Mahendra P Lama
The Jan Andolan Party (launched on 27 January 2016) is founded on the principles of democracy, social justice, inclusive development and safeguarding national interest. In this region of India, most of the political parties have used the term Andolan for negative purpose and petty gains only. This has led to destruction, violence and killings. More than this, it has caused inter-community and intra-community misgivings and hatred in this region where people lived for centuries with harmony, peace, cooperation and fellow feeling.
Look at the tea gardens. Which trade union is not there and for how many years. What is the result ? Tea industry is dangerously sick, workers are facing hunger deaths, the minimum wages have never reached them, panchayats are no longer there, thousands of workers have not got their provident funds and gratuity and in total they live in inhuman conditions. Even after 160 years of serving tea gardens thay donot have their land and home address . Are we in hunger torn Ethiopia or war torn Sudan ? How much of foreign exchange these gardens have fetched for the country and how these gardens have made profits for the filthy rich owners for their generations to come ?
The management and owners of these gardens change like the fashions in the Oxford Street in London, 5th Avenue in New York and Harajuku in Tokyo. Who will stop this process in this 160 years old national and global heritage ? Who will bring the tea garden owners and management to books ? Why trade unions have become ineffective ? These are some very basic questions.
As a result, all these andolans resulted into achieving very little or nothing in terms of main goals and public welfare and development. For me the only time the term andolan was used positively was during the movement for the recognition of Nepali language in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India. It was a protracted “Bhasha Aandolan” which brought belated yet overwhelming success. And we got the recognition successfully in 1992. At the national level, the “Chipko Andolan” in Uttarakhand region became so successful in 1980s. Ably led by Sunderlal Bahuguna and Chandi Prasad Bhatt this andolan became the model of forest and environment conservation for the entire world and more so for the people of the hills and mountains. These were the real andolans.
JAP will do andolans in three major areas i) changing people’s mind and making people more dedicated and responsible for the societal, regional and national development and construction. For this we shall have to revive all the traditional institutions which actually founded our societies and blend them with modern institutions. We shall also have to build confidence and trust among the younger generation about their ability to do something good and big for their families, societies and the country.
Once we do this, all the negative elements in the society that thrive on corruption, violence, fear, looting and more importantly political patronisation will be sidelined. It is a difficult process, a tough andolan and a Herculean task and may take a long time. However, JAP will initiate this process. This is what the Japanese did after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were devastated with atom bombs in the Second World War. This is what the Chinese did after the dangerous phase of Cultural Revolution (1965-75) of Mao-Tse Tung was ended. Look at these two countries today, no one can believe that they could do so well and stand on top of the world as a society and the economy that were literally devastated.
ii) Our second andolan will be in the arena of achieving our goal of separate state comprising of Darjeeling district, Dooars and adjoining areas. This is going to be an all inclusive state with all the communities like Bangalis, Biharis, Adivasis, Rajbongshis, Koche and Meches, Gorkhas, Lepchas, Bhutias, Marwaris etc participating in the andolan and achieving the long cherished dream of a separate state. The name of the state could be anything like “Simanta Pradesh”, “Darjeeling Dooars Pradesh” or “Kanchenjunga Pardesh” etc. Followers of all the religions and faiths will constitute this new state. Given the high economic potentials, natural resources, strategic location of our state with four international borders and more importantly given the quality of our people, we have a dream of making this state the best in the country.
This is going to be a movement based on history, geography, culture-ethnicity, national security and economic deprivation and political alienation. An andolan that will be taken directly at the heart of India’s democracy that is the Parliament of India. We shall do this andolan without violence, hatred and bloodshed and destruction.
And iii) we shall have andolans in education, health, tea, cinchona, tourism, water and forest resources and more critically in building a robust-resilient systems that would be people-centric and communities friendly. In the process we will bring all the prominent national and international and multilateral institutions including the United Nations Agencies, World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other bilateral development agencies and other international NGOs to this region. We shall attract the best domestic and foreign investors. We shall make it a health destination, our state will be another education hub and we shall be the custodian of overland trades with the neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Nepal and even Myanmar and other South East Asian countries. We shall be the key player in India’s core foreign policy strategy of “Act East Policy”.
All our demands are interconnected and deeply integrated. These are well and will be widely discussed in the National Bureau which is the highest decision making body of JAP.
There cannot be a state without development and there cannot be development without a state. So far we were not able to develop because we did not have our own state. We were not clear about what is our priority and criticality. All our resources tea, cinchona, forests, minerals, water, flora and fauna were exploited and siphoned away. We remained silent spectators. It is a question of priority and strategy. JAP has a clear policy of ‘zero enemy’ and ‘zero corruption’, we are sure the State Govt and the Central govt both will like it and of course the people want this.
There is no other alternative than a separate state for the people of this region. It will happen like other 29 states in India. 50 years back India was different than 50 years later today. Another 50 years will again be different than what we have in India today. Our political parties while fighting for Gorkhaland have done serious mistakes in the past. We give them the benefit of doubts. We donot want to tread the same path and commit the same fatal errors.
The people of Dooars were shown golden goose when our leaders approached them and asked them to join the demand for Gorkhaland. Whereas our leaders gave them simple lollypops with a thin plastic stick inside. Naturally they are disillusioned, angry, upset and feel deeply betrayed. They joined the political movements because of the dream of a separate state whereas both DGHC and GTA did not even give them some basic development benefits.
Now its going to be an andolan of all of us. Every community will have an equal say during the andolan and after the statehood is achieved. All the communities have their own reasons for striving for a separate state. For instance, for the Indian Gorkhas it is their identity and nationality for which a separate state is very essential and must. How some provisions of the India-Nepal Peace and Friendship Treaty topped by reciprocal and free movement of people through open borders have diluted their Indian identity ? This is a serious question that engulfs the entire Indian Gorkhas across the country. JAP has already started addressing this sensitive and protracted issue.
Who will stop an Adivasi lady to become the first Home Minister of our state, a Rajbongshi youth to become the first Finance Minister, a Bengali to be the first Chief Minister, a Gorkha to be the first education Minister and Bihari and Marwari to be a Commerce Minister in our new state and a Lepcha or Bhutia to be a Forest, Water and Environment Minister ? Who does not want a state of their own ? This is the only solution for all the future of all our youths and children like that in Telengana state. It is only a question of how you fight for it and how you achieve it and how you accommodate all the communities living in this new state. We shall have to convince both the state and the central governments like Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Telengana did in the recent years.
It is going to be a transformation (Rupantaran) and not a change (Parivartan) only. This will be done in every facet of peoples life in the region like in tea and cinchona, income and employment generation, sports and education, health and tourism, transport and communication, water and electricity, houses and agriculture, industry, trade and commerce, institutions and youths career. For this everyone has to participate so that the gains and results are owned by everyone.