. Subsequent annual visits by Governor-Generals added to the prestige and commerce of the pretty town. Keeping the chain of events in mind is it even tenuously possible to say that Simla was a product of the Anglo-Gorkha War?

Consider also Naini Tal which was discovered in 1839, twenty-four years after the war, by an English businessman, Mr. Barron, simply because he was lost and while trying to head home he stumbled upon a hidden lake called Naini Tal. In 1842 there were only twelve houses and in 1845 i.e. after thirty years of the war, Naini Tal had only sixteen houses. Along with the comment on Dhera Dun, Lama also adds that the Anglo-Bhutan War also brought the founding of cantonments “in and around Darjeeling.” The Anglo-Bhutan War (1864-65), in truth, brought Kalimpong under the British but the cantonments in the district did not have even the remotest of connections to the episode. 

Senchal Cantonment came up in 1844 (abandoned 1867), Jalapahar Cantonment in 1848, and Katapahar Cantonment was a part of the Jalapahar Cantonment. Lebong Cantonment came up initially as a part of the Jalapahar setup in 1882 and became a separate Cantonment in 1895 while the Takda Cantonment was initiated in 1910. All the dates clearly testify that Anglo-Bhutan war had nothing to do with these cantonments since all of them were built well before that war with the exception of Lebong which came up sixty-six years after and became a full cantonment seventy-nine years after the war. Takda Cantonment came up after ninety-four years of the signing of the Treaty of Sinchula. Even if we exclude the pre-war cantonments, since they cannot possibly be a consequence of the war, the two other post-war cantonments, one seventy-nine and the other ninety-four years of the Anglo-Bhutan War, make any association far fetched simply because of the enormous time lapsed in between. The conclusion derived by the scholar is just a reproduction of what many have written in the past and a small bit of personal input is sorely missing. 

Anyway, if a cantonment had to be created in the Darjeeling district, as a consequence of that war, the most logical place would have been Kalimpong, after all the place was taken by the British as spoils of war from the Bhutanese and also because the sub-division bordered Bhutan. What is interesting is that O’Malley does not mention of any cantonment existing in Kalimpong or something similar being constructed as a consequence of the war. And the same goes for chronicler Dozey, gazetteer Dash and statistician Hunter. We can only conclude that not only were the cantonments unrelated to the war but it must be viewed with due curiosity that, despite the Professor’s verdict, no cantonment was built in Kalimpong which became part of British India as a direct aftermath of the Anglo-Bhutan war. 

Finally it is necessary to mull over Shillong and Cherrapunji since Lama has mentioned them and hinted the two as products of the Anglo Burma war. Cherrapunji was an army station (cantonment) for the duration of the war but it never developed into a hill station (cf. the subject of the paper: The History and Development of the Hill Stations in India) for many decades and Shillong came about as an alternative to the unhealthy and unpleasant Cherra. When the cantonment shifted to Shillong the war had long since terminated and the shift to the present place was not a consequence of the war but an outcome of Cherra’s unhealthy climate and Shillong’s salubrious environment. Cherra, the rain-capital of the world never developed for decades and even today it is a just a township but not a hill station in the sense that we know of. It simply is nothing more than a town (station) on a hill. Even as late as 1992 a scholar commented, “Tourism … makes little contribution to Shora’s economy. There are no hotels worth the name … The civil life in Shora also lacks drive and thrust … Shora has practically nothing of civic amenities … narrow rods and lanes, much of which are in want of repair.”
 
It is mentioned that the Sidrapong power plant was built in 1897 “in order to run these various economic systems” and if the ‘economic systems’ meant tea and cinchona then the Professor is far from exactness. The manufacture of cinchona will not be considered for it hardly requires any power in comparison to tea manufacture. In the old Darjeeling Gazetteers there is absolutely no mention of the tea gardens receiving power from Sidrapong station on the contrary we have O’Malley informing us, “A large number of the tea factories have been built in situations where full advantage can be taken of the water-power available in the mountain streams on the estates. …During the last decade or so, the old water-wheels have all given place to the more modern and effective turbine as a driving motor.” The power generated at Sidrapong did not roll the machines in the tea gardens and because of that the plantations had to generate their own electricity. Some gardens not blessed with a nearby mountain streams even resorted of using coal to generate electricity at a cost that was prohibitive and barely profitable.     
 
The same page claims that (Christian) missionaries “came with a great zeal of public service.” This is only partially true. The Scottish Mission and the Catholics at Pedong were about the only missionaries that can be classified as truly Christian in spirit and in deed. Most of the other missionaries came to educate and minister their own folks. Schools like Goethal’s Memorial School, Loreto Convent, Mt. Hermon School, St. Joseph’s College, St. Paul’s School, Dr Graham’s Homes etc were never meant for the native child. The Christian Principles and Rectors indulged in an indirect form of segregation for decades after decades without any embarrassment or guilt. Even Victoria School and Dow Hill School, run by the government, were meant for the children of the financially lesser endowed Europeans or Anglo-Indians. Dick B. Dewan writing on the early years of Darjeeling minces no words: “Barring the German Moravian missionaries, all other missionaries that followed, have appeared to be interested in the education of the domiciled European children rather than in the education of the native children…” Somehow Dewan has missed Rev. Macfarlane and the Catholics in Pedong, otherwise the quiet and humble scholar is on excellent track. He singles out St. Paul’s School as an example with a rather severe but acceptable comment: “The school hardly served any purpose of the native children of Darjeeling hill track or of the Indian people at large.”[17] Only when circumstances changed with Indians becoming more powerful financially, socially and most significantly ‘politically’ that the portals of these great schools began to open up by the inches. Arthur Jules Dash, writing as late as 1946, is very specific in the objectives of these schools and he is on record writing, “Their aim was to provide for European and Anglo-Indian children the type of education and upbringing to which the parents had been accustomed to in their native country.” 
 
An assertion is made that because the missionaries made numerous schools, children traveled to Darjeeling with their parents and this, in a way, boosted tourism. After that assertion Lama adds that “Tourism in turn promoted the development of basic infrastructures and put in place more effective governance.” Even though I am in partial agreement to this claim I must say that the decisive factor must be tea, tea and tea. Tea was and is so much a distinguishing factor, a silent ambassador, the largest employer, a great revenue earner, foreign exchange winner, and, for the sake of argument, without tea where would have Darjeeling been! Not surprisingly, The Concise Oxford English Dictionary does not describe Darjeeling as a town or a hill station but rather as “Darjeeling/ da:’dzi:liŋ/ n. a high-quality tea from Darjeeling in NE India.”
 
The generalization that the hill stations “served as major producing grounds for very specific crops like tea and cinchona” (p. 14), is flawed. This may be true of Darjeeling and a few tea plantations in south India (tea and coffee) but what “specific crops” did Gulmarg, Chail, Naini Tal etc (in the Himalayan region), Ranchi, Hazaribagh etc (central region), Matherar, Pune, Lonavla etc (western region) produce? In the same page the Professor declares that following the influx of missionaries and students “the food habit changed” in the Darjeeling hills and in the following page (last para.) he contradicts himself with the statement “The food habits across the hill towns have remained deeply influenced by their strong village roots.” Both cannot be correct.  
 
Lama mentions (p.15) that hill towns were used for signing international agreements and mentions the Tripartite Treaty done in Simla but significantly forgets to mention that Indo-Bhutan Treaty of 1949 was done directly under his nose at Darjeeling. At the bottom of the page a few lines are allotted to the local brew. Lama say that tongba is the popular wine and this needs a bit of examination not because it is hugely important but since Discursive Hills is written by intellectuals, scholars and enlightened persons and errors will invariably be quoted in the future as facts. Therefore, even at the cost of being a bit semantic, the following minor corrections would be appropriate. The drink in the Tibetan and its related languages is called chhang (not tongba which is the container for the brew).Chhang incidentally is not a wine, I presume Lama is not given to alcoholic indulgence and therefore the error. Chhang is a crude native beer made of millet or rice and at times even corn or barley. The Nepali equivalent to chhang would be janr and the tongba is called dhungro.   
 
A few words about the Che(e)bu Lama of Sikkim who has been touted as “one of the finest diplomats.” Cheebu was NOT a diplomat, the British never gave him that status, no historian has ever acknowledged him as such and he never claimed to be one simply because he was not. He was a translator for the British officers at Darjeeling and for those visiting the place on official work. He went with Ashley Eden to Bhutan in the capacity of a translator, a messenger boy, guide and as a man who could procure labour and supplies (sardar or labour contractor). Besides it was his duty to deliver letters and bring back replies when needed. The Bhutanese were very bitter that a man from Sikkim had guided the British officers to Bhutan and on 23 February 1863 the Governor of Paro and the ex-Governor threatened him with dire consequences for “daring to bring Englishmen into their country..” The Tongsa Penlop also threatened imprisonment, an intention hardly appropriate for “one of the finest diplomats”. He was a Sikkimese Lepcha and committed treachery by aligning with the British against his king, country and people and for this act of treachery he was rewarded an unbelievable 49 square miles of land in the north-west of the district immediately making him the largest land owner in the district. The History of Sikkim quoting Government letter no. 266 dated the 9th of March 1862, from the India Government Secretary to the Secretary of the Bengal Government, reports that Cheebu appropriated a large part of the Chogyal’s annuity, a lion’s share of Rs. 20,000/= given to the King by the British and the amount obtained by the sale of Chogyal’s horses: the total loss to the Chogyal amounting to Rs. 24,262 and 8 annas, a clear fortune in those days. I would not like to hazard a guess as to what lofty designation he deserves but of this I am positively definite that he was no diplomat and by calling him “one of the finest diplomats the author berates and does injustice to men of stature like Knox and Hodgson. 
 
By the way, one of Cheebu’s descendants today still owns large tracts of Darjeeling tract and amongst them is the prime property, the Belleview, close to Chowrasta. 
 
(2) Origin    and    Development    of    Darjeeling: Chittabrata Palit, Professor of History, Jadavpur University.
This is the second successive essay that is being reviewed. It is a very poorly researched paper. This Professor has killed the book making it an embarrassing and absolutely worthless and casting a shadow of unreliability upon the other essays. The professor by shaping the whole paper around Brian Houghton Hodgson has risked the possibility of either being partially correct or in error from the first to the last word. Unfortunately for him the latter proves to be true. Hodgson was a man placed too far away from the corridors of power and being ensconced in the mountain fastness of Kathmandu he had very little leverage as far as Darjeeling was concerned and even lesser officers, several grades lower in the pecking order, had better access to the eyes and ears of the powers that were because the reports they presented had superior value since they were done after actual field work at Darjeeling or close by, unlike Hodgson who was several hundred miles and many days’ marches away. But he makes Hodgson a central figure in development of Darjeeling. Where Hodgson did obtain the eyes and ears of his superiors was in the event of any Darjeeling issue which could lead to repercussions in Anglo-Nepal relations. Period, and no more! He enjoyed no other powers or privileges as far as Darjeeling was concerned. There is very little doubt that Hodgson was a scholar of the highest order and his contribution to the studies in language, literature, religion, social sciences, ethnology, ornithology, history etc will forever remain in many cases seminal and generally superior examples of scholarship. He championed the case of vernacular education and continuously proposed and promoted the cause of recruiting the Gorkhas in the British Indian Army.
 
Palit’s topic concerns itself with two well-defined foci, “origin” and “development” of Darjeeling. Even an occasional meddler of Darjeeling history knows that the esteemed Hodgson had nothing whatsoever in the “origin” or “development” of the station. On the contrary, if Hodgson had had his way Darjeeling would have been a stillborn phenomenon. There would have been NO Darjeeling. The Professor has inconveniently left out names like Captain George Alymer Lloyd and J.W. Grant, the Commercial Resident at Malda, the two who accidentally co-discovered the place. Captain Herbert, the Deputy Surveyor General, who along with Grant went as guinea pigs to study and survey the land and environment before the commencement of negotiations and Dr. Chapman who repeatedly visited Darjeeling have also been neglected. Another name associated with the origin, but yet again omitted, is Lord William Bentinck who in 1830 proposed to commence negotiation with the Chogyal for the transfer of the tract. In summary all the names of the personalities actually connected with the “origin” of Darjeeling have been omitted and the one person who should not have been included finds honourable mention and credit. How unfortunate and how grossly flawed! 

Bentinck’s proposal could not go forwards because Sir C. Metcalfe, a Member of the Supreme Council, believed that both Nepal and Sikkim would view such a move with suspicion. Once again in 1833 Bentinck, now better placed, raised the issue and once more faced opposition from Metcalfe. This time around the latter had the support of the British Resident in Kathmandu, none other than our Brian Houghton Hodgson, who argued that a British station (Darjeeling) so close to the Nepal frontier would adversely affect British ties with Nepal. It is patent, as black from white, that Hodgson did not want Darjeeling to happen. 
 
Where “development” is concerned a rejection has been made of the numerous people who contributed to the initial growth and progress of the station. Campbell, by the very nature of the title of his office, Superintendent, was meant to superintend or supervise the station. He should have been acclaimed as a workaholic who facilitated progress in all fronts. Except for his uneasy relationship with the Sikkim ruler and some sections of the natives his record is enviable. The man stands tall in the annals of the district but Palit has credited Campbell for purposes beyond his brief. The construction of initial road (Old Military Road) was done by Lt. Col. G.W.A. Lloyd and Lt. Gilmore and completed by Lt. Robert C. Napier (later Lord) but they find no place in the paper. In the matter of road building I cannot hold Palit responsible for omitting a certain Anglo-Indian named Mr. Dewar for constructing the Hill Cart Road (Tenzing Norgay Road) in 1861. Every historian seems to ignore him outright and even Dozey finds the achievement worthy of only a mention in the footnote. The pioneer hoteliers who encouraged people to visit Darjeeling: in particular Samuel Smith and D. Wilson in Darjeeling and H.M. Low in Kurseong find no mention and similarly and in the domain of education the Catholics at Kalimpong and the Scots Mission in the entire district, Rev. William Macfarlane in particular along with Rev. Start and German Missionaries who called themselves Moravian Brothers, are all omitted. 

In the field of industry mention has been made of Campbell, Withecombe and Major Crommelin (Palit spells it with a K) as tea planters but an exclusion has been made of the real big guns like Mrs H.C. Taylor, Dr. Chas Graham, Grazebrooke, Martin, Mason, Smith, Brougham, The Kurseong and Darjeeling Tea Company, Darjeeling Land Mortgage Bank, and Louis Mandelli. The first doctor of Darjeeling, J.T. Pearson, and the benevolent Maharajah of Cooch Behar, Nipendra Narayan, are rewarded through exclusion. Palit has discredited himself with the error of omission by ignoring all the people concerned with the “origin” and “development” (save for Campbell who is honoured for the wrong reasons), and by proposing Hodgson as protagonist of origin and development.
 
We will leave Hodgson for wee bit of time and then come back to him. The opening line reads thus: “The treaty of Sagauli (1816)…” I am sorry Professor! The Treaty was signed on 2 December 1815.[42] The sentence continues proclaiming that the Sagauli Treaty “marked the junction of British trade en route to Tibet.” Utterly wrong. After the Treaty the British were able to post a Resident in Kathmandu but despite numerous attempts the British were, in regard to Tibet trade, never given a single staging posts, trade marts or transit routes through Nepal. The first Resident, Captain Knox, tried and the subsequent Residents also tried but the commerce to Tibet via Nepal never came through. Much later the issue became redundant with Nathula and Jelepla opening up.
 
In the above paragraph Prof. Palit writes: “The conquest of Nepal, fuelled the British desire to do business with Tibet and China. Hodgson gave shape to this desire.” It is common knowledge that there was NO CONQUEST of Nepal. Defeat, there certainly was but conquest is a different matter altogether and that never happened. It has already been mentioned that the British did not get any concession from Nepal in regard to commerce with Tibet and so Hodgson could not have given “shape” to something non-existent. But we can credit him for giving the government a dream of a profitable commerce to Tibet through Nepal. Hodgson did his utmost to convince Kathmandu to acquiesce, and almost succeeded. Yet, we still have to credit him otherwise because as the Resident from 1833 to 1843 he did play a major role in the promotion of trade between British India and Nepal and the 30 lakh rupee Nepali import export swelled to 330 lakh rupee by 1891.
 
Para 2 reveals that Kathmandu  had 52 Nepalis and 34 Indian businessmen and despite the figures being correct it is difficult to believe that there were only 86 traders in the capital city of Nepal even if the figures refer to the first quarter of 1800s. What Palit has missed out is that these 86 traders were no ordinary shopkeepers, for shopkeepers there must have been many and of whom the Foreign Office would hardly have any interest. What Palit has missed out are two indispensable words which in Hodgson’s report is the businessmen were “merchants engaged in foreign commerce both with the south and the north…” and south and north obviously meant India and Tibet. Now that would have whetted the East India Company, after all it was basically a trading company and commerce for money was its primary goal. 
 
In page 22 we are told that Hodgson visited Lhasa whereas our protagonist never set his foot on Tibet let alone travel all the way to Lhasa. Towards the end of the page Campbell is portrayed as the “successor” to Hodgson and it is true that Campbell held the dual position of the Residency Surgeon and Honorary Assistant Resident but being an “Honorary” Assistant Resident does not translate as a “successor”. Being a “successor” or “The Resident” amounted to a position equal to a Commissioner or Sub-Commissioner and Campbell’s transfer to Darjeeling as a superintendent of a village unmistakably bears out that he was never meant to be the successor. The same paragraph also adds that Darjeeling was taken from Sikkim “at a price lower than fifty thousand rupees (which was the revenue from Darjeeling in the year 1815)”. Professor Palit must be joking. The revenue collection in 1841, thirty-five years after Palit’s date and also after the British had streamlined the administration, came to ₤ 472.8.0 about Rs. 9,450  which is a great deal below the magical figure of  Rs. 50,000 given by Palit. (Incidentally, in page 15 Palit says the revenue of Darjeeling in 1850 was Rs. 36,000) It beats me how a historian can assert that some form of revenue assessment of Darjeeling was done in 1815 when such an exercise came into being only after the British annexation in 1835. Even if Palit’s fanciful date and amount are taken as correct, he would still be wrong simply because the Chogyal of Sikkim never received such a handsome compensation. All he got was (1) a double-barelled gun, (2) a rifle, (3) 20 yards of red broad cloth, (4) a pair of shawls, superior and inferior. 

One does not have to be a genius to understand that the recompense was not only unfair but it reeked of contempt: so much land for two pieces of weapon and 20 yards of cloth and two shawls. It is a small wonder the Chogyal kept on pleading for fairer reparation and the British offered him Rs. 1,000 annually. But even this offer was laced with a rider that the Chogyal should agree to a “free intercourse between Darjeeling and interior of Sikkim.” In 1841 a partially satisfactory settlement was reached when the British eventually conceded to give an annuity of Rs. 3,000 but did not compensate for the years that had lapsed. The Professor has erroneously increased the district’s total area to four thousand square miles when in reality it was 1,234 square miles only. The Professor seems to be purveying wrong information for he mentions that after the 1850 punitive action the annuity of the Chogyal was not reduced but in reality it was totally removed. At this juncture the history teacher retains little interest. 
 
Page 15 tells us of Hooker’s incarceration by the Sikkimese and his rescue by the “British army” and that after the defeat of Sikkim Hodgson’s dream of “robbing the Sikkimese king of all his wealth” was accomplished. This is another binge of fanciful writing. The British army never rescued Hooker and Campbell. They were released and walked into Darjeeling as free men.Hodgson must be crawling with rage in his grave for he never espoused robbing any one, and least of all the Sikkim king, to penury. These are fairly outrageous claims! The last paragraph of this page makes a downright trashy contention by alleging Hodgson’s saplings were responsible for the mushrooming of more than two thousand tea gardens. Even all the tea plantations of the world put together today will not add up to that astronomical number. But what offends us even more is his attack the sensibility and intelligence of us born in Darjeeling by telling us that tea saplings from Hodgson’s small experimental garden in Kathmandu were used to plant out the tea gardens in Darjeeling. The saplings and deeds used in Darjeeling were mainly from Kumaon and a few from Assam. Palit also mentions that there was a “green revolution” in Campbell’s garden while in truth the work was just an experimental one and the plot never rose to become a full fledged tea estate.  At the bottom of the page the author claims that the process of making tea in Darjeeling was the ancient ‘Brick-tea’ mode and it appears that he is innocent of the fact the British who were steeped in taking imported Chinese black tea would ever humble themselves to imbibe coarse brick tea. 
 
Campbell was transferred from Kathmandu to Darjeeling in 1839 and he started his small plantation in 1841 using Chinese seeds from Kumaon (not indigenous Nepali variety that Hodgson had experimented with). Small private commercial cultivation commenced around 1852-53 with Campbell, Dr. Withcombe, and Major Crommelin having a good run in their efforts but large scale commercial plantation was initiated by Kurseong and Darjeeling Tea Company in Alubari and Darjeeling Land Mortgage Bank in Lebong in 1856. On the other hand Assam had already produced black tea by 1836 and since the plant takes about five to seven years to mature Darjeeling would be making tea around 1860s. This would mean Darjeeling planters would not be unaware of the fine honed technology and methodology of tea production improved upon over the decades which was readily available in Assam plantations, and so the Darjeeling planters would not be so foolish as to manufacture brick-tea when they had access to the manufacturing methods tried and tested for almost three decades in Assam.  
 
At the very end of the page a mention is made of the legendary tea explorer Mr. Robert Fortune, at least that is what he is called in all recorded literature, but Palit has to sink, yet again, by calling him Mr. Goodfortune. At this point Palit runs the risk of losing all credibility as a historian.
 
It is a pity that North Point, has come out with such a poorly edited work. We all know and accept that to err is human, but to err ad nauseam and brazenly display them in a book as historical actualities puts a major question upon the Professors’ acumen and intent. The publishers would go a greater service to the people by recalling this book.

Anti Bimal Gurung leaflet distributed in Kalimpong

“Does Bimal Gurung possess any quality of a leader? It is like chewing a stone accepting Bimal Gurung as a leader, who rules upon the people with the help of around 50 criminals.” This was according to an anti-Bimal Gurung leaflet distributed in Kalimpong yesterday. The leaflet has been signed in the name of the ‘Aware Citizens’ and addressed to the people in general requesting them to rise up against Bimal Gurung and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.

According to people in Kalimpong, an unknown man was seen distributing leaflets to people and shops. The distributer is said to have dropped the leaflet at most of the places. People picked up the leaflets or accepted the leaflets from the man thinking that the leaflet was from a Governmental or a Religious organisation, informing them of some function.

The Leaflet suggests that Bimal Gurung President, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha was an uneducated man and that he was a criminal. The leaflet further alleges that people are not able to understand the true meaning of Gorkhaland and that Bimal Gurung was the only individual who was reaped the most benefits from Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council. The leaflet goes on to allege that Bimal Gurung was the richest of the former GNLF Councillors. The leaflets also hits at the leaders of other political parties and questions Gorkha League, CPRM, Congress (Hills) among other parties’ acceptance of Bimal Gurung as Gorkha’s ultimate leader. Targetting the Journalists and intellectuals in the Hills as being mere ‘Paper Tigers’, the leaflet alleges that the Journalists and Intellectuals knowing fully well that Bimal Gurung an illiterate man with no knowledge of national and international politics can represent the Gorkhas. The leaflet alleges that the journalists and intellectuals knowing this fact fully well still supports him because everyone is out to make a quick buck. Why can’t these intellectuals offer written suggestions to Gorkha Janmukti Morcha? Will Gorkha Janmutki Morcha in turn accept these suggestions. Do the advisors of Bimal Gurung have the capacity to have pass a Gorkhaland Bill in the West Bengal State Legislature? Which, the leaflet suggests can be done by getting the support of anti-Communist legislators.

The discovery of the said leaflet created a great deal of speculation among the people. However, sources at Gorkha Janmutki Morcha said that the leaders have not yet reacted but they are investigating as to who might be behind the leaflet. (Himalayan beacon)

Why Gorkhaland

For the last many months DT Correspondent is looking for the appropriate time for Interview of Mr. Alok Thulung, president of Youth wing of Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha, because of his busy schedule we had put forward few questions to Mr. Thulung, in response to our questions we have received following soft copy.

Q1: Why formation of a separate state of Gorkhaland will not result in opening a Pandora’s Box with regards to similar demands in different parts of the country?

AT: The demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland dates back to 1907 when the leaders of the Hill People of India submitted a memorandum to the British Government demanding a separate administrative set up on grounds of a distinctive history, language, culture, tradition, way of life, mindset and off course residence in a completely different topography with different climatic conditions. A separate state has been the political aspiration of the Gorkhas for more than 100 years. Rather, this is the oldest demand for a separate state under the Indian Union. However, demands of a separate state in other parts of India are of recent origin and are not as a solution to the problem of ‘Identity Crisis’. The Indian Gorkhas face an ‘Identity Crisis’ inspite of being Indian citizens and having contributed to the independence struggle, the formulation of the Indian constitution and the security ( in the police, para military and the armed forces of the country) and development of the country. In case of the Gorkhas or Indian Nepalese, the ‘Identity Crisis’ is a very serious issue. It is because of the ‘Identity Crisis’ that the Gorkhas or Indian Nepalese are unfortunately subject to the ‘foreigners’ label of being Nepalese citizens and not being Indians every now and then. The most glaring example of the ‘foreigners’ label is the one put forth by Shri Morarji Desai, former Prime Minister of India, who called the Indian Gorkhas demanding inclusion of the Nepali language in the 8th schedule of the Indian constitution, as being Nepalese citizens. Grant of a separate state of Gorkhaland within the Indian Union would once and for all remove the ‘Identity Crisis’ we are faced with. This would not only remove the identity crisis faced by the Gorkhas living in Darjeeling district and neighbouring areas, but also do the same for the Gorkhas living in other parts of India including Assam, the North-Eastern states, Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Further, we have seen the futility of having an autonomous council (21 years of DGHC) which has not addressed our needs i.e. solution of the ‘Identity Crisis’. With regards to the opening of the Pandora’s Box, all we can say is that the government will have to judge the demands on its merit, the way it did while forming separate states of Uttaranchal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand very recently.

Q2: Why is there a demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland?

AT: The demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland is for a number of reasons. The main reasons are:
a) The Gorkhas are a distinct race compared to the majority population of the state of West Bengal and have an entirely distinctive history, language, culture, tradition, way of life, mindset and of course live in a different topographical region with an entirely different climate. As a result of this, there is a natural divide between the Gorkhas and the majority community in West Bengal. It is because of this natural divide that under the smallest provocation communal riots between the Gorkhas and the majority community takes place (the riots of 1970, the riot in 2007 following Prashant Tamang becoming the Indian Idol and the one as recent as on 12-06-08)
b) As neighbouring Nepal has people of similar race and who share similar history, language, culture, tradition, way of life and mindset, the Indian Nepalese or Gorkhas are labelled as ‘foreigners’ and face a severe ‘Identity Crisis’ though they are Indian citizens like any other Indian.
c) Ever since, the Darjeeling hills and the neighbouring areas have become a part of West Bengal state, there have been feelings of deprivation, neglect and exploitation.
d) The Gorkhas no longer trust the West Bengal State Government with regards to its sincerity and commitment towards the welfare of the Indian Gorkhas residing in the state.

Q3: How can you best explain the Identity Crisis issue?

AT: When Bengalis in West Bengal or in any part of India are asked about their language or community, they say Bengali. This response does not raise eyebrows and no one questions them about their nationality. It is taken for granted that they are Indians. This is inspite of the fact that they could have been Indian Bengalese or Bangladeshis. It may not be out of place to mention that the Indian Bengalis would have faced a similar situation if there had been no state of West Bengal under the Indian Union. The same applies to Biharis, Punjabis but not the Indian Nepalese or Gorkhas. The moment we say we are Gorkhas and our mother tongue is Nepali, we are branded as Nepalese citizens. Due to our features, race, culture, tradition and many other characteristics being similar to those of people of Nepal, we are subject to the humiliation of being foreigners in our own land where we are as Indian as any other Indian citizen. It is this label of not only being referred to as well as dealt with as ‘foreigners’ in our own country, we are striving for a separate statehood. It is interesting to note that Sikkim was a separate kingdom till 1975. Then the citizens of Sikkim were called Sikkimese which implied a separate nationality. Now, after the incorporation of Sikkim as an Indian state in 1975, they still call themselves Sikkimese but their Indian Nationality is not questioned as because they have a separate state under the Indian Union. It is a pity that the Gorkhas have to repeatedly reiterate that we are Indians though we are Indian citizens and it is this humiliation which we are subjected to that leaves us no option but to demand a separate state.

Q4: What are the evidences to prove that there has been neglect and deprivation by the state of West Bengal?

AT: There are innumerable evidences to prove that there has been deprivation and exploitation of the Gorkhas by the State of West Bengal. Some major ones are as follows:
Tea industry: Tea Gardens constitute a major industry in the Darjeeling hills and has survived more than 150 years. This industry was established by the British in the 1850s and produces the World’s best tea, the best of qualities fetching prices as high as Rs.25, 000 per kg. Tea can be called the ‘Brand Ambassador’ of the Darjeeling hills. Presently, there are 87 functioning tea gardens encompassing an area of 17,500 hectares and producing world class tea amounting to 10 – 12 million kilograms of tea per annum. It is roughly estimated that 15 – 20% of the total population residing in the tea garden areas are employed in the tea industry. Approximately 45,000 people are involved in the tea industry and around 200,000 people dependent (i.e. around 30 -35% people) on it. Of the total workforce, nearly 60% are women. As per the “Gorkhaland Agitation – the issues” an information document published by the West Bengal Government there was a production of 12 million kilograms of Darjeeling tea which fetched a revenue of Rs. 32 crores in 1986-87. However, this tea industry, which is the economic backbone of the Darjeeling hills has dwindled to a sorry state with many tea gardens turning sick, many closing down, and others complaining of incurring losses with resultant poor wages, non-provision of the appropriate bonus to the workers and the reluctance to provide the workers the basic amenities as laid down in the Plantation Labour Act. Workers in the ailing tea gardens of Chongtong, Vah Tukvar, Rintong, Putong, Singtam, Orange Valley and many others are facing a pitiable life. The situation has been so pitiable that tea garden workers in these ailing gardens are committing suicides. Recently, one Sukbir Rai of Orange Valley tea garden (April 2007) and one Baburam Dewan (February 2006) committed suicide because of the conditions prevailing in the sick tea gardens. The important questions that naturally arise in minds of people is as to why is the tea industry, for which Darjeeling is world famous and was a thriving industry during the British rule and till even a few decades after that start the decline to its present pitiable state. It is known to all that the tea industry comes under the Commerce and Industries Department of the Government of West Bengal and is directly under the state government, the entire revenue earned by the industry going to the state and which is never ploughed back for development of either the tea industry here or the Darjeeling hills. It may not be out of place to mention that tea industries have come up in neighbouring Sikkim, Nepal and Sri Lanka and are reported to be doing being very well. Tea gardens in Kerala and Tamilnadu are reported to be doing well and the wages received by the workers there are much higher than that received by the tea garden workers in Darjeeling. While the tea garden workers in Darjeeling get Rs.48.40 for eight hours work as per the Industry Wages Agreement held in Kolkata in 2005, the tea garden worker in Kerala, Tamilnadu and Sikkim get Rs. 66.70, Rs.74.62 and Rs.85 respectively. The bonus that the workers are eligible to has dwindled from 20% to 12% between 1990 and 2003. What are then the reasons for the ailing tea industry in the Darjeeling hills? The different reasons are:

i. Tea bushes are to be uprooted every 50 – 75 years and replantations done. The Techno-Economic Survey of Darjeeling Tea Industry by the National Council of Applied Economics and Research, New Delhi has reported that there is a provision of subsidy from the Tea Board for uprooting the old tea bushes and carrying out replantation. However, in most tea gardens the process of uprooting old tea bushes and replantation is not done resulting in poor yield of tea leaves and compromises the quality of Darjeeling tea. This activity is not undertaken in most gardens because tea garden owners are not willing to wait for a few years (5-6 years) for the newly planted bushes to bear tea leaves for commercial use. This tendency to continue with old poor yielding tea bushes purely for the immediate financial gains by tea garden managements is also reported to be the cause of poor production of Darjeeling tea. Many tea garden managements have been utilising synthetic fertilisers and chemicals to augment the production of the old bushes. However, in the world market these days the demand is for Bio-organic tea. So tea leaves form the non-Bio-organic tea gardens are not fetching good prices in the world market.

ii. Even till the late 1970s, the tea gardens were being run by true planters who took care of the tea bushes and the tea garden workers and at the same time ensured that tea industry remained profitable. However, over the years the tea gardens were taken over by businessmen who sought immediate returns for the investment made and in the process did not take care of health of the tea bushes. Further, the tea garden managements have changed hands very frequently resulting in further worsening of the already bad situation.

iii. There are many reports of tea garden managements siphoning money given to planters. They were not utilised for the development of the tea garden but for other purposes.

iv. Transparency and accountability is lacking in the management of gardens. The works of the tea garden workers is limited to nurturing tea bushes, manuring them, plucking tea leaves, processing them in factories and packaging them. The actual people who manufacture the World famous Darjeeling tea have never been involved in the sale of tea including the auctions. Auctions are not held in Darjeeling. They are held at Kolkata or Guwahati or other cities where the local people have no access. This lack of access to the sales and auctions of the tea garden workers or their representatives and the lack of transparency in their accounting process makes us doubt the theory of tea gardens incurring losses or making less profit compared to before. This doubt becomes further strengthened when one sees the ostensible lives led by the trade union leaders, tea garden management people, the affluence of the Planters’ organisations and their sponsoring the foreign visits of bureaucrats and politicians alike.

v. It is also reported that tea produced in other parts of the state and country and of lower quality than the Darjeeling tea is labelled as Darjeeling tea and sold in the world market much to the detriment of the pure Darjeeling tea. However, recently the Tea Board has been successful in securing statutory recognition of Darjeleing tea and registering the Darjeeling Tea logo as an artistic copyright..

Who do we then now hold responsible for the pitiable state of the tea industry in the Darjeeling hills? Obviously the West Bengal State Government, which has taken no significant steps to improve the condition of the tea industry, which is not only the backbone of the hill economy but is also the main industry providing employment to thousands of workers. The West Bengal Tea Development Corporation formed by it does not show any enterprise and has not produced any tangible results.

Cinchona industry: After the tea industry, the Directorate of Cinchona and Other Medicinal Plants is the major plantation industry in the Darjeeling hills covering an area of 26,000 acres of land and employing more than 6000 workforce including labourers, officers and other staff. This industry was established by the British in 1865. The Directorate of Cinchona & Other Medicinal Plants, West Bengal which has its headquarters at Mungpoo, Darjeeling, is virtually the only concern in the whole of India, producing the essential Medicinal compounds – Quinine, Emetine and Diosgenin on a large scale i.e. commercially. Apart from the above mentioned medicinal plants, Aromatic plants as well as subsidiary crops of great commercial value are grown in the plantations. It has four major plantations under it at Mungpoo (10023 acres), Munsong (9600 acres), Rongo (4222 acres) and Latpanchar (2440 acres). An experimental plantation is at Ambootia (177 acres). The main plantations are for Cinchona, Ipecac and Dioscorea. The plantation also grows rubber, mushrooms and other Medicinal & Aromatic plants like Lemongrass, Rawolfia serpentina etc.

It has four major factories for processing the plant products and obtaining the medicines/medicinal product:
• Govt. Quinine Factory, Mungpoo, established in 1864 with an annual installed capacity of 28-30 MT of Quinine Salts.
• Govt. Emetine Factory, Mungpoo, established in 1984 with an Annual installed capacity of 240-250 Kgs of Emetine HCL.
• Govt. Diosgenin Factory at Gairibas, Rongo, established in 1985 with an annual installed capacity of 1500 – 2000 kgs of Diosgenin.
• Down Stream to Steroids Factory at Gairibas, Rongo, was established in 1991 with an annual installed capacity of 800 – 1000 kg of 16-DPA.

Rather than having its Sales Office at Mungpoo, the headquarters of the industry, the same is at Kolkata. It will be very generous if we say that it is an epitome of neglect and utter lack of business enterprise.

Quinine sulfate is the drug of choice for Chloroquine resistant Plasmodium falciparum malaria. Diosgenin is the precursor of steroidal drugs and has great demand in the market. Emetine derived from Ipecac has lots of side effects and does not have market value due to the advent of safer synthetic products.

Inspite of having such a rich repository of medicinal, aromatic and other plants of commercial value, the once profitable and successful Directorate of Cinchona and Other Medicinal Plants under the British rule and even till a few decades after that has become a dying industry putting at peril the economy of the region and the livelihood of more than 30,000 people at stake. As per the “Gorkhaland Agitation – the issues” an information document published by the West Bengal Government the government is reported to have made an income of Rs.2.43 crores from Cinchona alone in 1984-85. It may not be out of place to mention that the medicinal plant industry in the Nilgiri hills, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and even neighbouring Sikkim are doing very well. Why then is the situation so bad here in West Bengal? All this is because of politicking, the government’s apathy and lack of commitment to save and strengthen the industry here. No serious efforts have been made by the government to revive the once flourishing industry. Even various efforts made by many groups to revamp the industry have not been heeded by the government. This includes the wonderful proposal of strengthening the medicinal plant industry along with diversification to plantation of other economically viable plants put forth by Sri Ananda Pathak, Ex. CPI-M MP and Chairman of the Darjeleing Cinchona Bagan Majdoor Union when the late Bidyut Ganguly was the Minister of Commerce & Industries in West Bengal. A few years back large plots of land of the industry have been sold to the National Hydel Power Corporation instead of making efforts to revive the industry. Recently, it is learnt that the government has entered into negotiations with the Dabur Pharmaceuticals for setting up an Anti-Cancer Drug manufacturing unit for which it plans to sell 20 acres of prime land at Mungpoo, the headquarters of the industry. It is surprising that the workers of the industry were not in anyway either informed or involved in the negotiations either with the NHPC or Dabur Pharma in a constructive way.

Drinking water: It is known to all that inadequate drinking water has been a major problem in the Darjeeling hills. The shortage of drinking water is rising geometrically year after year but the concerned authorities have been impotent so far to work out something tangible. Had this been in a place where water sources are not available like in dry regions of Andhra Pradesh or the dry regions of Rajasthan, there would not have been much to say. Inspite of extreme conditions the situation in Rajasthan has been reversed by getting the water from the Sutlej via the Indira Gandhi Nahar, so much so that many parts of Rajasthan have become green and some experience floods too.
In the Darjeeling hills the situation is just the reverse of Rajasthan. We have umpteen water resources in terms of rivers, rivulets, fast flowing streams, jhoras and natural springs. Inspite of this the authorities are unable to harness these abundant resources to make adequate drinking water available. The main rivers from which water could be harnessed are the Rangit, the Balasan, the Teesta, Jaldhaka, Neora Nala and the Mahananda. Apart from these main water sources, there are more than 35 kholas (fast flowing streams) in different parts of the Darjeeling hills which are potential sources of water and from which people obtain water on their own traversing great distances over difficult terrain to meet their daily needs. For anyone coming to Darjeeling it would be a common sight to see people carry water from great distances. Another common sight is the carriage of water in hand driven carts in the Darjeeling hills, especially in Darjeeling town. So, one thing is certain that water is not scarce in the region but access to drinking water is scarce because of the government’s failure to harness them.
The main water supply for Darjeeling town was secured by the British from the Senchal Lake. During the British rule water supply from the Senchal lake was adequate to meet the needs of Darjeeling. Then 28 perennial jhoras fed the Senchal lake. As years went by it was not able to meet the needs of the ever increasing population of Darjeeling town and the requirement of increased influx of tourists. Instead of make properly planned sustainable arrangements to meet up the increased demand of drinking water, the Municipal authorities and the government resorted to tapping water form different jhoras at different places and carrying water from different sources using various modes of transport. Projects for pumping water from Rungdung khola or Balasan has been going on for years but nothing has materialized yet in terms of enhanced water supply to Darjeeling town. It is being said that the Balasan project, which began recently will be completed by this year end. It remains to be seen whether it bears fruit or not for we have bitter experiences of the Neora khola project in Kalimpong. Sri Jyoti Basu had laid the foundation of the Rambi khola project for supplying water to Darjeeling in 1995. This project too has not seen the light of the day.
The Neora Valley Project was drawn up in 1978-79 with an initial project cost of Rs. 9 crores to meet the water needs of the civilians in the surroundings as well as those of Kalimpong town. Later the project cost was revised to Rs.22.34 crores to also meet the needs of the army installations at Kalimpong. The project was expected to be completed in 1992. The execution of the project was started by the PHE department and the construction of the same was monitored by a High Level Board headed by the Commissioner of Jalpaiguri Division with representatives from the Central and State Government. Inspite of all this availability of water to the local populace has not improved a wee bit. It is unfortunate that even after more than 60 years of independence we are bereft of drinking water supply inspite of having umpteen water resources in the region. Is the Government really sincere towards solving the issue? It may not be out of place to mention that even in the Municipal areas of Kurseong, Kalimpong and Darjeeling the condition of the water supply system has worsened than what was there during the British period. The filtration plant at the water resorvoirs at Kurseong is not functioning. The same is the case in Kalimpong and Darjeeling. Even the water resorvoirs are in a much worse state than they were then. The state of drinking water supply in the hills is so bad that not only do the people residing in the rural areas get inadequate water and that too raw water with no treatment, the municipal areas also get inadequate water supply with high coliform count indicating contaminated or unsafe water. No wonder the tourists are afraid of the infamous ‘Hill Diarrhoea’.

Roads: The Darjeeling hills is connected by two major National Highways – NH-31 A connecting Siliguri with Kalimpong via Teesta and leading to Sikkim and NH-55 A connecting Siliguri to Darjeeling via Kurseong. Another road, the Old Military Road connects Siliguri with Darjeeling via Dowhill and Bagora.

The Old Military Road or the Pankhabari road, the first road built by the British in 1839 is functioning only from Siliguri to Kurseong, the route from Kurseong via Dowhill and Bagora to Darjeeling being closed for years together. The Pankhabari road is in a very poor shape. The maintenance presently lies with the DGHC, whose inept administration and lack of political will has resulted in the road condition being poor.
The National Highway 55 A or the Hill Cart Road and presently called Tenzing Norgey Road is the major life line to Darjeeling. This road is maintained by the PWD. This was one of the best roads in the district. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railways has its train tracks running almost parallel to it and crossing it at various places. The journey by toy train or by vehicle along this road was a treat for the tourists. However, over the years the condition of the road has become pitiable with poor drainage, encroachments and pot holes and various stretches of sinking zones. The road condition is so bad, especially from Kurseong to Darjeeling that one shudders at the mention of Darjeeling. How can the District administration or the PWD, which is directly under the state government, remain quiet over such a situation? Encroachments have been allowed at will, parapets are broken; draininge is poor with rain water completely covering the road thus increasing the damage to the road which has sinking zones and landslide affected areas at places. Such has been the encroachments that the roads have become narrow at various places leading to traffic congestion every day. The average time to reach Darjeeling from Siliguri is around 4 hours by road if one is lucky or else it even takes more than 5 to 6 hours these days. It is only when the Chief Minister desires to visit Darjeeling (like during the time when he was supposed to visit Darjeeling in 2007 for the CPI-M party conference) that the roads get a facelift. Why this atrocity on the people of Darjeeling hills and the tourists?
The condition of the National Highway 32 A is relatively better given the fact it leads to Sikkim (and hence probably more pressure and attention for maintenance) and it is maintained by the Border Roads Organisation. The BRO is involved because of Army installations in the region and the proximity of our borders with China.
The condition of other roads leading to the different community development blocks are a nightmare to the local people.

Tourism: For the tourism industry to do well, two very important ingredients are proper road conditions and good civic amenities. On both counts the government has relegated the Darjeeling district to the backburner. The poor road conditions and shortage of safe drinking water has affected tourism in the hills. The Darjeeling town has become very congested and the government has not done much to develop tourism in a scientific way with proper infrastructure including accommodation, transportation and sightseeing in Darjeeling proper as well as other parts of the hills including Kurseong, Kalimpong and Mirik. It is a miracle that inspite of all these constraints tourists still flock to the Darjeeling hills. Whatever little development that has taken in places like Lava-Lolay gaon is due individual enterprise.

The Department of Tourism under the DGHC with Subhash Ghising at the helm of affairs hardly did any situation analysis of the tourism status and it’s potential. No proper planning was done on a long term basis to develop tourism as an industry as has been done in Goa and in Kerala. All measures Subhash Ghising took were adhoc measures without consulting the experts. He misused huge sums of money on trying to build airports and stolports neither of which saw the light of the day. Similarly, he build rest houses all over which were more for personal use than for tourism He even siphoned huge sums of money in promoting occult phenomena with a view to convince the government that most of the hill people were tribal. All the illegal things he did and financial irregularities he indulged in were glossed over by the state government which had the overall responsibility in ensuring that the tax payers’ money is utilized properly for public benefit and not for personal aggrandizement of their political ally. It may not be out of place to mention that even before the DGHC was formed the state government hardly did any thing to improve the tourism industry. If the government was to genuinely introspect on its contribution towards the development of the tourism industry in the Darjeeling hills after independence, one would only be able to talk of the Mirik Lake, for which the credit would go the Congress regime of Siddhartha Shanker Roy many years back. 30 years of Left front rule has done everything but develop the Darjeeling hills.

Health Care Services:

Education:

Agriculture:

Horticulture:

Q5: Why does the formation of the proposed state of Gorkhaland including Darjeeling district and Duars not amount to division of Bengal?

AT: The areas included in the proposed state of Gorkhaland including Darjeeling district (including Siliguri Sub-Division) and Duars were parts of Bhutan and Sikkim. While Bhutan is still a separate sovereign country, Sikkim was also a separate country which became incorporated as a state under the Indian Union as recently as 1975.

The areas of present day Darjeeling district including Kurseong and Darjeeling (all land south of the Great Rungeet river, east of Balasan, Kahail and Little Rungeeet and areas west of Rungno and Mahanadi rivers) were gifted out of friendship by the Rajah of Sikkim to the East India Company in 1835 by virtue of a Deed of Grant entered on 01-02-1835 entered between the Rajah of Sikkim and A.Campbbell, Superintendent of Darjeeling and in-charge of political relations with Sikkim. In February 1850, the British forces annexed the Sikkim terai (presently Siliguri and plain areas of Kurseong) and the hilly areas bounded by the Ramam in the North, the Great Rungeet and Teesta in the east and the Nepal frontier on the west.

By virtue of the Treaty concluded at Sinchula on the 11th of November 1865, the whole tract known as the Eighteen Duars, bordering on the districts of Rungpoor, Coochbehar, and Assam, together with the Taloo of Ambaree Fallcottah and the Hill territory on the left bank of the Teesta (portions of present day Kalimpong) were ceded by the Bhutan government to the British government forever. The British added a slip of British territory lying on the eastern bank of the Teesta (portion of present day Kalimpong), which was interposed between Bhutan and Sikkim, to the district of Darjeeling. This last addition to the district resulted in its present dimensions including the four sub-divisions of Siliguri, Kurseong, Darjeeling and Kalimpong.

The district of Darjeeling was included in the Rajshahi division in British India until October 1905 when it was transferred to the Bhagalpur divison. It was retransferred to the Rajshahi division following the rearrangement of the provinces in 1912. Even following the partition of Bengal in 1947, the boundaries of the Darjeeling district remained intact and the district was placed thereafter in the Presidency Division.

It is interesting to note that the Darjeeling district was declared a Non-regulation district; that is to say, Acts and Regulations did not come into force unless they were specially extended to it. Darjeeling district had no representative in the Legislative Council constituted under the Government of India Act, 1919. It was excluded and declared a backward area. The administration of the district was then vested in the Governor in Council. The effect of exclusion was that any Act passed by the Legislature which extended to the whole of Bengal automatically applied to the Darjeeling district, unless the Governor in Council directed that the Act in question should not apply or that it should apply subject to such modifications as the Governor thought proper. Further, under the Government of India Act, 1935, the district was made a partially excluded area. Under section 92, no Act of the Provincial or the Central legislature would apply to it unless the Governor by public notification so directed and the Governor in giving such a direction with respect to any Act might direct the Act would, in application to this district, or to any specified part of it, have effect subject to such exceptions or modifications as he thought fit.

Thus we see that the Darjeeling district was not originally an area under the Indian Union but was incorporated by way of treaties entered with neighbouring foreign countries under different circumstances. This district ( the Siliguri plains as well as the Darjeleing hills), apart from having its foreign origin was also under Nepal for the period 1788 – 1816 due to its capture by the King of Nepal when it was under the Kingdom of Sikkim. Further, due to the uniqueness of this district, it was made a partially excluded area. In view of the above, and the distinctive history, race, language, culture, tradition, mindset and way of life of the Gorkhas residing in this district, formation of a separate state of Gorkhaland within the Indian Union will in no way amount to Division of Bengal.

Q6: Why should the people of West Bengal not oppose the formation of a separate state of Gorkhaland?

AT: The Gorkhas and the Bengalis have been living together for more than 100 years in peace and friendship. There have been marriage ties between many Gorkhali and Bengali families. The demand of Gorkhaland is not because of any sort ill feeling towards the Bengalis. It is mainly because we have a political aspiration of having a separate state of our own which will take care of the ‘Identity Crisis’ we are faced with as well will allow us the right to self determination and self rule. As we are a distinct race having completely different language, culture, way of life and are still very far behind the average Bengali in terms of socio-economic and educational conditions we have a different approach towards life. We want to govern ourselves as per our socio-economic and cultural ethos. Having a separate state will provide us this freedom. It may not be out of place to mention that we tried to make good with the DGHC given to us but that did not come out successful.

Even when we have the DGHC, our Bengali brothers and sisters have been coming to Darjeeling like they did before we had the DGHC. We know our Bengali brothers and sisters love the hills a lot and there is a strong bonding amongst us. We strongly feel that even after we have Gorkhaland our relationship shall remain the same. We have many Bengali families living in the Darjeeling hills for ages. We are one family living amicably for years together and shall continue to do so. It also needs to be pointed out that even after we have a separate state of our own we shall look up to our Bengali brothers and sisters to help govern ourselves and run the state successfully. We know we will need you to help us develop as a successful community. It is in the fitness of things that we are granted the separate status at the earliest least our quest for achieving takes an undesirable turn though we are committed a peaceful agitation. This would sustain the peace and amity between the two communities. However, failure of the government to address our demands with the compassion and understanding it deserves and without any prejudice could make the waters murkier and result in an unpleasant relationship between the two communities.
Our Bengali friends as well as the government need to appreciate that our demand for Gorkhaland has nothing do with any communal ill feeling as many may suppose the case to be so.

Q7: Why do the Gorkhas want separation from Bengal or why do they not trust the West Bengal Government?

AT: This is a very sensitive issue which will require great objectivity of mind to appreciate and then draw conclusions as to whether the Gorkhas are justified in demanding Gorkhaland and in not trusting the state government. Various arguments with examples are as follows:

a) The state of West Bengal has never been sincere to the welfare of the Gorkhas. All that has been done by the state government is to play politics with the aspiration of the Gorkhas of having a separate state. This they have done in various ways.

In 1946, the undivided Communist Party of India ( the present day CPI-M and the CPI together), Darjeeling District Committee passed a resolution for Gorkahsthan in presence of Late Saroj Mukherjee ( former Chairman of the Left Front in West Bengal) and Bhawani Sengupta , who were present as representatives of the Bengal Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of India. The key persons who made the move were Late Ganeshlal Subba, Secretary of the CPI, Darjeeling District Committee and Shri Ratanlal Brahamin, the then MLA of the Labour constituency from Darjeeling. These two were the founders of the CPI in Darjeeling. This demand was made keeping in mind the need for a separate administrative set up based upon the distinctive race, culture, tradition, way of life, mindset and language of the Gorkhas. Late Ratanlal Brahamin and Shri Jyoti Basu, former Chief Minister of West Bengal were comrades in arms. The demand for Gorkhasthan was submitted to the Constituent Assembly of India but it was not considered. Is it not surprising that when the CPI raised the issue through Ratanlal Brahamin, the move was not called separatist though infact the move was then for a separate administrative setup comprising of portions of Sikkim, Nepal and Darjeeling. It may not be out of place to mention that Ratanlal Brahamin, who had raised this issue in 1946, went on to be a legendary leader of the Communist Party of India – Marxist and in whose name statues have been erected by the Left Front government and meeting halls named after him. However, when other Gorkhas raise the issue of a separate state of Gorkhaland within the Indian Union, with no other political interests in mind, they are branded as communal and secessionists.

Following India’s independence in 1947, and after the coming to power of the Left Front in West Bengal in 1977, the Left Front comprising of the CPI-M, CPI and other left parties unanimously passed a bill for Regional Autonomy to the Darjeeling hills in the West Bengal State Legislative Assembly in 1985. This step on the part of the West Bengal Government to create an Autonomous District Council sufficiently indicates that the State Government was aware of the aspiration of the people of being governed by themselves and the need to do something different for the development of the neglected hills. Subsequent to that, Shri Ananda Pathak, Ex. MP of the CPI-M in the Lok Sabah introduced a Private member bill for Regional Autonomy for the Darjeeling hills in the Parliament on 9th August 1985. The bill was defeated with 17 votes for it and 47 votes against it. That day the Left front had 33 MPs present. The fact that only 17 out of the 47 present voted for the bill clearly shows how serious the Left parties were about granting Regional Autonomy to the Darjeeling hills. If the West Bengal Government had been serious about granting Regional Autonomy status to the Darjeeling hills, it could have done so by mobilizing other like minded parties in the Parliament that day and issuing a whip to all its MPs to be present and cast vote in its favour. But this did not happen. It may not be out of place to mention that Shri Somnath Chatterjee, the present Speaker was an MP representing West Bengal from the CPI-M party then. THIS SHOWS HOW MUCH THE GOVERNMENT OF WEST BENGAL WAS SINCERE TO FULFILLING THE ASPIRATIONS OF THE GORKHAS AND COMMITTED TO THEIR WELFARE.

In 1986, when the GNLF began a violent agitation for a separate state of Gorkhaland under the Indian Union, the movement was branded as Anti-national and separatist by the political masters of West Bengal. However, the government granted the DGHC, an autonomous council in the line of the Regional Autonomy it had conceived of, only after more than 1200 Gorkhas laid down their lives. Now, again, when the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland has erupted in the form of a democratic and non-violent mass movement, this movement too is branded by the West Bengal government as being ‘Separatist’. Though the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland under Article 3 of the Indian constitution is entirely legal and constitutional, how one can call it separatist defies one’s logic. Ministers (please read Ashok Bhattacharya and Subhash Chakroborty) holding responsible posts in the West Bengal State Government have been now and again referring to the Gorkhas as foreigners and mercenaries. Subhash Chakroborty has even gone to the extent of stating that if the government stops the supply of food, petrol, diesel and LPG to the hills, then the movement for a separate state will automatically stop. Such is the colonial mental psyche of the West Bengal Government of which he is a minister of cabinet rank. Who would now believe that we, the Gorkhas are out of colonial rule? Statements like this amply prove that we have only changed Colonial masters!

b) The result of the GNLF agitation was the formation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, an autonomous council formed following the passing of an Act in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly called the DGHC Act in 1988. Following the formation of the DGHC, the West Bengal Government allowed Subhash Ghising to run the DGHC as per his whims and fancies with resultant gross violation of the democratic rights of the people of Darjeeling and complete financial misappropriation (This has been time and again admitted by the Chief Minister of West Bengal and many of his ministers in public in the wake of the stalling of the Sixth Schedule bill in Parliament recently). This arrangement was with the understanding that he would never raise the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland, the issue with which he led a violent agitation with resultant more than 1200 deaths.

The instances of undemocratic functioning by the DGHC headed by Subhash Ghising and gross misappropriation of funds indulged by him and his cronies in the DGHC aided and abetted by the West Bengal State Government are numerous. Some of the prominent ones are as follows:

• Airport/Stolport: He whimsically started to build an airport without any explicit permission of the State or Centre at the Tiger Hill resulting in not only huge loss of tax payer’s money but also destruction of the forest with resultant damage to the environment. He did a similar unsuccessful exercise at Dhooteriah, where he went on to construct a Stolport, again with disastrous consequence huge wastage of tax payer’s money and destruction of the environment. Both, the State as well as the Central Government turned a blind eye to it.

• State’s Complicity in DGHCs administrative anarchy: Every elected administrative body under the Indian Constitution is supposed to have an Annual Budget which is to be approved by its competent body and the expenditure made by it audited internally as well as by the office of the Auditor and Comptroller General of West Bengal. In case of the DGHC none of these activities took place as per norms. The Government turned a blind eye to all this. As the DGHC was only a developmental council formed as per a State Act nothing should have debarred the statutory bodies of the government from doing their routine job as done elsewhere. It may not be out of place to mention that even 2 -3 years before the DGHC completed its term in 2004 and Ghising was made the Caretaker by the State Government, Ghising had stopped having the obligatory Executive Council and General Council meetings to decide on all policy matters. The state government’s willful freehand to Subhash Ghising to do break all norms of propriety as the expense of the welfare of the people of the Darjeeling hills was with the sole intention of appeasing Ghising. So then, whom do we blame for the neglect of the Darjeeling hills apart from the State Government?

• Reduction in Salary of the Contractual employees: The DGHC employed more than 8000 people in different categories on contractual basis paying a paltry sum. Though the appointments were blatantly political without any norms of propriety as is followed when a government body employs people to different government offices, it did to some extent provide financial relief to the unemployed in the hills. Having done this, in 200, without any reason and without any decision taken either in the Executive council or General Council of the DGHC, the consolidated salary of the contractual employees was reduced. So much was the highhanded manner in which it was handled that no scope was given to the contractual employees to plead to the powers that be for the redressal of their problems. Many would question than as to why the aggrieved staff did not move the court of law. One needs to appreciate such was the clout of Ghising’s muscle men and the complicity of the State Government (please read Police) that these staff could not dare to speak out. The gruesome murders of Late Sudarshan Sharma (one of the first persons in the Darjeeling who dared to challenge Ghising) and the DGHC councilors like Rudra Pradhan, Prakash Theeng and C.K. Pradhan made these staff completely dumb. The same has been effect on the general population too. THE STATE GOVERNMENT, WHICH HAS LAW AND ORDER UNDER ITS CONTROL, REMAINED NOT ONLY A MUTE SPECTAOTR BUT ALSO PROVIDED TACIT SUPPORT TO GHISING BY DILUTING THE POLICE INVESTIGATINONS.

• Non-implementation of the Honourable High Court’s verdict: Those teachers who had qualified in the School Service Commission Examinations were not allowed to join in the different schools in the DGHC on the pretext that the ones already appointed by the DGHC arbitrarily be regularized first. Even when these selected teachers moved the Honourable High Court and the Court was convinced of the illegality of the DGHCs actions and issued verdict directing the DGHC to allow them to join, they were not allowed to join. The very fact that the verdict of the Honourable High Court was not heeded to and no efforts were made by the State Government to ensure that they were implemented shows that Subhash Ghising had turned the Darjeeling hills into his fiefdom where even the judiciary could not enforce its rulings. Such has been the complicity of the State Government in the wrong doings perpetrated by Ghising. So, then how could the people of the Darjeeling hills trust the State Government for its security and welfare anymore?

c) Violation of the tenets of Right to Religion and tamper with Socio- Cultural ethos: Subhash Ghising during his misrule interfered with the religious practices with impunity. He debarred worship of statues (which is part and parcel of our Hindu and Buddhist faith) and laid down ‘dictats’ as to how religious practices should be conducted much to the helplessness of the local people who dared not protest knowing fully well that the Law and order machinery under the state (including the judiciary) would not help them in any away, rather they would be sitting targets for Subhash Ghising’s henchmen. He gave employment to the people practicing the animism and demonolatry (called Jhakris, Bijuas and Matas in Nepali) and used them to perform barbaric practices to mislead the government into believing that the majority of the hill people were tribal and thus demand a tribal status for the Darjeeling hills (this he did in collusion with state government in 2005 by getting a MOS signed between himself, the state and the centre). The state government knowing fully well regarding his unjust imposition of these barbaric and weird customs on the helpless people of Darjeeling hills colluded with him to grant a Sixth Schedule (read tribal status) status to the Darjeeling hills. Thanks to the final revolt of the people of Darjeeling that the bill got stalled. This revolt by the people was mainly due to the bold leadership provided by Shri Bimal Gurung and his Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha. Other organisations including the CPRM, the Gorkha League and the Bharatiya Gorkha Parishangha also made major contributions. The Gorkha people are very grateful to the Parliamentary Standing Committee headed by Smt. Sushma Swaraj, which through its patient hearing made it clear that the contents of the bill would not meet the objectives it purported to. The report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee also made it very clear the ill intentions of the Subhash Ghising as well as the State and Central Governments.

d) Bill on granting Sixth Schedule: The bill for granting the Sixth Schedule status to the Darjeeling hills was passed by the West Bengal State Assembly, approved by the Central Cabinet and placed in Lok Sabah as a Government Bill. It needs to be pointed out that all this was done without consulting the people for whom the bill was meant, by-passing all norms as is essential as per the constitution prior placing a Constitutional Amendment Bill, which would be deciding the fate of the Indian Gorkhas. This has been admitted by no other person than Mr. Ashok Bhattacharya, a Cabinet Minster in Buddhdev Bhattacharya’s government. He has told a number of times that his party could not make the people aware about the said bill in the Darjeeling hills because they did not have the following there. He put the blame squarely on Ghising and the GNLF for their failure make the people aware about the bill. Now, does this not make one thing very clear that the Government of West Bengal had unanimously passed the bill in the State Assembly and pressed upon the center to pass the bill immediately without ensuring that the people for whom the provisions of the bills were meant were not consulted at all?

e) Misleading the Gorkhas: We have lots of documents containing the statements of the Chief Minister of West Bengal and his ministers, including those of Mr. Ashok Bhattacharya stating that the Sixth Schedule would provide for a Council with much power than the existing one. Mr. Ashok Bhattacharya had even gone to the extent of saying that the Council proposed under the Sixth Schedule would be much better than a State. This has been contradicted in his deposition to the Parliamentary Standing Committee by no less a person than Mr. Amit Kiran Deb, the Chief Secretary to the Government of West Bengal on 07-02-08. He states, “In fact, the Sixth Schedule will not make much of difference between the present DGHC and the Sixth Schedule so far as exercise of powers and functions is concerned. DGHC is a body, which is a statutory body set up under the Act of the State Government. If Sixth Schedule is brought into play in the hill areas that will be a constitutional body and there is a lot of difference in the perception of the people. They would like to have a constitutional status for the hill areas. That is what Mr. Ghising has been saying right from the beginning to which we also agree because it will be easier to convince the people.” Even to the dull headed person, it is clear that the aspiration of the Gorkhas is not only to have a constitutional status for the council. Now, who should the people believe – Ashok Bhattacharya, who says that the Sixth Schedule is better than a state and that the Gorkhas should accept it or the Chief Secretary to the Government of West Bengal who has made it very clear that the Sixth Schedule will not accord any more powers to the council but will only make it a constitutional body and that it would help Mr. Ghising convince the people? Obviously we will believe the Chief Secretary for obvious reasons. This is how the Left front leaders and the Left front led West Bengal Government is misleading everyone including the Gorkhas.

f) Ulterior motive: Though the Chief Minister of West Bengal had been stating that the Sixth Schedule bill was good for the people of Darjeeling like many of his ministerial colleagues, his public statement at the Baghajatin Park in Siliguri on 25th November 2007 stating that “if Sixth Schedule is extended to the hill areas of Darjeeling, it will become a part of West Bengal for ever”. This was published in all vernacular dailies. Does this not hint that the motive on the part of the State Government was much more than granting tribal status to a region where more than 70% of the people are non-tribals?


Q8: Who were the original inhabitants of the Darjeeling district?

AT: It is an undisputed fact that the present day Darjeeling district including Siliguri sub-division was a part of the erstwhile kingdom of Sikkim.

The Tripartite Agreement of “Lo-Men-Tsong Sum” signed in 1641 between the ministers and leaders of the then Sikkim pledged that the people of “Lo-Men-Tsong Sum” (as present day Sikkim was called then) would thereafter integrate their wishes and not have a separate self government of Lo (Bhutia), Men (Lepcha) and Tsong (Limboo) but would abide by one order of the King of Sikkim. This document proves beyond doubt that the Bhutias, the Lepchas and the Limboos (also titled Subbas) were invariably among the original inhabitants of Sikkim, to which the present territory of Darjeeling district belongs. Hence, simply because some British Officers of the East India Company have documented that the Lepchas were the original inhabitants of the areas of the present day Darjeeling hills, it would be wrong to assume that only the Lepchas were the original inhabitants of the present day Darjeeling hills. Further, the Sir Joseph Hooker, in the Himalayan Journal, Volume 1, has stated, “The Mangars (commonly called Thapas), a tribe now confined to Nepal west of Arun, are aborigines of Sikkim, where they were driven by the Lepchas westwards into the country of Limboos. So, what we now see is that it was not only the Lepchas, who were the original inhabitants of Sikkim, it was also the Bhutias, Limboos and the Mangars too. As Darjeeling district was a part of Sikkim, there no reason to believe that apart from the Lepchas, the other three tribes mentioned above were not present in Darjeeling as time and again the British Officers have referred to the other hill tribes apart from Lepchas in their historical notes. Hence, those people who are trying to twist history to their advantage need be careful about their assumptions regarding the original inhabitants of the Darjeeling.
It also needs to be pointed out that the areas presently under the Darjeeling district were under Nepal from 1788 – 1816, when settlements took place. The settlements were made by local tribes from Nepal, as well as those groups of people like the ‘Khas’ (Chhetris) tribe, the Nepali Brahamans and the Rajputs, who took refuge in the hills of Nepal when the ancient Hindu Kingdoms in India were overthrown by the Muslim invaders. So, we see that many of those who settled in the captured areas were basically people of Indian origin. Now, over the years, all these four tribes including other hill tribes have assimilated into one large ‘Gorkaha’ community. Further, all these people who ultimately became Indian citizens under the British rule were not immigrants but people who became Indian citizens by virtue of their land having come under the possession of British India.

Q9: Is it true that there were only 100 people and all of them Lepchas in the Darjeeling hills when the British first acquired the hill territory in 1835?

AT: Well, that is what is documented by the British. However, we have to take into account that General Lloyd and Grant trekked up the old military road (presently the Pankhabari road and the road leading to Darjeeling via Dowhill and Bagora) and reached Darjeeling. During their trek to Darjeeling in 1836 they estimated there to be only around 100 souls in the entire Darjeeling hills. This is highly unlikely as because they did not survey the entire region and only walked along a treaded path to Darjeeling. In Darjeeling, they earmarked the then Observatory Hill (now called Mahakal danra) for constructing a sanatorium. Famous Nepali historian, Dr. Kumar Pradhan has noted that at the location of the Observatory hill stood a Monastery prior to 1788. E.C.Dozey, in his book, “ A concise history of Darjeleing district since 1835” has documented that this monastery was built in the Observatory hill in 1765 and was a branch of the Phodang Monastery of Sikkim. This monastery was destroyed by the Gorkhas in 1788 when they overran Darjeeling (then Sikkim). Nicholas and Deki have recorded that the Nepalese commander who led the invasion was Jar Singh. Presently, this monastery is located in the Bhutia busty, where it was relocated in 1860-61. As a monastery was present it is implied that a good number of people resided there and in its vicinity. The presence of the monastery is further confirmed by the writing of S.W.Ladenla on 9th May 1912, who stated, “When I was a school boy about 25 years ago, I remember having seen the remains of the wall of the old monastery on the spot”. E.C.Dozey has also documented that a Hindu Mandir was present before 1830 and that a Masjid was present at Laldigi (near the erstwhile Victoria Hospital) in Darjeeling in 1786. The fact that a mandir and a masjid were also present before 1835 testifies that apart from the Lepchas and Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims were also present in Darjeeling and that the claim of the presence of only 100 souls in the entire Darjeeling is not tenable.
It has been documented in the Bengal District Gazeeter by LSSO’Malley that whatever small population the place had, had been driven out by the Rajah of Sikkim. So, we do not really know as to how many fled from Darjeeling.
It has also been documented by Fred Penn in the Road of Destiny (Darjeeling letters 1839) that there was a practice of showing the areas to have sparse population to prove to the Rajah of Sikkim that he was parting with an area which was desolate and virtually uninhabited with very little scope of revenue generation. It has also been documented that General Lloyd suppressed the actual number of inhabitants present and the revenue collection made by him from the British authorities in Kolkata. Knowing the colonial mentality of the British, there is every possibility that they employed deceit as only they could to benefit them.
In view of the above and as no survey or census was undertaken for the Darjeeling hills comprising of present Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong then, it would not be correct to believe the assumptions of the British of only 100 souls having been present in the Darjeeling hills then.

Q10) Apart from the indigenous ‘Gorkhas’, how did the Gorkhas from Nepal come to India after the British took over Darjeeling in 1835?

AT: In 1839, Dr. Campbell, of the British East Indian Company devoted himself to the task of developing Darjeeling, inviting the hill tribes of neighboring region including Nepal to cultivate the mountain slopes, and stimulating trade and commerce. Every encouragement was given to the settlers, who received grants of forest land. It was mainly the hill tribes of Nepal who cleared the dense forests in the difficult mountainous terrain that helped Darjeeling grow by leaps and bounds. It was these hill tribes who were involved in the formation of the Hill Corps for the maintenance of law and order and improvement of communications in such a difficult terrain. Apart from Nepal, the people who came to work on the invitation of the British were the hill tribes form Sikkim and Bhutan too. All these facts which are documented in LSSO’Malley’s Darjeeling Gazeeter prove beyond doubt that apart from the Gorkhas who became Indian citizens by transfer of their land to British India, the other hill tribes who came to Darjeeling from Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim were settlers who were enticed by the British to come to help the British build and develop this part of British India. So, those who very casually term the hill tribes as immigrants, without knowing the backdrop of their settlement are doing great injustice to the race of people who developed this place to this present state so that they are now able to make their sojourns as tourists to this land. These hill tribes were not refugees who fled to India because of insecurity or who entered India on the sly i.e. illegally under the patronage of the political masters in West Bengal to strengthen their political stronghold.
Later, after the signing of the Indo-Nepal Treaty of 1950, some people have settled in India from Nepal by virtue of the treaty but their number is very less as can be verified from the Census reports. So, we see that even those who settled in India did so legally as permitted by the Indo-Nepal Treaty of 1950, which is of mutual benefit to India and Nepal. It may not be out of place to mention that it is by virtue of this treaty that many Indians have settled in Nepal and are in national mainstream there. One thing which needs to be stressed and needs to be clear in the minds of all (read Neo-Colonial rulers of West Bengal) that the Gorkha Indian citizens are not ‘Refugees’ like the Bangladeshis, who have entered India in hordes and have changed the demography of Siliguri Sub-Division of Darjeeling district in a very short span of time.


Q11) What is the history of Siliguri and how has its demography changed? What is its significance vis-à-vis the Gorkha Indian Citizens?

AT: After Kalimpong was brought under the British control in 1865 and thereafter was transferred to the Darjeeling district in 1866, the Darjeeling district was divided into two sub-divisions: the headquarters sub-division consisting of all the hills on both sides of the Teesta and the Terai sub-division which included the whole of the country at the foot of the hills. The headquarters of the Terai sub-division was at Hanskhawa near Phansidewa from 1864 to 1880. Thereafter, it was transferred to Siliguri. In 1891, Kurseong was made the headquarters of the new sub-division of Kurseong, which included both the Terai and the lower hills west of the Teesta. Later, in 1907, Siliguri was made a sub-division, thus re-establishing the Terai sub-division which had in 1891 been absorbed into the Kurseong sub-division (West Bengal District Gazeeter, Darjeeling 1980).

In 1898, the final report on the Darjeeling Terai Settlement published by Sri Sasi Bhusan Dutta (Bengal Secretariat Press, Calcutta), a Settlement Officer of the Government of West Bengal, the total population as well as its ethnic breakup of the Terai areas of the Darjeeling district (i.e. Siliguri and its periphery of today) has been documented. The report reveals that more than 31% of the population in the Siliguri and adjoining Terai regions consisted of the Gorkhas, the Lepchas and the Bhutias. The remaining population was principally Adivasi and Mohamadden. What is remarkable is the fact that, the report does not show the presence of any Bengali population then. It is thus clear that the majority of the population in Siliguri and the Terai at the end of the 19th century was predominantly castes belong to the Nepali/Gorkha and Adivasi community.

Siliguri showed a population growth of 2.6%, 4.9%, 29.4% and 36.4% in 1891-1901, 1901-11, 1941-51 and 1951-61 respectively. The growth in population till 1941 was due to the rapid urbanization of Siliguri. However, from 1941 onwards the demography of Siliguri and its adjoining areas changed rapidly due the influx of refugees from present day Bangladesh. In 1941-59, the town of Siliguri recorded growth of 61.2%, which was largely due to the influx of refugees from the erstwhile East Pakistan, following the partition of the country in 1947 and the communal riots in 1950. In 1951-61, the population increased by 101.5% for Siliguri town, this again being due influx of refugees from erstwhile East Pakistan. Immigrant refugees, mostly Bengali Hindus.

The demand of the state of Gorkhaland

By Poonam Kumar Sharma, Advocate

Article 3 of the constitution Of India states as follows:
Parliament may by law –
a)    Form a new State by separation of territory from any State or by uniting two or more States or parts of States or by uniting any territory to be a part of any State.
b)    Increase the areas of any State
c)    Diminish the area of any State
d)    Alter the boundaries of any State;
e)    Alter the name of any State

Provided that no Bill for the purpose shall be introduced in either House of Parliament except on the recommendation of the President and unless where the proposal contained the Bill affects the area, boundaries or name of any of the States, the Bill has been referred by the President of the Legislature of that State for expressing it views thereon within such period as may be specified in the reference or within such further period as the President may allow an the period so specified or allowed has expired.

Explanation I – In this article in clause (a) to (e) “State” includes a Union territory, but in the proviso, “State” does not include a Union territory.

Explanation II – The power conferred on Parliament by clause (a) includes the power to for a new State or Union territory by uniting a part of any State or Union territory to any other State or Union Territory.

Plain reading of the above article reveals that the Indian Parliament ha a power to create, A new State, increase or diminish the area of any State, alter the boundaries of any State, And even alter the name of any State.

In order to introduce a Bill to create a new State, increase or diminish the area of any State, alter the boundaries of any State, the parliament must fulfill the following conditions:

1.    The bill has to be introduced only on the recommendation of the State for expressing its views within specified time.
2.    The President has to refer the bill to the Concerned legislature of the State for expressing its views within specified time.

In AIR 1960 SC SI Justice S K Das has observed that the article gives a certain power to Parliament, viz., the power to make a law in respect of any of the matters mentioned in clause (a) to (e) thereof. This power includes the making of a law to increase the areas of any State; diminish the areas of any State; and alter the name of any State. The substantive part is followed by a provision, which lays down certain conditions of the exercise of the power. It states that no Bill for the purpose shall be introduced in either House of Parliament except on the recommendation of the President and unless, where the proposal contained in the Bill affects the area, boundaries, or name of any of the States, the Bill has been referred by the President to the Legislature of that State for expressing its views. Thereon. The period within which the State Legislature are must repress its views has to be specified by the President, but the President may extend the period so specified.

If, however the period specified or extended expresses and no views of the State Legislature are received, the second condition laid down in the proviso is fulfilled in spite of the fact that the views of the State Legislature have not been expressed. Nor is there anything in the proviso to indicate that Parliament must accept or act upon the views of the State Legislature.

Thus the Parliament of the Indian Constitution has ample jurisdiction to change the geography and territorial limit of a given State and hence the constitution does not guarantee the territorial integrity of a particular State. Justice Gagendragadkar in AIR 1960 SC 845 in para 857 has clearly observes that in constructing Article 3 we should take into account the fact that the constitution contemplated changes the territorial limits of the constituent states and there was no guarantee about their territorial integrity.

Hence, as far as the demand for creation of the separate of State of Gorkhaland within the framework of the Article 3 of Indian Constitution it has noting to do with so called highly propagated aspect of the territorial integrity of the State of West Bengal and the demand is constitutionally valid if it is raised democratically.
(darjeelingtimes.com)

Gorkhaland

Heaving a sigh of relief, finally – Vivechana Dewan 

The discontentment, bitterness and resentment that had been kept suppressed for 21 long years by the people of the Darjeeling hills finally and fortunately found an outlet in the guise of the Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha. Initially the people found this right to expression an anomaly in their restrained and curbed lives of 21 seemingly endless years. But no sooner did the people come to terms with the golden reality, than they started voicing their opinions and beliefs, without having to thin twice of being beheaded or stabbed or shot at in broad daylight.

Within a couple of months the GJMM had unbelievably more than half the population of the district of Darjeeling supporting the issue they had reawakened. The long cherished dream of every Gorkha that had been trampled and manipulated by the astute Subash Ghisingh once again started echoing in the hills. At the outset, people were agitation of 1986 -87. No one was ready and none could sustain another atrocious reality of the 80’s which people preferred to forget as the worst dream ever. But Mr. Bimal Gurung’s reassurance and his decision to adopt the path of Ahimsa and the Mahatma, won the confidence and support of the once disheartened public. By the third month the movement had swept over the entire district and one could see the tricolor flags of the GJMM fluttering majestically atop every house. “The winds and waves are always on the side of the best navigator.” Indeed Mr. Bimal Gurung lives up to this saying.

The journey thence has not been easy. Having overcome numerous obstacles, we have come far and are nearing the shore, away from the island Subash Ghisingh had deserted us, and now there’s no turning back. All that has been achieved so far has been the repercussion of the best navigator with the support of the people. But what pains me most and sometimes even irks me is the way some people still anticipate a wrong move from Mr. Gurung so as to scoff at him. We must not to realize, and sooner the better, that his loss is not his alone, it is yours, it is mine, it is every Gorkha’s.

Rather than criticisms, solutions and keys are the need of the hour. Had Mr. Gurung not intercepted at the nick of the time, the 6th Schedule would have been enforced, and unimaginable chaos and pandemonium would have reigned in the entire hill region. The credit for having jeopardized the Bengal government’s diabolique vision of entirely extinguishing the Gorkha community from India by imposing the 6th Schedule goes to Mr. Bimal Gurung.

The historical gathering at Indira Maidan in Siliguri was a moment of pride for all Gorkhas and the first of its kind in many years. All that Mr. Gurung had said there has been compared to the Nazis by Mr. Ashok Bhattacharya. I’m afraid he has made an error and has not the slightest idea of what Nazism really means. Nazism actually is the Bengal Government’s outrageous fantasy and the holocaust they had envisioned by execution of the 6th Schedule.

The state government has to change its way of thinking, for now they no longer are dealing with Subash Ghisingh for whom “Gorkhaland was his monkey” but with “bay-mol” (priceless) Gurung for whom Gorkhaland is as his dear mother, his very life. He will settle for nothing less than a separate homeland of the Gorkhas. And we can reliably bank on him for the Gorkhaland, let us do away with the feelings of jealousy, envy, ego and pride and instead have just one feeling, the feeling of oneness. We must keep aside to our differences and for once multiple identities, forget that we belong ahead with just one common identity of a Gorkha. Why not help one another to make this crusade for Gorkhaland a super success.
Anindita Dasgupta has mentioned in her “A Study of the Nepalis of Assam” (THE NEPALIS in North east India Ed. A. C. Sinha and T. B. Subba), the arguments of Amalendu guha about “Big Nationalism” based on all India culture and historical heritage, and “Little Nationalism” based on all India culture and historical heritage. She has written about the necessity that arose to protect the “Little National” in Assam when faced with the demand for Assam’s inclusion in Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s six province. Pakistan in the 1940s. Similarly, ‘now’ is the time for us to perpetuate and safeguard our ‘Little Naionalism’ lest we lose our linguistic, traditional and cultural space to the illegal migratory Bangladeshis. 

Why Gorkhaland ?

Almost everyone from Darjeeling District and parts of Dooars Terai irrespective of their caste, race, and linguistic difference are demanding Gorkhaland because:

Gorkhaland is our birth right, guaranteed by the Constitution of India.

People from Darjeeling have always been a victim of social, political and economical experiences under various administrations levied upon them.

People of Darjeeling feel that it’s the ripe time that the people of Darjeeling should be given the right of self determination under the Constitution of India.

Majority of Indians does not recognize the people of Darjeeling as Indians just because the people of Darjeeling speak Nepali language.

Historically Darjeeling belonged to Sikkim.

Darjeeling was gifted to East India Company by Sikkim and then it’s Passover to the British Crown and the Indian Republic.

The people of Darjeeling Hills and Dooars Terai have combined and fully assimilated into mainstream India, they feel the need to be recognized as India’s own.

Gorkhalis feel that as a constituent fabric of the Indian Union like the Bengalese, Tamils, Punjabis, they can as Gorkhas from Gorkhaland serve Indian Union to their fullest capacity.

Politically Darjeeling Hills and Dooars Terai is the epi-centre of Gorkhas. However, Gorkhas make up a sizeable population in Bhagsu, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur and other parts of India.

For Gorkhas, Darjeeling has always been a homeland of choice. Thus the formation of Gorkhaland would signify recognition and legitimacy and most importantly acceptance in India as a whole, no matter where they reside.

Since Sikkim is a separate state for Sikkimese, the Gorkhas also want their own state Gorkhaland of their own as they feel overshadowed under in a state called West Bengal. The Gorkhas has different culture compared to the culture of West Bengal.

Economically Darjeeling Hills and Dooars Terai has never received economic aid proportion to the resources, potential and revenue garnered or could be garnered in the region.

West Bengal has never found itself interested in helping the Hills and Dooars Terai to rise up to its optimum potential.

Darjeeling Hill with its abundant resources, including world favorite Darjeeling Tea and Tourism never got noticed by West Bengal Government and the Central Government.

Gorkhalis have always been victim of identity crisis more so because of the existence of the Republic of Nepal with whom India shares a porous border.

The lack of the need of visa while traveling through and fro the two nations have also lead to belief in most of the Indian circles that Nepalese wander in India freely and hence giving a second thought that Gorkhali people must be from Nepal.

This leads to major complications for Nepali speaking people that are originally from India and not from Nepal.

In fact, this vision has found root not just among commoners and the lays but also the highest of leaders in India. In the 1970s when the then Prime Minister of India, Morarji Desai visited Darjeeling, he was submitted a petition by a delegation of the Bharatiya Nepali Bhasa Manyata Samiti (Indian Nepali Language Recognition Committee).

The Prime Minister went through the petition and remarked rather care-freely, “I think you should be offering this petition to your King?” While the delegation lay dazed the Prime Minister further remarked, “Don’t you have a country of your own?” Yes, he was referring to Nepal and to His Late Majesty Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev. And yes, there was and is a country called Nepal but surely, it never occurred to the Prime Minister that he was not talking to Nepalese Delegation from Nepal but to the Citizens of India.

Identity is thus a very big issue! There have been news and various newspapers carried out numerous reports of Nepali speaking Indians being not given access to the most basic of amenities such as issue of ration cards, voters identity cards etc in the rest of the nation just because they were Nepali speaking Indians.

Certainly, Gorkhaland would solve a lot of problems. 

 The demand for the separate state of Gorkhaland may be termed as the oldest demand regarding the formation of state. It was raised in the year 1907. In the year 1907 the Indian Gorkhas first put up a demand for the separate administrative set-up in the Dist. of Darjeeling to the British Govt. The demand was again raised in 1917 through Hill Men’s Association but no such positive result was achieved at that very moment.

In the year 1947 India gained freedom for the bondage of British rule. People became free from colonial regime but the Indian Gorkhas, who also had a vital role in making its motherland free, have been ignored from its demand for a separate state with in the frame work of Indian Constitution.

The Indian Gorkhas have always been faithful to their motherland. Whenever the country goes through a period of internal and external disturbances, Gorkhas have always laid their life to save the integrity and sovereignty of the nation.

In almost all the spheres of development of the country, the Gorkhas are always ahead but the demand to protect their identity by creating Gorkhaland is not at all looked seriously by the Government.

On the other hand Gorkhas are termed as foreigners whenever the demand of Gorkhaland is raised.

Today, when we are demanding the separate state of within the frame work of Indian Constitution, the West Bengal Government led by CPI M is aggressive to suppress the demand.

When the Gorkha Ex-servicemen were organizing a peace rally in Siliguri for the formation of a separate state in a democratic way, the West Bengal Police under the order of CPI M latthi charged the rally. This latthi charge may be termed as breach of democracy and the extreme violation of Human Rights.

The West Bengal Government has always suppressed the Gorkhas politically, socially, economically and educationally. Therefore, we have decided that we do not want to reside under West Bengal.

Historically, Darjeeling including Siliguri, Terai and Dooars never belonged to West Bengal. This was just a historical blunder and the Gorkhas are suffering. (http://darjeelingonline.wordpress.com/gorkhaland/)