FROM TIMES OF INDIA
NEW DELHI Dec 28: Ahead of the second round of tripartite meeting with Gorkha leaders and the West Bengal government here on December 29, the Centre has
finalised the modalities which will revolve around giving more powers to the Darjeeling Hills through special status instead of acceeding to the separate state demand.
The Gorkhas will be represented by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) which has been on the warpath since February demanding creation of a separate state — Gorkhaland — comprising the three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong, besides Siliguri sub-division in the plains and the adjacent area in North Bengal.
Though GJM has been insisting on statehood, officials in the home ministry hinted that the Centre would in no way agree to the demand which has not found favour with other sections like non-tribals living in the area.
The 17-member Gorkha delegation led by GJM’s general secretary Roshan Giri will also meet home minister P Chidambaram. The first round of the tripartite meeting was here held in September.
Sources in the home ministry said the negotiators would keep in mind the unique geographical position of the area as this has implications considering the sensitivities of the people living there.
The region — a thin strip of land called Chicken’s Neck which separates China and Bangladesh and also connects India’s mainland with North-East — has always been on the radar of security agencies which have time and again resisted the separate statehood demand.
Referring to such concerns, the sources said the Centre would not agree to any decision by excluding the wishes of a majority of non-tribals in the region as it could create unrest, opening a new front for insurgents and `external elements’ to fish in troubled waters.
“Through the tripartite talks, the Centre would like to address all such concerns by taking into confidence all stake-holders, including GJM and the state government,” said a senior officer.
The Darjeeling Hills were on the boil for the first time during mid-1980s when the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) — an outfit supported by tribals in the region and led by Subhash Ghising — came to the forefront with the statehood demand. Ghising, however, later settled for the hill council following negotiations with the state and the Centre.
The GJM — another outfit led by Bimal Gurung and supported by tribals — entered into the scene much later when it started demanding a separate state while rejecting the move to give special status to the hill council.
FROM TIMES OF INDIA
Hillman- The Analyst
Questions to be placed by the Public on the Panel discussion to be held in Kalimpong on 4 Dec 2008, on the topic titled ‘Constitutional Roadmap to Gorkhaland’
I.(a). What is the difference between Ethnic Identity and Regional Identity as applied to Darjeeling District provided by the terminology ‘Partially Excluded Area’ under the Govt. of India Act 1936, with affinity to erstwhile Assam, particularly to Meghlaya which originated out of the Province of Assam which contained ‘Partially Excluded Area’, districts. It is seen there were 8 ‘Excluded Areas’ and 28 ‘Partially Excluded Areas’ at the time of India’s independence in 1947. Since then, 8 ‘Excluded Areas’ automatically formed into Union states. The 28 ‘Partially Excluded Areas’ too, by various district and area wise combination, formed into states till very recently in 2000, namely Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Uttranchal.
(b). Why was Darjeeling District and Jalpaiguri District till the promulgation of the Govt. of India Act 1936 identified regionally to erstwhile Assam (presently the North East States) under the phraseology of ‘Backward Tracts’, which was rephrased to the terms ‘Excluded’ and ‘Partially Excluded Areas’, in which the latter content was applied to Darjeeling District but its application withdrawn in respect of Jalpaiguri District. In the said 1936 Act, Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri Districts is clearly seen to have formed part of erstwhile Assam (Northeast states) which was specifically designated, and mentioned in the said Act, as areas lying ‘east of Bengal’ and applied exclusively to areas belonging to erstwhile foreign countries which had been occupied by British rule. Considering the nature of such precedents, whether it is true the Districts formed out of these foreign countries were termed under the terminology of ‘Excluded’ and ‘Partially Excluded Areas’, and that, the so designated areas were deemed to be become new states in due time, and not allowed to be absorbed by any other state except qualified by the regional identity. The absorption of both Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri Districts in West Bengal is relevant to the context unqualified, unethical, discriminatory as well as Constitutionally infringing in that, the ethnic identity of the Darjeeling hill peoples identified with the Northeast is seen to have been overlooked in order to advantage West Bengal but in reverse to the disadvantage of Darjeeling District as well as the Duars. The question is whether this argument suffices to support the Constitutional provisions in demanding a separate state for Darjeeling District and the Duars?
(c). The supplement to (a ) and (b) is, whether Darjeeling District is the only and sole remaining designated ‘Partially Excluded Area’ which has been made an exception to the rule. Is this not a discriminatory act on part of West Bengal, flouting Constitutional provisions as provided since the promulgation of the Regulating Act 1773 and subsequent similar defining Govt. of India Acts till 1947 onwards in the process of state formation?
II.(a). Before the Independence of India not many of the present Union states exist but combined into whole in the Province Bengal and later into Assam, Presidencies of Bombay and Madras, kingdoms including princely states and principalities. The present 35 States including Union Territories were only formed at the time of independence 15 August 1947 and thereafter. All these states were formed on the prescription and precedental regional identities provided by the Constituent Assembly of India. It is given to understand, major states were formed on linguistic logistic basis of areas.
The question is, can a new state for Darjeeling District and Duars be formed under the linguistic basis as Nepali/Gorkhali is designated Schedule language in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution, or the application of ‘Partially Excluded Area’ is a more relevant criteria in defining a future state. There are over 350 languages in India- can every language speaking demand a state?
(b). What is the practical interpretation of the terminology ‘Excluded’ and ‘Partially Excluded Area’ under which criteria states were created out of Districts/ divisions/area territories out of the Provinces, Presidencies etc. throughout India, including the N.E. states? Is it true the specific transliteration of the term connotes the indigenous natives of the area specified, and that, these natives required protection from more advanced dominant and majority population of the country?
III (a). If ‘Excluded’ and ‘Partially Excluded Areas’ are the hallmarks of state formations in India, can West Bengal, legally and Constitutionally, justify ‘absorbing’ Darjeeling District under any Act issuing out of the State or the Centre. If so, would it not be considered a violation of the Constitutional provisions of the Schedules and discrimination of the right of self determination, applied to rest of India with the exception of Darjeeling District?
(b). Historically, Darjeeling District and Duars (Jalpaiguri Dist) were part of foreign countries when acceded to the East India Company (E.I.C.) under British administration. Now that the British have left India, can Sikkim and Bhutan, ask for the return of its lost territories under international law and jurisprudence? If so, then Darjeeling Dist as well as Jalpaiguri Dist can only be incorporated into the Indian Union and not directly to a Union state, which in this case is West Bengal, which too is only a division of erstwhile province of Bengal.
Collorary to the context is now that Bangladesh is a sovereign polity, can it not later claim Darjeeling Dist as part of erstwhile Bengal, as they had already done so before the Partition of Bengal 1947, and in fact had hoisted a East Pakistani flag in Darjeeling at the time. This question is of particular importance to the present reality, that the population of Siliguri subdivision has demographically changed to assert this proposition, thereby, marginalizing the Darjeeling Dist hill peoples population in the entire District.
As an comparative illustration, herewith the Census 2001 population of the Dist: 16,09,172 wherein, the hill peoples component is only 7,90,591 approximately only half the population. To stress the impact of the illustration further, herein the statement of the redoubtable Dr. Mahendra P.Lama, quote ‘the Darjeeling hill peoples must be prepared to the eventuality even to accept respected Asok Bhattacharjee, an ethnic Bengali as the future Chief Minister of Gorkhaland’. The content is, the dominant plains people form the majority population in the District, in comparison to the hill peoples, who formed the basis of the native population, extracted out of Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan before and since the Indo –Nepal Treaty of Segowlee 1816.
The question is, how much has the continuous inflow of foreign nationals into the District has affected the terminology ‘Partially Excluded Area’ in destabalising the process of state formation under the term as applied to Darjeeling Dist?
IV. Considering the terminology ‘Excluded’ and ‘Partially Excluded Area’ was the password for states formation and that, it is believed within its ambit only, that the 6th Schedule Constitutional Bill was formed and placed in Parliament. The provisions and contents effected the rejection of the Bill by the people enmasse, and which is presently lying redundant but alive in Parliament, having been amended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee.
The question is which of the following items were considered misleading in order to avert the passage of the Bill:
(a). the Bill was seen as a trade off for the permanent partition of Siliguri Subdivision, depriving Darjeeling Dist the most fertile plainsland in the Terai, as well as the great logistic vast economic resources of the township
(b). Non-inclusion of the Duars in the purported Gorkha Hill Council Darjeeling (GHCD)
(c). The GHCD was considered only as replacement of old wine in new bottle in context to the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC)
(d) Non-inclusion of new hill communities into the Scheduled Tribe list, and only the two new communities listed in 2003, the Tamangs and Limbus were seen to have been preemptively designed to divide the hill peoples
(e). The Bill was totally unlike the one applied to the North East regions, not even like the Bodoland Territorial Council which it resembled, and hence seen as a heavily diluted version as applied elsewhere, and not inconformity designed by its terminology ‘Partially Excluded Area’.
(f). The Bill opened the floodgate for abetted settlement of aliens and outsiders in the District from neighbouring countries and the plains.
(g). The 6th Schedule Bill diluted by amendments was seen as detrimental to the existing socio-economic environment which is seen to further affect the deteriorating geophysical environment to an irreversible ecological disaster, thereby giving more emphasis on the partial exclusion of the District from rest of Bengal under the regional identity qualified by the provisions of the ‘Partially Excluded Area’ term.
V.(a). It is believed the Inner Line demarcation of the NE states of India was mandated in 1873 with the specific purpose of disallowing entry of both Indian and foreigners into the specified areas, which also includes Darjeeling Dist along all the N.E.states which still retains the Inner Line Permit, obvious for the many reasons specified. Why only in Darjeeling Dist was the same lifted. Was it to provide foreign tourists (which was regulated but permitted for specific time), or was it for allowing massive dozes of foreign immigrants into the District from the bordering foreign countries of Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan refugees, besides taken over the restricted lands by the people from the plains.
(b). Did the state consult the Darjeeling Dist people while withdrawing the ‘Inner Line Permit’ besides the ‘Restricted Area Permit’ which was specifically applied to Kalimpong subdivision and commonly known as Kalimpong Stay Permit (KSP). Inner Line as well as Restricted Area Permits are considered components of ‘Excluded’ and ‘Partially Excluded Areas’ as applied to erstwhile Assam, and now the composition of 7 (seven) N.E. states, as well as Sikkim which still holds the Inner Line Permit. Will not the re-introduction of Inner Line Permit assure the marginalisation of Darjeeling Dist by immigrants from all over the neighbouring regions, which has contributed adversely in raising Darjeeling town to the un-covetous position of the most densely position hill town in the world. Kalimpong and Kurseong towns are not lagging behind considering the population growth rates for the past two decades.
By DT Correspondent on October 19,2008
In the chapter on people, a very import issue is raised, complimenting the role of Nepali language, as a listed language in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution. Nepali, (originating from Sanskritised Hindi dialect forming the basis of Nepali and complimented to Dev Nagiri script) has been culturally accepted by practically all the Darjeeling hill communities and elsewhere. As a media of communication, lingua franca amongst the various constellations of clans and groups commonly featured as the Gorkhas, Nepali language has unified the hills to a cultural melting point. The Hindu religion is farther said to cement the bond amongst the diverse lot. Thus, Nepali language can be seen as a primarily factor, as a criteria applicable in seeking a state under the provisions of the Constitution. As when new state boundaries were aligned, demarcated and decided in pre and post independence, the commonality of language spoken was on top of the list in deciding the fate of many new states. As already stated, the Indian National Congress in 1921 recognized languages as the principle criteria, followed by the Nehru Committee 1928 who too supported the basis. Finally, the State Reorganisation Committee in 1955 confirmed spoken language of the people as one of the primary factors in determining the boundaries of new states. Arguing on the ground based on Nepali as the spoken language of the Darjeeling hill peoples and 28, 24,575 (Census 2001) others all over India, as well as being the state language in Sikkim state, is Nepali language the roadmap of GJMM?
The language issue maybe further supported by the historical making of the region into its geopolitical unit inhabited by distinctly featured hill people all along the area. Dalimkote (present Kalimpong subdivision which prior to 1706 the easterly boundary of Teesta formed part of Sikkim), again annexed by the British as Bhutanese Duars (present Duars) in 1865. Darjeeling hills, Kurseong upto Pankabari was annexed in 1835, Kalimpong and Duars annexed from Bhutan in 1865 (Kalimpong till 1780 formed part of Sikkim, and thence annexed to Bhutan till it was taken over by the British). Darjeeling Terai (Siliguri subdivision) annexed in 1850, was a vital agricultural and important plainsland of erstwhile independent Sikkim. This geophysical and political identity of Darjeeling district and the Duars is territorially connected to erstwhile Assam which formed the entire northeast, thereby the commonality of regional identity between the two divisions. Darjeeling district and Duars, within Bengal was separated from its identical characteristics, those of the northeast regions.
Inspite of the change in ownership and territorial suzerainty, whether from the Sikkim and Bhutan monarchy to the British crown Jewel of India, Nepali language has spread across the land boundaries, emigrating with the ethnic Nepali communities wherever they traveled and settled down uplifting the local natives and rulers beyond bounds. These penigrations combined with migrations predate history. Understandably, Nepali is spoken by substantial population in the length and breadth of entire sub-Himalayan hills, foothills and adjoining plains from Himachal Pradesh (Dehra Dun) in the west, to the Indian states bordering Myanmar. Nepali language can certainly be considered an important constitutional component while demanding a state.
While unifying India with due process of federalizing the many and diverse principalities, provinces and exclusions, the British rulers and post independent Indian leaders meticulously provided the Constitution in order to form the union states out of a federal multi-ethnicity, multi-linguistic, multi-cultural background of diverse Indian population. It is critical to take the above into consideration as Constitution provisions while demanding for a new state. Specific to the northeast region of India certain regional identities were identified particularly to erstwhile Assam from which four new states originated given the above criterias. Darjeeling District as a unit territory in West Bengal for all practical purposes of administration has been emulating Assam units, four of which achieved statehood. This is relevant to mention in process of demanding a state and which factor has somehow been overlooked in larger detail of describing only the identity of the Darjeeling hill peoples.
The chapter on history can well be rephrased as historical documents submitted detailing all the submissions, memorials, demands for a separate unit beginning with year 1907 and duly completing over a century. These documents certainly expose the sincere intent and goodwill of past forefathers demanding separation of Darjeeling dist and Duars from Bengal, British and Indian, citing the latest till 1988 introducing the administrative unit DGHC under Writer’s Building with the blessings of Mr. Subhas Ghissing and the GNLF ruling the Darjeeling hills for 21 long years without let or live, connived with the masters in Kolkata who themselves have brought Bengal to the footage from the title rest of India emulated. Now the West Bengal govt. and the dominant party in power is repenting for the bad seeds it had sown. The fruit is Nandigram and Singur. Whereas the other states are inviting Tata’s Nano takeoff from their soil with compliments to West Bengal. The Memorandum certainly displays the zeal and inspirations of the past leaders. But, the documents are to be regarded as mere appeals akin to a duly filled and posted application forms seen only to express the long standing grievances, though genuine and relevant demanding some sort of immediate resolution for freedom tied with bonds and incompatibility, working together in tandem with the likes of Bengal.
The documents surely prove the genuineness of the action taken report, but do not indicate in any way the snake and ladder and the dice to throw in order to climb up the tree to the finish and pluck the fruit thereof if the tree really existed, that is, the state. When the fathers of the Constitution compiled the comprehensive provisions in conceiving formation of states of the Union, and which, the British had already prepared after meticulously studying the ground realities parameters and territories, these observations were contained in various Govt.of India Acts, Ordinances etc. originating from various Commissions and Reform Committees all very well documented and found in archives detailing the criterias to be fulfilled to gain statehood. The purpose of the exercise was to have a unified code application to entire India, with the consideration in mind that if all the different peoples and communities, diverse in every respect, demand a separate state, there would have been over 500 states in India at the point of receiving independence in 1947. Time was taken after 1947 till 26 February 1950 to await and celebrate the birth of the Indian nation, the birth of the Indian Republic only after duly completing the formalities for unifying the country under due process and provisions, applied to the formation of states. The uses of the yardstick was federalism applied to the diverse communities, tribes and people of India, and thereby gradually and peacefully unite the country into a whole under a democratic central unitary system of government.
The forefathers too seemed to have overlooked the qualifying attributes provided by the Constitution, which require to be fundamentally displayed. Which and what are these conditions are meticulously documented in Govt. of India Acts, Administrative Rules and regulation, Reform Committees, and list of Commission Reports, in which are hidden the true identity of the Darjeeling hills, which often go unobserved for notice due to bureaucratic jargon and political parlance. This is difficult to find unless one studies all records and books to decipher the puzzle. But once the puzzle is unwound the true Regional identity will be unveiled, just as a new born babe, a new state is born, only known by the complimentary Govt. documents. The regional identity of Darjeeling hills is closely connected and tied up with the Northeastern region, and certainly not with Bengal which has hidden the real mother from the child.
India rid its shackles in 1947, but provided its national Constitution only in 1950. Similarly, only now Nepal is determined to discover its regional identity by the overthrow of the Shah monarchy, to herald the birth of a true democratic republic, all the different ethnic groups and communities are in process of discovering their individual regional identities in the federation process just like India did during pre and post independence period. Earlier the Gorkha Shah Kings and the autocratic Ranas, although migrants from India themselves, had sway and ruled Nepal with absolute despotism, by applying the political theory of god kings to a living state just like classical Europe. The federal structure of polity has now taken a full turn again, ensured by ushering to power ethnic Indian Nepalis (Madhesays) to replace the Shah Kings (also ethnic Indians) and become the head and vice-head of states. It is regrettable, however, to find not many ethnic Nepali natives to whom once Nepal belonged are unseen in the centre stage of power, politics, administration and other higher professions occupied by the high castes even under the new Republic, and the true revolutionaries, the Maoists (numbering over 15000) are accommodated presently in barracks and campus, hoping to be inducted into the armed forces just as the proverbial martial race, the Gorkhas! It is hoped the history of Nepal will not be repeated in the Darjeeling hills, and that, Bengal will not be allowed to disband the ongoing demand for a separate state by repeating the history of Subhas Ghissing and the GNLF, or that of Nepal. Subhas Ghissing having engineered his downfall from the status of an icon to that of a scoundrel – a tragedy!
Quite likely as Dr. Mahendra P.Lama determined in his deliberations in a seminar of intellectuals in Kalimpong, the Darjeeling hill people must be prepared to accept a state headed by Asoke Bhattacharjee. After all in the total population of Darjeeling district 16,09,171 it could very well be a plainsmen, the future Chief Minister of Gorkhaland. The Darjeeling hill people and Bengal need note:
As mentioned earlier the 1909-11 Morley Minto Reforms Committee, the Simon Commission Report 1927-30 and others details, are the federation process of state formations. The qualifications for Darjeeling District and the Duars is its Regional identity with Assam (Northeast India) which is identified by reference to ‘Backward Tracts’(1873), Scheduled Districts 1874, Backward Tract (1919) then ‘Excluded and Partially Excluded Area (1936), the Cabinet Mission (1946), Advisory Committee (1947) etc clearly identifying Darjeeling District to Assam (Northeast Regions).
As pointed out in the draft, Bengal Presidency was a large land mass accumulation of all new annexations to the designated Presidency, such as Madras, Bombay, were added the areas for British territorial administration. At a stage in time, the Fort William Bengal Presidency comprised the entire eastern regions of India forming part of Oudd(UP), Bihar, Orissa (became states in 1912) and Assam (the erstwhile state to which Darjeeling district and the continuous plains of Duars and Jalpaiguri District, right up to the borders of Assam), is the regional identity of Darjeeling district to be included with the Northeast states and the respective Northeast Council (a separate Regional identity) in contrast to Bengal and rest of India, ethnologically, geographically, linguistically as well as administratively. This Northeast regional identity is well documented in the various Govt. of India Acts mentioned earlier. Hence just gowning the Darjeeling hill people, superfluously by any sort of dresses will further camouflage the original identity (Northeast region), and thereby complicating the matter and further misunderstanding in resolving a simple issue. It is felt that, it is this misunderstanding of the true identity that has delayed the ‘question of the statehood demand’ till date. This important factor which can deliver statehood for Darjeeling is somehow unseen in the winding literary write up of the Case for Gorkhaland.
In the Case, the main thrust for demanding Gorkhaland seems to be the linguistic regional identity as of this instance, which unfortunately, under successive precedental details defined in some instances, though genuine factorally, is being predicated and being sidelined as one of the major factors in qualification in determining statehood. For instance, during the Premiership of late Rajiv Gandhi, the linguistic factor once the main criterion was being considered to be rejected by Parliament decree.
Therefore to achieve the desired state of Gorkhaland, the only Constitutional provision open to the Darjeeling hill peoples is the regional identity with Assam as well as the Northeast. To support which are archives and documents in the state and central libraries for reference to understanding the intricate details? If these documents are not sufficient, one only requires opening the internet and downloading the gamut of various information’s prepared by the British Govt. on India file concerning administrative reforms.
The information derived from these documents will help fill in the application for a state for the Darjeeling hill people- Gorkhaland. To illustrate this point simply is referred to the British House of Parliament debating how to administer the indigenous people of ‘Backward Tracts’ from the raving exploitation and aggressive character of the dominant people from the plains was coined the phrase ‘Scheduled Districts’, ‘Excluded’ and ‘Partially Excluded Areas’ to exclude these areas from the provincial and central, legislative and judicial application subject to effect and interpretation by the executive, which in this case was the Governor General.
The rest of the details found in the Case for Gorkhaland seem trivial and naïve and observed more as a viability report than including factors determining a new state as provided by Constitutional jurisprudence. It is highly advised that the Case file be presented to Constitutional lawyers at the level of Supreme Court to find the flaws and loopholes, pros and cons, so that neither of the two parties West Bengal govt. nor the Govt. of India will find any hesitation to deny the Darjeeling hill people their regional rights, which has for long being denied under cloak and dagger policy followed by the State. The GJMM is advised to ask the govt. concerns, why a state has been denied to the Darjeeling people when it should have been handed out to them at the time of independence, if not earlier during the British Raj. This is a rhetoric which answer will only be replied when the state of Gorkhaland is formed. (Darjeeling times)
For a country mired in inflation woes, a sinking Sensex and a tottering Centre it is reasonable that the demand for Gorkhaland would be dismissed as yet another local problem of law and order in a far flung corner. If we are to go beyond the five minutes of prime time and are actually able to persuade the nation, there is a crying need for us to provide more sharp and cogent arguments for the cause. Opinion has to be built at least in Delhi and Kolkata for Gorkhaland, especially when we have begun hearing sympathetic voices from certain quarters over there.
When we talk about identity, it is hard to imagine that it would echo in the national consciousness like in the way it resounds in our parts. The struggle for ethno-political identity within the framework of the Constitution is something that an average Indian would find difficult to comprehend. On the other hand the country’s elite dubs it as “identity politics”, a fashionable parlance to describe the struggle of dalits, feminists, forest dwellers, ST seekers, homosexuals and such other kinds – all of these are devoid of the self-determination quality that the struggle for identity has in the hills. The casual description of the Gorkhaland movement as identity politics undermines the urgency and the poignancy of the issue.
At the heart of the matter lies the 1950 Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship. This treaty, which has greatly benefited India, has been a curse for the Indian Gurkhas. The Treaty allows citizens of both countries to freely reside, buy property, own businesses and work in each other’s land. Obviously a lot of Nepali citizens migrated to India after the agreement, and continue to do so, seeking better opportunities here. Likewise, taking advantage of the same opportunity, there has been a significant influx of Indians into Nepal, where they now largely control the commerce.
At the time the Treaty was signed, it was an important strategic advantage India had secured vis-à-vis China. In a rather impatient display of excitement (of India), the Treaty after making a token reference to “everlasting peace and friendship”, goes on immediately to declare in its second article: “The two governments hereby undertake to inform each other of any serious friction or misunderstanding with any other State likely to cause any breach in the friendly relations subsisting between the two Governments.” As a result of this provision, Nepal was required to consult India on matters of regional security, while India was obligated to ensure the national defense and military preparedness of Nepal. Instead of just being a buffer nation, Nepal became an active ally of India.
Most Indians have not been able to appreciate the significance of this Treaty and the huge strategic advantage that the country enjoys due to it. Not to forget that all Indian citizens living in Nepal have personally benefited from the relations of the two countries. It is no surprise that they have little understanding of the Indian Gorkhas who have become the unintended victims of the agreement. It is because of this open border policy that those opposed to Gorkhaland have used the Treaty – which actually benefits India – as a stick to beat the Indian Gorkhas with. Because of the large number of Nepali Gorkhas residing in India, it has been easy for the detractors of Gorkhaland to club the Indian Gorkhas with them. The separate state demand is described as “illegitimate” because “all Nepalis are foreigners.” Their ignorance is underlined by their call to abrogate the Indo-Nepal Treaty.
Ironically, the Indian Gorkhas have themselves been crying hoarse for a long time demanding that the Treaty be scrapped, or at least the provision that allows for the open border. Arising out of this Treaty is a political nightmare for an average Indian Gorkha, who has to almost daily distinguish himself as being from India and not Nepal. For the rest of time-pressed India, Gorkhas exist in some sort of twilight zone.
This is where the demand for Gorkhaland is different from the other demands for separate states. While other demands are based mainly on grounds of discrimination and underdevelopment, the issue of identity is paramount in the case of the former. Because of an unintended fallout of an international agreement, the nationality of Indian Gorkhas has been compromised. By creating Gorkhaland, not only a serious problem of its nearly one crore citizens would be resolved, but a Treaty that serves national interests could be kept happily without demands being raised for its annulment.
Further, the issue of identity for the Indian Gorkhas is poignant not just because of the foreigner tag. Recent history of state-sponsored evictions of Gorkhas in Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya has scarred their psyche. Although in some instances the Gorkhas were clubbed together with other “outsiders” like Bengalis and displaced from the North East, there was active cooperation from Indian authorities including the West Bengal government to drive the refugees to the Indo-Nepal border. This, the other evicted communities did not have to experience.
During the most recent displacement of Gorkhas that happened from Southern Bhutan, the West Bengal government again actively supported the movement of the refugees to the border. Once across the line, they were disallowed to return again. While the question of the refugees’ nationality might be debated over, it would be absurd to expect the marginalized Indian Gorkhas not to reflect negatively on the treatment meted out to their cultural brethren by the Indian authorities.
The displacements experienced by Gorkhas in post-Independent India add urgency to their demand for a separate state. Such experience fortunately has not been the lot of others demanding their own separate states in India.
Behind the persecution of the Gorkhas there has always been an insidious hint that the community harbours a divided loyalty. On the question of Gorkhaland, critics claim the Gorkhas cannot be trusted to have their own state at the nation’s border. In today’s context the geopolitical concerns that are aired regarding Darjeeling, are nothing more than a bogey. It might have made sense during the British Raj to consider the region “sensitive”. Those were the days of the Great Game, when the British were trying to counter the influence of the Russians and the Germans over Central Asia.
The argument that the Gorkhas cannot be trusted at the borders is hilarious. Sikkim where the “sensitive” border actually lies is populated by over 70 percent of Gorkhas. One has never heard of the Gorkhas in Sikkim compromising the nation’s security. Rather the Chinese have after a long standoff finally recognized Sikkim as part of India.
Those raising questions about Gorkha’s trustworthiness, should be reminded that Sikkim would not have been merged with India had it not been for the Gorkha politicians who gave Indira Gandhi a foothold in the then Himalayan kingdom. Such is the irony of history that revered journalist like Sunanda Dutta Ray would see the role of the Gorkhas in Sikkim as “Indian agents” who had been disloyal to the monarch.
The argument for Gorkhaland also needs to be couched in contemporary reality. That reality informs that there is room for new smaller states in India. It is a fact one of the primary reasons for India lagging behind is its sheer size. A study conducted by India Today showed that smaller states like Puducherry(earlier known as Pondicherry), Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand were better governed than say Bihar or Uttar Pradesh. To the success stories of smaller states may be added Goa and Sikkim. Mind you Puducherry is smaller in size than even just the three hill sub-divisions, which is part of the proposed state of Gorkhaland. Like Sikkim it also has less population than ours. Chandigarh, a Union Territory, is only 114 sq km, and has one of the highest per capita incomes in the country.
With three seats in the West Bengal State Assembly and “half” a seat in the Parliament, the Indian Gorkhas have scarcely a chance to determine their destiny. Call this a fault of democracy – where numbers matter. For the minorities, India as the world’s largest democracy is indeed a challenge. However, the Constitution of India safeguards the rights of minorities, and the nation’s federal structure is premised on linguistic and cultural basis. Therefore to disregard the claim of Gorkhas, who have a distinct culture and language, for a separate state on the grounds of that they have marginal representation in the Assembly and the Parliament is to selectively interpret the Indian Constitution.
In the end it seems like the opposition to the creation of new states in more a mind block than anything. The demands for new states are seen as separatist movements, even secessionists. Both of these are exaggerations of a mind that refuses to move forward with changing times. It is a mind the shies away from creatively engaging with challenges. It is a mind of a loser.
Having said that it is also important for the hill people to move away from hysterical declamations and be able to provide convincing arguments for Gorkhaland. We have greater expectations from the current movement which has been claiming the higher ground of political standards.
(Source: Darjeeling times)
Kolkata, July 28 (IANS) West Bengal’s ruling Left Front chairman Biman Bose Monday said that the agitation for a separate Gorkhaland was affecting everyday life in the region and that administrative action was necessary to control the volatile situation in the Darjeeling hills. “The situation is becoming more and more critical in Darjeeling. The state administration should take action against the ongoing Gorkhaland protest there,” Bose told reporters here.
He said: “Civil life has been badly hit due to the continuous political turmoil in the hills. A section of people has also been isolated by the agitators. These people are facing lot of problems because of the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM)-sponsored movement. This could lead to a violent fallout in other parts of the state.”
Asked if the Darjeeling issue was discussed in Monday’s Left Front meeting, Bose said the matter was not on the agenda.
“But if it’s necessary, we could discuss this issue in our next meeting,” he said.
The GJM, led by its president Bimal Gurung, has been spearheading a movement in the hills for a separate state, besides opposing the Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling district that offers greater autonomy to the region’s governing Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC).
Earlier, the party organised an indefinite shutdown in the hills twice over its demand for a separate state.
Referring to the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)’s demand that three West Bengal districts – Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore – be included in Jharkand, Bose said: “We should unitedly protest against this move and maintain the integrity of our state.” (Thaindia news)
With the demand for a separate Gorkha state paralyzing life in Darjeeling it needs to be examined how legitimate is the demand for Gorkhaland.
Darjeeling belongs only to the Gorkhas?
Prior to its occupation by the British East India Company in 1835, Darjeeling was part of Sikkim and was known as Sikkim Darjeeling. In fact, the word Darjeeling is derived from the Tibetan words ‘dorje’ meaning thunderbolt and ‘ling’ meaning a land, hence Darjeeling means ‘the land of the thunderbolt’. The original inhabitants of this beautiful hill station were the Lepchas. In 1839 there were not more than 100 Lepchas living in the region.
The importance of Darjeeling emerged from the three ‘Ts’ – Tea, Tourism and Timber. With the slopes of the Darjeeling hills and its climate being ideal for the commercial cultivation of the tea crop, the British administrators in order to develop tea cultivation leased out forestland to the planters. The demand for workers for the expanding tea estates started the influx of the large number of migrants from the neighboring states of Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan. The Nepali-speaking Gorkhas formed the largest migrant community in the Darjeeling Mountains. Within 10 years of British occupation of the region, the population of the region rose from 100 to 10,000 in 1849. The Gorkhas who are claiming a separate state for themselves have actually settled in the region in the last 150 years.
Gorkhas betrayed by their own leaders
During the eighties, Darjeeling was hit by fierce agitation by The Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) under Mr. Subash Ghisingh for a separate Gorkha State or the Gorkhaland. After a series of talks between the government of West Bengal and the central government, the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council was set up as in 1988 as an autonomous body for the social, economic, educational and cultural advancement of the Gorkhas and other people living in the hill areas of the district of Darjeeling.
However, over the past two decades the economic condition of Darjeeling went from bad to worse despite of huge sums of money coming from the West Bengal government to fill the coffer of the Gorkha Hill Council. Development of Darjeeling was restricted to a few roads largely used by the tourists and building temples, a resort in the Dooars, a lavish guest house in Kolkata and of course for increasing the wealth of the GNLF leader Subhas Ghisingh. The West Bengal government was denied permission to audit the accounts of the Gorkha Hill Council.
Two decades of deprivation have suddenly brought to the fore a rejuvenated demand for a separate Gorkha State once again and now under a new leader and new organization – Bimal Gurung and Gorkha Liberation Forum (GLM). The irony of fate is that Mr. Bimal Gurung had been a trusted lieutenant of Ghisingh and had been a part of the Gorkha Hill Council. While their own men have betrayed them, the people of Darjeeling are considering the Bengali-speaking population of the state as their main enemy. Tourists visiting the region had been attacked by the members of the GLM.
With corruption persisting among the leaders of the region, by simply forming a separate state based on ethnicity, will the people of Darjeeling benefit? (Instablogs)
Shrikanth M D , Bangalore
It was in 1948, when Nizam of Hyderabad negotiated deals with both the Indian and Pakistan government and later he decided to remain as an independent kingdom, Sardar Vallabhai Patel acquired the Central province and included it as an inseparable part of our country.
The iron man had fought out all the differences among various states and amalgamated all the chunks to build today’s so called incredible India! Perhaps he never knew that one day this country would go in the wrong hands of opportunists who would not mind to build their luxuries on the graveyards of people.
The country was given a perfect shape even under the various flawed policies of Mr. Nehru. Had he been alive today, he would have certainly sympathized with the feelings of the people of the country.
Pakistan has been hatching plans to conquer Kashmir since the time of independence and not to forget the other traitor china posing threats now and then. If these external threats are trying to deshape the country on one side, well entrenched leaders are on the other side and they are trying hard to divide the country on the lines of culture, heritage and Communalism, only for their political benefits.
The country would not have forgotten the efforts of political leaders who have been trying restlessly to carve Telangana as a state out of Andhra Pradesh. Not to forget the invaluable efforts of leaders of Coorg who tried to carve Coorg state out of Karnataka. While these memories are fading in the minds of people, a fresh renewed call has been given by Gorkhaland Janamukthi Morcha (JNM) to carve a new state out of West Bengal.
Earlier, in 1980s GNLF (Gorkhaland National Liberation Front) had taken the initiative for the establishment of a new Gorkha state which only resulted in a blood shed. However, Mr. Subash Ghisingh, Chairman of the Darjeeling Gorkha hill council since inception, fought hard and signed an agreement in 1988 for the creation of an autonomous body, The Darjeeling hill council. Now he is expecting sixth schedule council status of constitution to be granted which would mean further enhancements of council’s power. GJM is not compromising and has gone ahead in this direction for establishment of a new state.
The country would certainly like to know the reason behind this. Safeguarding the culture and heritage of Gorkhas has been the criteria. Misled masses of Gorkhas feel that the Bengal Government has shown stepmotherliness towards them. May be it’s true also to an extent. The people should realize the facts and fight for the injustice gone in their way (if at all any!) than dividing and deshaping the country.
However, we can’t question the patriotism of Gorkhas as we all know that thousands of them have served the army for years as being a part of Gorkha rifle regiment. The government has to throw light on the problems faced in the hill and help Gorkhas to safeguard their culture and heritage. Someone has to make them realize that achieving the status of an independent state is not the ultimate solution to every problem. The constitution is meant for every one. Though their demands for carving a new Gorkhaland is not unconstitutional, it’s not an appropriate solution. Governments have to safeguard the interests of Gorkhas, help them to get rid the feel of insecurity and restore peace in the lives of people of the hills.
After all they are also the birds of the same nest as we. (Instablogs)