Showing posts with label Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council. Show all posts

Gorkhaland and the Curse of Political Invisibility

10:16 AM
Writes Mouli Banerjee

I have the first thirty seconds of introduction to a new person, more often than not, well-rehearsed by now. I pronounce my name the way it was intended, receive a blank look, smile and say “Call me Molly.”

They ask, “Are you from Kolkata?”

“No,” I say, “I’m from Siliguri,” *wait for three seconds* “… near Darjeeling.”

At this point, depending on who I am talking to, the response is sometimes, “In Assam?” Sometimes, “I know Siliguri. I went to Sikkim *insert number* of years back,” and once in awhile, “Ah, nice tea.”

On one rare occasion, a then-stranger, who later went on to become a close acquaintance, said, “The tastiest bananas in the Kolkata market come from Siliguri!” That one was new for me, and I haven’t heard it again since.

Living away from home for as long as I have, one realises that in a country like India, people from other parts find it easier to perhaps arrange their cultural imagination by reducing you or your cultural baggage to the closest ‘signifier’. And yet, being a Marathi isn’t as easily reductible to hailing from Mumbai, being a Punjabi to hailing from Chandigarh, or even being Tamilian to be from Chennai. Not the way being Bengali implies hailing from Kolkata. This begs the question of the degrees of cultural hegemony that are at work here, and whether there are political and social implications to it.

Being born and brought up in North Bengal, I know that not only do we speak in a dialect and intonation different from that heard in Kolkata, but we also have a slightly different cuisine, and often, a different set of cultural and political memories. Most Bengalis in North Bengal, for example, carry with them a generational memory of the turbulent 1970s in a way that is not much talked about in cultural representations of the period. Only a few kilometres away from Siliguri is a place called Naxalbari (from which the ‘Naxalite movement’ gets its name), and without knowing the political implications of it, we celebrated Charu Majumdar’s birthday every year in morning assemblies at our convent school. There are many implications of a possible cultural hegemony that the idea of “Kolkata” serves to exercise, but this article tries, in brief, to understand the specific political implications of such hegemony, with reference to the Gorkhaland movement.

The demand for a separate statehood for the Hills of Darjeeling and the surrounding Tarai region arose in the 1950s. The rising resentment resulted in violent conflict in the mid-1980s, when under the leadership of Subhash Ghising, the militant Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) took charge of the movement. The violence increased, with the use of illegal arms with which the youth in the Hills were politically mobilised, and reached its peak in 1988, at which point the Government of West Bengal conceded in order to come to an agreement with the GNLF through diplomatic talks. This part may be familiar to a few, who have perhaps read the mildly biased account of the movement in Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss.

In 1988, a tripartite agreement between the GNLF, the State government, and the Government of India was signed. The compromise, which allowed the creation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) and the granting of citizenship to pre-1950 settlers, worked for two decades, but the demand for a separate state continued.

This resentment has huge political implications on the development of the entire region. The GNLF boycotted the Lok Sabha elections of 1996, 1998 and 1999. When the movement saw a resurgence in 2006, with the coming to the forefront of the the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), under the leadership of Bimal Gurung, it effectively tried to construct a new, singular Gorkha identity, and supplemented it with a cultural attire and a unified language (which many historians have questioned). However, this resurgence gave away to one of the movement’s most violent moments, when on May 21, 2010, Madan Tamang, the leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL), was hacked to death in broad daylight by a group of unidentified men. The case is still sub-judice at the Kolkata High Court.

What needs to be shed light on, though, is how this turmoil, and the demands that come with it, have been conveniently boxed in and sanitized by the state administration for decades, and how, because of that, the entire region didn’t see much development till after 2006. Since 2009, the Lok Sabha constituency of Darjeeling has been the only one in West Bengal to have been won by the Bharatiya Janata Party (which otherwise is not politically a strong contender in the state) twice in a row, each time on the promise that if elected to the Centre, the representative shall push for a separate Gorkhaland. None of it has amounted to anything because the region or its demands do not yet find adequate space in the nation’s political imagery.

I would like to, at this point, clarify that this is not a post in favour of the demand for a separate state, but I hold that position mainly because I believe administering governance here would be rather difficult owing to the geographical location of the region, the strategic security concerns, as well as the consequent lack of resources. Yet, at the same time, one cannot deny the truth in the primary reason for the resentment- that the state, and its administration not only does not acknowledge the cultural difference of the region, but also, over decades, has in many ways actively played a role in dismissing its importance.

Interestingly, the Government of West Bengal has, in the recent years, ceremoniously created a ‘Ministry of North Bengal Development’, which has not achieved much. In this context it is important to note that North Bengal provides an otherwise industrially lacklustre state two of its chief sources of revenue- tourism and tea. It is further important to note that the ethnic communities that demand political attention are not just the Gorkhas, but also the tribal communities that call the foothills their home. Mostly tea garden workers, these people have lived for almost thirteen years in abject poverty since the tea gardens started shutting down around 2002, suffering from severe hunger and conditions which the World Health Organisation standards classify as famine-indicative. Between 2002 and 2007 the region has seen more than 1000 hunger-related deaths, and it was only in 2015 that the state government offered them a meagre relief package. Administrative control over the region of North Bengal is still an issue fraught with contentions, and attention is only paid to it when the state elections loom close. This was at display when on December 19, 2015, Kalimpong was declared a separate district, and a nod towards Mirik being made a separate district was hinted at as well.

This brings us back to the personal experience of cultural Othering of an entire unique geography, that I began with. This political attention showered on the region, at moments close to elections, is made starker by its own absence during the interim.  What persists in that lull is a constant sense of either dismissal of the cultural Other, the ethnic minority in the state, or conversely a case of insidious co-opting, where in many Bengalis, in a much off-handed manner, will refer to the entire region as “our hills”. At which point, not only is it important to be alert enough to catch that cultural hegemony and shoo it away, but also go back to the truth in historicity, for the “hills” have never truly belonged to anyone. The district of Darjeeling as it currently is mapped within the Indian republic is an amalgamation of two territories- one that belonged to the princely dominion of Sikkim before it became a part of India, and other that belonged to the Bhutanese kingdom. Infact, even before becoming a part of British India, the land changed political hands repeatedly. It was annexed from Sikkim by neighbouring Nepal in 1780 and, from 1780 to 1816, ruled by Nepal, then added to the British Empire in 1817 and then handed back to the Sikkimese royalty, and then acquired as land again from Sikkim in 1835 and officially became British dominion. Thus, while the arrogance of owning and suppressing the political imaginary of an entire geography comes easy to a community that has, for long, enjoyed the advantages of cultural stereotypes in this country, it is crucial to recognise, that unless one sheds one’s own hegemonic lenses, one cannot expect the rest of the country to sit up and take notice.


23 Years and counting , Drinking Water Project in ‎Mirik‬ Still Incomplete

12:48 PM
23 Years - 7 Months and 26 Days Later Drinking Water Project for ‪Mirik‬ Still Incomplete

It has been 23 years since the then Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council started to develop the erstwhile Rai Dhap as the drinking water source for Mirik. The DGHC does not exist any more, it has been 4 years since the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) took over the administration in our hills. BUT people in Mirik are still devoid of clean and safe drinking water.

The project was taken up by Manjushree Company and construction started from the beginning of May, 1992 but the work got stopped, without completion.

In 2010 the work was restarted by Surya India Pvt Ltd but and the work was supposed to be completed by 2012, but its past half-way into 2014 and the project is no where near completion.
In the past one year we have highlighted around 10 infrastructural deficiencies that is plaguing Mirik, but there has not even been a word of response from either Bimal Gurung, Mamata Banerjee SS Ahluwalia, representatives from Mirik Municipality or any other politician.
Incomplete Drinking Water Project in ‎Mirik
Incomplete Drinking Water Project in ‎Mirik
It is a shame that the politicians who are supposed to take care of our place and thump their chest citing our place, have not even bothered to come and check out the situation for themselves or at get their minions to inquire and get the work done.

Pic and report: TheDC team


All India Nepali Schedule Caste Association GTA Reservation Demand - Threaten Agitation

11:56 AM
ST

Writes: Vivek Chhetri

The All India Nepali Schedule Caste Association today threatened to launch a dharna at Nabanna and a hunger strike after that if the state failed to start the process of amending the GTA Act in a month to provide seat reservation for the community in the hill body.

Today, 1,000-odd members of the association brought out a silent rally from Darjeeling railway station to Chowrasta.

They also demanded a development board for the community and a 100-point roster system on GTA job reservation.

G.N. Lomjel, general secretary of the association, said: "One of our main demands is seat reservation. We would request the state to start the process by amending the GTA Act in a month failing which, we will stage a dharna at Nabanna. After that, we might sit for an indefinite hunger strike."

There are 45 elected seats in the GTA and none of them are reserved. The community did not have any reservation in the 28 elected seats of the erstwhile Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council as well.

"Seat reservation in the GTA must reflect our community's population in the hills which now stands at 17.5 per cent. We are deprived since 1988 (when DGHC was formed)," said association president R. Thatal. "If the GTA Act is not amended within the winter session, we are thinking of boycotting the coming elections," he said without elaborating.

"Our other demands include formation of a development board for the SC community and job reservation in the GTA. We will also write to the National Schedule Caste Commission," Thatal added.

Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said: "We will raise the demand at the meeting in Calcutta tomorrow."

Source: Telegraph, Pic: Himalaya Darpan

GNLF Mann Ghisingh's controversal statement on cultural dress

2:15 PM
Writes: Vivek Chhetri

The president of the Gorkha National Liberation Front in a press release today termed the traditional dress of the Nepali community as the the official dress of Nepal, eliciting criticism from all hill parties.
GNLF president Mann Ghisingh controversal statement on traditional dress of daura sural and chowbandi choli
GNLF president Mann Ghisingh controversal statement on traditional dress of Daura Sural and Chowbandi Choli
-Photo of the press release via The Darjeeling Chronicle's

GNLF president Mann Ghisingh stated in the statement in Nepali: "The Darjeeling hills has failed to recognize its own land (that would have come through the inclusion of the area in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution). Everybody became fools not to understand the Gorkha's own land and the Gorkha Hill Council. They started going to Delhi and Calcutta wearing the official dress of Nepal."

Mann's statement did not explain who the "they" referred to.

Many hill leaders have worn the traditional daura sural and chowbandi choli to meet state-level and central leaders on many occasions. Few years ago, the Morcha had issued a diktat making it compulsory for hill people to wear the attire for a month. Following backlash, it had removed the mandatory tag on the order.

"After having scored two major political victories, on August 22 and August 23, 1988, a third major political victory had been achieved by signing the tripartite agreement on December 6, 2005, to form the Gorkha Hill Council, that would have carried the distinct identity of the Indian Gorkhas," the signed statement reads.

The new council under the Sixth Schedule was to be named Gorkha Hill Council.

On August 22, 1988, the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council accord was signed and the next day, the Centre had issued a notification stating that all those living in India before 1950 were Indian citizens.

The GNLF is of the opinion that the citizenship issue of Gorkhas in India was clarified by the notification.

The GNLF's statement terming the traditional dress of daura sural and chowbandi choli as the official dress of Nepal has surprised others.

Binay Tamang, the assistant secretary of the Morcha said: "The dress is of our community and he (Mann Ghisingh) must clarify what we should wear now. Subash Ghisingh took our community behind by 25 years by indulging in controversies and now they are again taking our community behind by raking up unnecessary controversies."

Even ABGL and CPRM, allies of the GNLF in the newly-constituted Democratic Front, criticised the statement.

"This is not a correct statement. I hope the GNLF will ponder over the statement and rectify it," said Pratap Khati, general secretary of ABGL.

Govind Chhetri, spokesman of the CPRM, said: "The GNLF must retract and apologise for hurting the sentiments of the Indian Gorkhas."

Mann did not take calls today. Biren Lama, a central committee member of GNLF, said: "I don't think this is a controversial statement."

Towards the end of the press release, GNLF warns that the "Central and State Government will be responsible for any political instability in the future, and anything on toward happens in Darjeeling in the future."

Source: Telegraph


Gurung Sceptic Over Transfer of Land Reform Departments to GTA

11:18 AM
Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung on Wednesday asserted he would not accept the Land and Land Reforms Department if it is not fully transferred to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration by the state government. On Monday, the state government issued a government order directing the Darjeeling district magistrate to place the services of the officers and employees of the Block Land and Land Reforms Office along with the Sub-Divisional Land and Land Reforms Office within the GTA area under the jurisdiction of the hill body as soon as possible. However, the District Land and Land Reforms Office has been kept out of the purview of the GTA.
Bimal Gurung and Mamata Banerjee
Gurung Sceptic Over Transfer of Land Reform Departments to GTA
The GJM president, who is also the GTA chief executive, today expressed scepticism over the transfer saying he would first go through the details.

“I will first minutely study the government order. If we are not satisfied with the way the department is being transferred, we will write to the state government to rectify it. And if nothing happens even after that, we will not accept the transfer,” said Gurung today speaking on the sidelines of a programme to welcome TMC supporters from the Rungbull-Dhotrey constituency into his party. More than 200 TMC supporters from Dhotrey and Balasun under Kurseong sub-division joined the GJM today. The GJM wants 57 departments transferred to the GTA. The state government has complied to most but only in principle.

Important departments such as the PWD, transport, social welfare, fire services and information and cultural affairs and forest and panchayat are yet to be transferred to the GTA.

The SDL&LRO and BL&LRO have been transferred to the GTA, but the DL&LR has been left alone, which is one of the factors behind Gurung’s scepticism.

“Even though some departments have been transferred, we are still facing problems of dual jurisdiction. Under such a circumstance, we want the entire directory of the Land and Land Reforms Department to be brought under the hill body from the district magistrate’s office, as only then will it ensure the GTA’s independent functioning,” he pointed out.

During the days of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council too, some departments had been transferred, but the transfers had been for namesake as the state government had the final say in almost all of them.

This time, however, the GJM does not want a repeat of the farce.

Gurung said he would talk to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to pursue the demand for the full transfer of the entire department and also seek compensation for the victims of the recent landslides that claimed 32 lives.

Banerjee is slated to visit Darjeeling on August 24 to attend a government programme, but the GJM chief will not be meeting her.

“I will be in Sikkim on August 23 and then leave for Delhi the next day to conduct a puja. But I will take up the issue with the CM on my return,” he said.

Gurung is expected to meet Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling to seek his support for the ongoing demand for granting tribal status to 11 Gorkha communities.

Kaman Singh Ramudamu Statue Unveiled - Man against Ghising's Sixth Schedule

9:57 AM
Vivek Chhetri

GTA chief executive Bimal Gurung today unveiled the statue of Kaman Singh Ramudamu, the first hill leader to speak out against GNLF chief Subash Ghisingh's Sixth Schedule demand in 2006.
Gurung unveils the statue of Kaman Singh Ramudamu in Darjeeling on Thursday.
Gurung unveils the statue of Kaman Singh Ramudamu in Darjeeling on Thursday.
As the president of the All India Nepali Schedule Caste Association, Ramudamu had led a rally of hundreds of his supporters at Sukhiapokhri, 28km from Darjeeling, on March 19, 2006, to oppose Ghisingh's decision to accept the Sixth Schedule status.

Ramudamu opposed the status, as there was no provision for reservation for the SC community in the new administrative arrangement mooted for the hills.

"He was lion-hearted and it needed courage to come out in the open then. He was an old man, otherwise, he would have gone missing as such was the political atmosphere then," Gurung said after unveiling the statue in front of the Raj Bhawan on the Mall Road here.

Today was Ramudamu's 86th birth anniversary. The statue was erected by the SC association.

Ramudamu, who died on July 17, 2008, was a retired divisional account officer of the Indian Railways.

He had also translated a section of the Indian Constitution pertaining to the rights and privileges of the scheduled caste community from English into Nepali.

According to the memorandum of settlement signed by the Centre, state and the GNLF in 2005, a new administrative arrangement was to be put in place in the hills under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

The Gorkha Hill Council, Darjeeling, that was supposed to replace the then Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), was to have 33 seats, of which 10 were to be reserved for Scheduled Tribes and three for other communities. Five members of the council were to be nominated by the governor.

Ramudamu took on Ghisingh as not a single seat was reserved for the SC community. "When the STs can get 10 seats, I see no reason why the SCs cannot get three," Ramudamu had said.

He was rooting for three seats as the SC community formed around nine per cent of the hill population.

Gurung was with Ghisingh's GNLF when Ramudamu came out in the open against the then undisputed hill leader. Interestingly, when Gurung formed the Morcha later, he made Ramudamu the vice-president of the outfit.

Gurung today said: "When I first approached Kaman Singh Ramudamu (to join the Morcha), he had refused stating that he was basically a social worker working for the uplift of his community and it would not be right for him to be involved with a political party. He, however, changed his mind and decided to join the party to espouse the statehood cause."

Ramudamu had presided over the meeting where the Morcha was formed on October 7, 2007. Gurung and Ramudamu together unfurled the Morcha flag.

"I have come across many people. Ramudamu was one who was not interested in political benefits but was only concerned about the welfare of his community and the people of the region," Gurung said today.

Source: Telegraph

Janmukti Asthai Karmachari Sangathan denies Rs 25,000 demand

The Janmukti Asthai Karmachari Sangathan (JAKS) today admitted that the organisation would be collecting financial contributions from its 5,800-odd members to cover legal expenses incurred for fighting a successful legal case in the Calcutta High Court recently but denied that it was demanding Rs 25,000 from each person.
 Janmukti Asthai Karmachari Sangathan denies Rs 25,000 demand
A rally by the Sangathan to demand the regularisation of jobs. File picture
The Calcutta High Court had on May 14 directed the state government to convene a meeting with representatives of the GTA in four months to decide how it would set in motion the process of absorbing over 5,800 casual employees into the hill body in permanent posts.

A number of contractual workers had told The Telegraph that word was being spread by Sangathan members that they should keep Rs 25,000 ready.

"I was told to make arrangement for Rs 25,000 to ensure that my job is regularised following the recent high court order. However, none of us have paid. We had also not received anything in writing from the organisation," a worried casual employee had complained.

Asked about the allegation, Machendra Subba, the president of the Sangathan, said: "I, too, have been hearing about it but we would like to clarify that the Sangathan has not fixed any amount. Some expenses have been incurred in fighting the case and we have told our members that they will have to contribute some amount. We have, however, not worked out total expenses that have been incurred or how much a member will have to pay. The figure of Rs 25,000 per member is not true."
Subba said the organisation would work out the amount per member within the "next few days".
The Sangathan is an affiliate of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.

Justice Sanjib Banerjee had issued the directive on a petition filed by the Sangathan. Since 2007, when the Morcha was formed, the Sangathan had been demanding regularisation of jobs.
Soon after The Telegraph had sought a clarification from Subba today, the Sangathan called a press conference in Darjeeling to reiterate its stand.

The press conference at the Darjeeling Press Guild Office was addressed by Deepak Sharma, the spokesman for the Sangathan, and secretary Kishan Gurung.

Most of the 5,800-plus casual employees who are currently working with the GTA were recruited by the now defunct Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council on a six-month contract.

Source: Telegraph


GJM seeks SSC and CSC for the GTA.

11:55 PM
Roshan Giri, GTA Executive Member, Dr Harkha Bahadur Chettri, MLA Kalimpong and Dr Rohit Sharma, MLA Kurseong had a meeting with West Bengal education minister, Partha Chatterjee at Bikash Bhavan and raised the issue of setting up of a separate School Service Commission ( SSC) and College Service Commission (CSC) for the GTA.
GJM seeks SSC and CSC for the GTA.
GJM seeks SSC and CSC for the GTA - meeting with West Bengal education minister,
Partha Chatterjee at Bikash Bhavan 
The 3 member delegation was informed by the minister that the formalities for setting up a separate SSC and CSC have been completed and that a note would be placed before the state cabinet for its final approval.

The meeting was also attended by Vivek Kumar, secretary, higher secondary education department and Arnab Roy, secretary, secondary education of the state government.

The earlier Left Front Government had formed the School Service Commission exclusively for the hill areas in 1999. However, the then Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council had refused to give appointment to candidates who had cleared the SSC (hills) examinations in 2000 and 2002. However, after Subash Ghisingh resigned as the caretaker administrator of the DGHC in 2008, our party pressurized to issue appointment letters to those candidates who had passed the earlier examinations.
The issue of online admission process in colleges were also discussed in the meeting today. The delegation told the minister that since internet connectivity and electrification in the hills was poor, the online process for admission in colleges should be exempted for the hill areas.

The other issues raised were regarding employing 515 para teachers and 127 adhoc teachers in various vacancies in the hills and also the creation of 79 posts under the Right to Education.

Source: Bimal Gurung Official


 
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