Showing posts with label Gorkhaland issue. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gorkhaland issue. Show all posts

110 years on, Gorkhaland still an elusive state

9:54 AM

Writes: Aishik Chanda

Simmering since 1907, the separate Gorkhaland agitation has flared up again. Mamata Banerjee’s ‘3-language policy’ making Bangla compulsory in schools in West Bengal and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s opposition to it have combined to cause a volatile situation. Aishik Chanda explains

The hill districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong in West Bengal are on the boil again over Mamata Banerjee’s decision to make Bangla compulsory in all schools of the State regardless of mediums or boards. Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), the party ruling the autonomous council Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) that governs the two districts, has taken to the streets, and burnt police vehicles, government offices and enforced an indefinite shutdown of government offices, banks and courts, terming the fight as that of ‘Gorkha existence’ against what it termed ‘Bengal’s slavery’.

Though the West Bengal chief minister said Bangla would not be imposed on the Nepali-speaking hills of north Bengal, the GJM wanted a Cabinet resolution regarding the same. With the GTA elections slated to be held in October, the GJM called the autonomous council a failure and demanded a Gorkhaland State. On the other hand, Banerjee constituted a six-member committee to conduct a special audit of the GTA to check  misappropriation of Central funds to the autonomous council in the past five years.

What sparked the recent agitation in Darjeeling hills?

Mamata Banerjee declared in a Facebook post on May 16 that students have to opt for three languages out of a pool of seven official languages of West Bengal from Class I till Class X, of which one has
to be Bangla. She called this the ‘3-language policy’ of the State government and said it will be implemented in all schools in the State irrespective of their medium or board. The other two languages can be chosen from English, Hindi, Nepali, Santhali, Punjabi or
Urdu.

Has there been any official notification on making Bangla compulsory?

No. There has been no official circular regarding the implementation of the ‘3-language policy’ from the State government. The Jan Andolan Party (JAP), the GJM’s rival in Kalimpong district, has
distanced itself from the agitation and refused to call it a ‘language movement’ as no government order has been passed on making Bangla mandatory.

Is there any link between the agitation and polls in the recent past and the near future?

Maybe. Trinamool Congress broke into the GJM bastion and formed the board in Mirik municipality and won a few seats in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong municipalities. The electoral setback had forced the GJM on the back foot in the hills. Also, the current term of the GTA is ending in July and the election to the 45-member body is expected in October. The TMC aims to break into this. Currently all members in the body are from the GJM. According to JAP chief Harka Bahadur Chhetri, Mamata Banerjee’s untimely decision to implement Bangla came as a boon in disguise for the cornered GJM.

What is the Gorkhaland statehood movement?
It is a century-old demand for separation of Nepali-speaking hills from Bengal. The present Gorkhaland statehood demand comprises Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts along with Bhaktinagar, Malbazar, Chalsa, Nagrakata, Banarhat, Birpara, Madarihat, Jaigaon, Kalchini and Kumargram blocks of Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar districts of north Bengal.

Were Darjeeling and Kalimpong historically a part of Bengal?

No. Darjeeling was a dominion of Chogyal of Sikkim and was overrun by Nepal in 1780.
The region was annexed by the British during the 1814 Anglo-Nepal War and was ceded by Nepal to British India in the Sugauli Treaty of 1815.

Kalimpong was a part of Bhutan and was ceded to the British in the Sinchula Treaty of 1865 after the 1864 Anglo-Bhutan War. The present Darjeeling district as part of Bengal came into being in 1866.
However, administratively it was classified as a ‘Non-regulated area’ before 1861 and 1870-74 and as ‘Regulated area’ between 1862 and 1870. It was termed as ‘Scheduled district’ in 1874, as ‘Backward Tracts’ in 1919 and ‘Partially-excluded area’ from 1935 till 1947.

When did the agitation for Gorkhaland begin?

The Hillmen Association of Darjeeling submitted a memorandum demanding a separate administrative setup of the hills to Morley-Minto Reforms in 1907, chief secretary of Bengal and secretary and viceroy of India in 1917 and to the Simon Commission in 1929. Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League’s N B Gurung met Jawaharlal Nehr in 1952 at Kalimpong demanding separation from Bengal. Indra Bahadur Rai of Pranta Parishad met Indira Gandhi at Darjeeling demanding a separate State.

Did the Gorkhaland statehood demand witness bloodshed?

Yes. The Gorkhaland statehood movement turned into an armed rebellion led by Subhash Ghising of Gorkha National Liberation Front after large number of statehood agitators were killed in CRPF firing during a rally in Kalimpong on July 27, 1986. According to some estimates, more than 1,200 Gorkhas were killed during two years of violent armed rebellion. The GNLF made truce with the governments of West Bengal and India in 1988, leading to the formation of the autonomous Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) led by Ghising. The movement saw peace from 1988 till 2007.

Did the ‘Indian Idol’ show renew the Gorkhaland movement in 2007?

Yes. Kolkata Police constable Prashant Tamang won ‘Indian Idol Season 3’ in 2007 after Subhash Ghising’s security guard Bimal Gurung mobilised Gorkhas to vote for Tamang. After gaining immense
popularity, Bimal Gurung formed the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha with the  single-point agenda of forming the Gorkhaland state. Gurung eventually replaced Ghising as DGHC chief, which was renamed by the Left Front government as Gorkha Territorial Administration with the same powers.

What is the Madan Tamang murder case?

Influential veteran Gorkha leader Madan Tamang of Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL) was hacked to death in public at Darjeeling allegedly by GJM activists on May 21, 2010. Prime accused GJM chief Bimal Gurung and 17 others were tried at the Calcutta High Court and are currently out on anticipatory bail in the murder case.

What are ethnic development boards?

Stating that the Gorkhas were not indigenous to the Darjeeling hills and were better off than the native communities, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee formed the Lepcha Development Board in 2011 for betterment of the Lepcha tribe, who along with Limbu and other Animist and Buddhist tribes are said to be indigenous to the hills. Over the next six years, she formed 16 other development boards for different ethnicities of the hills. The GJM has always argued that the ethnic boards were a conspiracy to divide the Gorkhaland movement.

Does Gorkhaland creation require the West Bengal Legislative Assembly’s approval?
No. As witnessed during Telangana formation, creation of a new State does not require the approval of the parent State. So, if the Centre, which is witnessing peak of animosity with Mamata Banerjee
since demonetisation, brings a Bill in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha for creation of Gorkhaland, they State may become reality. However, the Centre fears that granting statehood to Gorkhaland would intensify other statehood movements across the country.

Darjeeling district
Area
2,095.40 sq km
Population
15,95,163
(including plains of Siliguri subdivision)
Major towns
Siliguri, Darjeeling, Mirik, Kurseong, Naxalbari
Assembly seats
Darjeeling, Kurseong, Siliguri, Matigara-Naxalbari
Lok Sabha seat
Darjeeling

Kalimpong district
Area
1,053.60 sq km
Population
2,51,642
Major towns
Kalimpong, Gorubathan, Algarah
Assembly seats
Kalimpong
Lok Sabha seat
Darjeeling

[Via: New Indian Express]

Demand for Gorkhaland based on historical arguments, people’s voice should be dispassionately heard

8:00 AM

Demand for Gorkhaland based on historical arguments, people’s voice should be dispassionately heard

Writes: Sadhan Mukherjee*

Thousands of tourists are stuck in Darjeeling as all routes to that tourist spot including the Toy Train are closed. Special flights are being arranged but how to reach the nearest airport at Bagdogra when all roads are closed? From today (12 June) an indefinite bandh of government offices has been called.

Quite a big number of forces have been deployed by the state government. But violence has already begun in some places like in Bijonbari and Sukna.

The present flare up was occasioned by the introduction of Bengali as compulsory language by the state government. To this has now been added the old demand for Gorkhaland. After the Gorkha National National Liberation Front (GNLF) carried on its agitation for an independent Gorkhaland (1986-1988), a settlement in 1988 was arrived at with the Indian authorities.

The GNLF was split after the settlement and after the death of GNLF chief Subhas Ghising in 2015, it became weak. The demand for separate Gorkhaland was resurrected by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leader Bimal Gurung in 2007 and is continuing.

Obviously, the 1988 agreement did not work and the development work to be undertaken in the hilly areas was not satisfactory. But actually behind the slogan of lack of development work is the old demand for a distinct state, not just an adjunct administration under West Bengal.

It is British imperialism that is essentially responsible for creating all sorts of divisions in the subcontinent as it was convenient for them to divide and rule. The Indian government initially followed the British style of administration but the movements in states forced them to redraw the maps of existing states. There is a long history behind the reorganisation of states in the Indian Union.

The history of this subcontinent is a history of twisted developments. The Gorkhas had invaded Sikkim dominion of Chogyal around 1780 when they captured most part of Sikkim state including Darjeeling and Siliguri. For 35 years they ruled but lost these areas after the British-Nepal war. Nepal was forced to cede its territory from Teesta region to Sutlej in 1816. In 1817 the British East India Company reinstated the Chogyal and restored most of the land he previously ruled.

The British gave Darjeeling to Sikkim but in 1835 took it back since it was to start tea plantation in that area on a large scale.

No one today really talks about 1780 but only from 1835.

Similar things were also done with Bhutan which was given the Bengal Dooars area, previously under the Raja of Cooch Behar, while in return Bhutan gave Kalimpong to British. Like British arrangement, the external relations of Bhutan are now guided on the advice of India.

The British made Darjeeling a “Non-Regulated Area” which meant that rules and regulations of British Raj did not automatically apply to the district. It was then changed to a “Scheduled District” and again to “Backward Tracts” and finally to “Partially Excluded Area” until the independence of India. A lot of mess thus was left over by the British.

The Lepchas actually were the original inhabitants of the area and they were engaged in zhoom (shifting) cultivation. But they were small in number. This is the pretext that is put forward to say that Gorkhas were outsiders. In 1865 the British started tea cultivation and soon built a narrow gauge railway to Darjeeling. Many people came to work in the plantations and settled down and among them were many Gorkha labourers. They were then all British subjects.

But after independence in 1947 India entered into a treaty with Nepal in 1950 offering reciprocal privileges of residence, ownership of properties, participation in trade and commerce, as well as movement. It also made a Gorkha’s Indian citizenship a reciprocal one, and thereby they lost their Indian identity.

The Gorkhaland demand is based on the linguistic difference of the people of Darjeeling hill areas as well as the people of Indian Gorkha origin. Historically, Darjeeling was not a part of Bengal and when states were reorganised, this demand for a Gorkhaland was not taken into account. But the demand existed from 1907 when a memorandum was submitted to the Minto-Morley reforms committee for a separate administrative set up. It was raised before the Simon Commission in 1930 again, and reiterated in 1941.

Even the undivided Communist Party of India submitted a memorandum to the Constituent Assembly demanding the formation of a Gorkhastan comprising Darjeeling district, Sikkim and Nepal. This was raised again in 1952 by Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League and in 1980 by Pranta Parishad demanding separation from Bengal.

In 1986, Gorkha National Liberation Front took over the demand of separate Gorkhaland and the movement became violent. In 1988 an agreement was arrived at for a semi-autonomous body called Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) to govern certain areas of Darjeeling district. This was not very satisfying to the Gorkha people and the agitation was revived for a separate state in 2007 led by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and in 2011 a new agreement was arrived at on Gorkhaland Territorial Administration replacing the DGHC.

Some fuel to the demand for Gorkhaland was added by the BJP which before the 2009 elections announced its policy to have smaller states and supported the formation of Telangana and Gorkhaland. BJP candidate Jaswant Singh won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat backed by GJM. The same year top BJP leaders Rajiv Prasad Rudy, Sushma Swaraj and Jaswant Singh pleaded for a Gorkhaland in Parliament during 2009 budget session. In the next general election, S S Aluwalia of BJP won with GJM support.

Meanwhile in 2010 leader of Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League Madan Tamang was murdered and the West Bengal Government threatened to take strong action against GJM. In 2011, three GJM activists were shot dead. There was a spontaneous shutdown of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong distrocts.

The GJM undertook a padayatra which led to violence in Darjeeling district and an indefinite strike was called by GJM which lasted for 9 days. In the 2011 state elections, three GJM candidates won from Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseaong distrct and a fourth one, an independent supported by GJM won from Kalchini in Dooars.

In July 2011 another Memorandum of Agreement was signed for a Gorkhaland Territorial Administration GTA). During the election campaign that year, Mamata Banerjee had implied that this would end the Gorkhaland agitation while Bimal Gurung felt it was another step towards statehood. A bill for creation of GTA was passed in the West Bengal state Assembly.

In the July 2012 elections for GTA, GJM candidates won from 17 constituencies and the rest 28 seats were won unopposed.

But in July 2013 Bimal Gurung complained of too much interference by West Bengal government and resigned.

Gorkhaland agitation was renewed. The same year Congress recommended formation of separate Telengana state. This further intensified the demand for Gorkhaland and a separate Bodoland in Assam.

To press for its demand, GJM called for a 3-day bandh followed by an indefinite bandh from 3 August. Meanwhile the Calcutta High Court declared the bandh illegal. West Bengal government then sent paramilitary forces to Darjeeling and arrested prominent GJM leaders.

In reply GJM went for a unique form of protest in which people voluntarily stayed at home and did not come out. This was a great success. After an all-party meeting, it was resolved to continue the movement and exercise bandh under different names.

It is clear that this demand for a Gorkhaland is based on some historical arguments and does not seem directed against West Bengal or the Bengalis as such. The fact is that more than 80% people in Darjeeling district speak Nepali.

So its distinct character is not under dispute. Telengana is now a separate state from Andhra Pradesh where another form of Telegu and Urdu are spoken than that of Andhra Pradesh. The demand for separate states of Vidarbh, Bundelkahand and similar areas are also simmering. The moot point is should the people’s voice be heard dispassionately or not.

This also raises another allied important question if there should be another ‘states reorganisation’ based on more rational principles. Bihar has been reorganised with some areas going to West Bengal and the southern part to Jharkhand. Uttarakhand has also been formed. So is Telangana.

The Uttar Pradesh State Assembly has already passed a unanimous resolution in 2011 recommending division of Uttar Pradesh into four states, The central government has not agreed to it and its resolution continues to hang fire.

Meanwhile, Darjeeling areas are sitting on top of a volcano.
---
*Veteran journalist [Via: Counterview.in]

Will revive Gorkhaland map, signboards, police, there is no turning back: Bimal Gurung

6:03 PM

Since 2007, we are demanding a separate state and now, is our final push. People are ready for a bigger agitation.

Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung speaks to the Indian Express about an issue that has become their “core ideology”, and his changed relations Mamata Banerjee, who he once called “mother”.

So you are reviving the Gorkhaland issue?

Now, it is Gorkhaland and nothing else. We have tolerated enough. The issue was our core ideology. Now, we will revive the Gorkhaland police, women wing, Gorkhaland map and signboards. Our Gorkhaland map will have parts of Terai, Dooars and other regions, apart from the hills. There is no turning back. Since 2007, we are demanding a separate state and now, is our final push. People are ready for a bigger agitation.

In 2011 and 2013, bandhs crippled life in the hills. It was hard for the locals.

We endured hardships because our ultimate goal was of a separate state. I am not a supporter of bandh. But if the government forces us, what can we do? Our hills are self-sufficient and we can endure without help from outside. People want Gorkhaland and are ready to bear hardships. I am speaking their voice.

Why are you suddenly reviving the Gorkhaland demand?

We were fooled by state government when we signed the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA). Nearly 50 departments were to come under GTA but only three or four came. Nearly five years have passed and nothing happened. We were not allowed to work and GTA became a sham… Then suddenly, government imposed Bengali on us, making it mandatory to be studied in schools. What about our mother tongue Nepali? Then police lathicharged us.

Do you think Bengali-Nepali divide will take place?

We respect and love Bengalis. We have always welcomed tourists. It is the CM who is dividing communities in the hills and creating a Bengali-Nepali divide. All we wanted is our own identity and respect for our language — our mother tongue. We will not allow anyone to impose Bengali on us.

Do you have ambitions of becoming chief minister?

As Mamata Banerjee is the head of state and the chief minister, I am head of GTA, the hill administration. I am the chief minister of the hills. I have all three MLAs here… the MP and nearly all elected representatives of civic bodies in the hills are with me.

Do you think the Union government will support your Gorkhaland demand?

When trouble started in Darjeeling, I briefed the Union Home Minister and our MP. I have been speaking to the Centre about the issue. I have supported BJP in the Hills, campaigned for it in other states, including Assam. This is our legitimate demand.

There have been allegations of misappropriation of funds in GTA. State government has ordered a special audit.

These are all lies. Already, there has been an audit. Mamata Banerjee is trying to frame us. Her party leaders are involved in Sarada (chit fund scam) and Narada (sting operation) scams.

Following Thursday’s violence, police lodged an FIR against you and may arrest you.

I call them to arrest me. I was not involved. Miscreants backed by TMC started the trouble. I am ready to go to jail. But the government will be responsible for the violence, which will follow in the hills. Let them arrest me and you will see what happens. Forty-five of our youths were injured in police lathicharge that day.

You once had a good relationship with Mamata Banerjee.

I called her mother. But she did not take care of her child. We welcomed her in Darjeeling. But she tried to divide us by making separate boards for Lepchas and other communities. She wants to get political mileage. Now, whenever she will come to the hills, we will show her black flags. She is not welcome here anymore.

What will be your next plan of action?

We will protest democratically. People will protest. We will boycott the government. We will place our demand before the Centre. If the government commits atrocities on us, I will not be held responsible for the results. So many Gorkhas have fought or are fighting for our country. They need a homeland — a separate state.

Via The Indian Express

Mamata reaches plains, Darjeeling SP removed

1:20 PM

According to Press Trust of India (PTI) report Darjeeling Superintendent of Police (SP) Amit Javalgi has been removed from his post. Though not yet formally appointed by the State Government, Deputy Commissioner (Central), Kolkata Police, Akhilesh Chaturvedi is tipped to be the new SP of Darjeeling, according to a senior Kolkata Police official as quoted by PTI.

The chief minister had earlier said that a three-member team comprising senior IPS officers had been formed to look after the law-and-order situation in Darjeeling.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee meanwhile left Darjeeling in the night of 9th of June after taking stock of the situation in the hills. She started from Darjeeling town at around 10 pm and reached Siliguri after over two hours.

On Friday the Army carried out flag marches in Kalimpong, Darjeeling and Kurseong. Initially, two Army columns were deployed in Darjeeling. Late Thursday, the Army was requisitioned by the state government for Kurseong and Kalimpong as a precautionary measure.

As of now, six columns have been deployed — three in Darjeeling, two in Kalimpong and one in Kurseong. Each column comprises 43 personnel.

Three companies of CRPF have also been deployed.

Meanwhile,  GJMM central committee is holding a meeting in Darjeeling and likely to announce its future course of action today.

BOOMERANG: It wasn’t support for GJM… It was anger against TMC that made the strike a success

8:49 AM
Writes: Upendra for TheDC

The strike in Darjeeling, held two days ago has been termed ‘a success’ by GJM, while TMC has called it an ‘absolute failure.’ What is funny is that almost all the Bengal based news media, other than the ones based in North Bengal, have toed the official line and reported that the strike was ‘unsuccessful.’ Surprised readers who were in Darjeeling watching the events unfold on the ground, were shocked to note how Bengali news channels were saying the vehicles are running smoothly, shops are open and life is going on as normal. A few of them even wrote to us, complaining about how Bengali channels were distorting the facts.

To be honest we have seen all of this happen over and over again. From 1986 to 2016, newspapers and media in Bengal have always been biased against the Gorkhaland issue. This is why TheDC was formed in November of 2013 to provide factual news from the hills, without any embellishments, addendums or modifications. Because we had come to realize that what is happening on the ground in Darjeeling, is not getting reported in the media, where as modified news, often misleading were being peddled as the truth.

Here is an example, “WILL GUNS BOOM IN BENGAL'S HILLS?” reads the headline from Aug 2013 when the Gorkhaland agitation was at its peak , in Times of India [Details: http://bit.ly/1qNAMAa]. If you read the article, you will see how they paint a picture of Darjeeling almost getting ready for an Armageddon, without any substance to prove their assertions, or use of named sources, they paint a picture of armed revolution about to unfold in Darjeeling hills. While most of the people in Darjeeling may scoff at the reporting, those from elsewhere in India who are unaware of the ground realities will naturally assume it’s the truth. This is how media in Bengal has manipulated the Gorkhaland agitation to paint a picture of our demand being that of ‘separatism from India, being funded by Nepal, Pakistan and China’ [Details: http://bit.ly/2cPcTKY].

So TMC claimed the strike was not successful on the 28th, and yesterday they took out a ‘Thank You’ rally to thank the people in the hills for opposing the ‘bandh.’ While hill people may have found it delusional, it serves a purpose. These rallies and events are not meant to thank the hill people, they are done to let Mamata and rest of Bengal know, whatever was reported in Kolkata based media on the 28th was true, and that the strikes were indeed unsuccessful.

But even the TMC leaders know in the hearts of their hearts that the hill people overwhelmingly supported the strike, and contrary to popular belief that it was done out of fear of the GJM, I believe it was done to let Mamata and Bengal know their diktats were not welcome in the hills.

In an unprecedented move, the Bengal government went all out to thwart the proposed strike. They imposed draconian diktats - like circulars were issued requiring every government servant to attend their office, failing which they will be show caused and anyone missing work due to strike would have 3 days pay cut. They required schools and colleges to remain open, threatened business, restaurants, hotels and taxis of cancellation of licenses and permits. In Mungpoo, TMC cadres did extensive miking telling the cinchona workers that if they don’t show up for work, they may lose their jobs in the near future. Such threats were issued all over the Darjeeling hills.

As if that was not enough, numerous platoons of Central Reserve forces and state police were brought down to ensure ‘law and order’ in the hills, and to top it all Bengal government sent 3 Ministers to monitor the strike and to ensure that the Bandh is not imposed.

In doing so they must have assumed that people do actually want to side with Bengal, but are not doing so due to fear of GJM. However, that is where Bengal overplayed their hand. They underestimated the ‘GORKHA’ factor.

We – the Gorkhas are a very simple group of people, if we love someone we will willingly die for them, but when someone tries to impose their will upon us, we tend to take a stand against it, no matter whatever are the consequences.

Despite 3 ministers, 10 development boards, entire district administration, massive deployment of security forces, entire TMC cadres from the hills + hired goons from the plains being present, fact remains that they couldn't keep Darjeeling hills open.

Ministers were seen banging on the doors and shutters of shut down shops forcing them to open... on the 28th, TMC completely lost the plot. While GJM announced the strike, they didn't impose it... whereas Bengal government used district administration and held meetings with hoteliers, travel agents, drivers associations, and shop keepers requiring them to keep their businesses open, but despite all their threats and cajoling when all their efforts failed and people supported the strike, they started to bang on the doors and shutters demanding opening of the businesses... Yet, they didn’t succeed.

Nothing is more telling than the picture shared below. Its from Kalimpong... generally this place is so crowded that there is not even enough room to stand... and on the 28th, not just the shops were closed, even the people chose not come out of their homes.

Without any prejudice, I feel that it was very unbecoming of the Ministers to go around forcing people to open their shops. It’s one thing to assure people of law and order helping them if required to keep their businesses open, but quite another to go around asking people to open shops, not with police but with party workers. The lines between a Minister of the Govt of Bengal and TMC party cadre was completely blurred in the hills on the 28th, and I am confident that the Hon’ble Ministers acted as party cadres instead of Government servants that day.

In bringing down a large contingent of security forces, in requiring schools to remain open, in banging on the doors and shutters of businesses and demanding that they remain open, Trinmool Congress and by extension the Bengal government were jeopardizing the lives of the people in the hills.

What if major clashes had broken out between bandh supporters and those opposing the bandh right at the time schools got off? Had school going children been caught in the cross-fire and injured, who would have been responsible? If shops and businesses were burned down and vandalized, would the Bengal government have compensated? If violence broke out, who would have been responsible?

In order to prove their might, the Bengal government crossed that sacred line which makes every government responsible for the safety, security and well-being of its citizens, and that is what boomeranged on them. The hill people decided to rebel and shut down their shops, businesses, vehicles and hotels.

Had TMC been a little more pragmatic, they could have let the bandh happen, as that would have put the hill people against GJM. People would have wanted to know, why they should shut down to justify GTA funds misuse allegations. But TMC being what it is, they took the bait and issued draconian orders.

The draconian measures undertaken by TMC party using West Bengal government administrative mechanisms to thwart the strike on September 28th, 2016 was seen as a trailer of how dictatorial it is going to get for Darjeeling and its people, if we choose not to adhere to their diktat. With less than 15% support in the hills, today TMC is already going dictatorial, imagine what will happen if their support reaches 20% or 30%?

This high handedness by TMC sent a direct message to the hill people, toe our line or we will make you do so.

Till TMC overdrive to ensure Bandh doesn’t happen, the hill people were against GJM, but the moment TMC decided to issue diktats, it became a matter of US vs Bengal, and that is where TMC lost the plot. People who don’t like GJM, decided to support the bandh, because they all felt that allowing Bengal to run its writ in Darjeeling would ruin our autonomy, and the latent desire for self-governance through Gorkhaland statehood was awakened.

GJM won the moral victory on the 28th, they requested and people shut down... TMC forced and people didn't open, and no matter how many channels report to the contrary, the fact remains that on September 28th, the hills stood united.

It may not have been in support of GJM, but it was definitely against TMC and its draconian diktats.

TheDC


Gorkhaland : Support, Opposition & Lip Sympathy

10:10 AM
Writes: NN Ojha

Gorkhaland 18th July 2016: It is precisely five years since the tripartite agreement setting up GTA was signed between the Government of India, Government of West Bengal and the GJMM. Incidentally 18 July 2011 too was a Monday like it is five years later today.

As the hills prepared for celebrations to mark the signing of the accord parts of Siliguri were bracing up for a protest shut down called by ‘Bangla O Banbla Bhasha Bachao Committee’ (BOBBBC), an outfit claiming to be apolitical committed to safeguarding the language and culture of the Bengalis.

Opposition to the accord from organisations like BOBBBC could be simply ignored. What needed to be noted seriously was the manner in which West Bengal’s (then) newly elected CM Mamta Banerjee sought to disown the agreement in letter and spirit even before she left the venue where it had just been signed. The memorandum signed by her home secretary in her presence and in the presence of the country’s home minister P. Chidambaram was, “keeping on record the demand of the GJMM for a separate state of Gorkhaland……..”. But here was Mamta Banerjee stating, “Statehood cannot be granted to the region……….. Bengal is not going to be divided…..”.
Tripartite agreement setting up GTA was signed between the Government of India, Government of West Bengal and the GJMM.
Tripartite agreement setting up GTA was signed between the Government of India,
Government of West Bengal and the GJMM. 
With GJMM supremo Bimal Gurung stating at the same venue, “GTA was not a compromise on its demand for a separate state and was, in fact, a step in that direction”, it was clear how the just signed agreement and its creation GTA were being pulled in opposite direction with overwhelming force. The result that could be expected was status quo in the best case scenario if neither side out -forced the other or snapping of the rope that held it together and total collapse if any one of the two pulled little harder.

Reactions from most mainstream national parties sounded disappointing for us and at the same time encouraging for Ms Banerjee. Indian National Congress the party to which Home Minister P Chidambaram in whose ‘august presence’ the agreement was signed belonged made no bones about its dislike to the idea of ‘dismembering’ West Bengal.

Leftist leader Surya Kant Misra found the term ‘Gorkhaland’ in the nomenclature of the proposed GTA fraught with prospects of ‘disunity’. Mr Misra apparently forgot that the nomenclature was decided upon during the rounds of tripartite talks held when the Left Front was in power.

Most shocking reaction was to come from the BJP. The party’s West Bengal unit opposed the use of the word Gorkhaland in the name of the proposed body GTA as the word ‘could stoke separatist sentiments in the region’. Coming from the party to whom the people of Gorkhaland had already given one precious Loksabha seat in 2009 the reaction was nothing but ironical.

Has anything changed since 2011 as the Congress’s alliance with TMC is passé, the hill people had helped the Left in Siliguri Municipal Corporation elections and the BJP has once again been gifted the Darjeeling Loksabha seat by us in the 2014 elections? Absolutely nothing, if we look at their manifestos for the latest 2016 state assembly elections. The word Gorkhaland is completely missing across the board from left to congress to BJP. We don’t exist because we don’t matter to any of them.

When we look at the hill based political parties the picture is rather hazy as most of them are vague and ambivalent? The GNLF already carrying the historical baggage of having dropped the demand for Gorkhaland in 1988 and subsequently having bargained for Sixth schedule status ‘as full and final settlement’ still continues to be unsure of their stand. Mrs Bharti Tamang having inherited the glorious legacy of the Late Madan Tamang’s unwavering support for Gorkhaland is unfortunately weighed down by her personal grief that apparently stops her from making common cause with any platform having Bimal Gurung on it. About JAP less said the better. They are in favor of Gorkhaland with consensus of the central and the State government knowing well that no government in west Bengal will ever consent to what they call ‘Banglar bivag’. Could it be that the party has included Gorkhaland in their manifesto only out of political expediency and not commitment?

Thus at the national level TMC, the Left parties and Congress are against Gorkhaland. For BJP it is a matter of political expediency. Those of their leaders who owe their political survival to the hills profess support while the entire state unit of west Bengal is opposed and the national leadership remains totally noncommittal. At the local level there is near unanimity on the issue but a united front to pursue the common cause is not being forged because of ego hassles which must be overcome in larger interest of the region.

Where do we go from here and what do we do? A multitude of opinions is expressed almost on daily basis in the press and also in the social media. There are some who argue that GTA should be wound up as a prelude to an all out ‘do or die’ type struggle. Others call for a change of leadership to let the rationale of the demand be felt at a broader national level, especially in the corridors of power in New Delhi.

I will give you my take for whatever it is worth.

First, GTA should not be dumped by us. In fact that is what the TMC led west Bengal government would wish so as to facilitate its its propaganda that having been unable to run a small institution like the GTA how can we be trusted with the running of a full fledged state. We should play hard-ball to ensure that the west Bengal government complies with the legal, political, administrative and financial obligations of the GTA agreement in toto. My own guess is faced with such prospects it is the west Bengal government itself who will either transfer control on all the agreed upon subjects to us, or, will itself announce breaking up of the GTA. If we get control as per the agreement it will be a precursor to statehood and if it results in break up of the GTA the blame for not being able to run the institution won’t lay at our door.

Second, steps must be taken to strengthen the GTA so as to make it an instrument of clean governance and effective delivery of services to the public. For this the leadership of GTA will have to broaden its HR base by inducting experts and experienced generalist administrators. At present there is perceptible lack of strong bureaucratic support structure and an effective PR mechanism.

Third, all the political parties of the region must forge a common platform to carry forward the demand for statehood. We have shown our ability to forge such unity in July-August 2013 in the form of GJAC. Let that spirit of GJAC be revived. GJMM being the leading political force of the region must take proactive initiative in this direction.

Last but not least, message has to go to the BJP that they have to treat us as equal partners in the political venture that has to be as much for the welfare of the region as for the BJP’s own political benefit. At present the later seems to be the case. Our MP who apart from being a seasoned politician is now a powerful member of he central cabinet has to use his good offices to further the cause of Gorkhaland in the Parliament.

In the wide range of opinions that we keep coming across I haven’t come across a single voice against the idea of Gorkhaland or in favor of the region continuing as an adjunct of West Bengal. Notwithstanding west Bengal establishment’s crude attempts to divide and rule the entire region emerges as a solid monolith. Therein lies our strength that no one can ever defeat. It is upto us and the political leaders of the region to put this underlying unity of the masses to constructive use.

NN Ojha writes exclusively for DT and TheDC


WHY I SUPPORT ‪GORKHALAND‬: The tale of a non-Gorkhali

12:50 PM
Writes: Upendra

The gentleman from Kolkata who questioned if Gorkhas have a right to demand Gorkhaland in India, was properly answered by Mr Suhotra Banerjee a Gorkha Bengali from Darjeeling... He wrote, "Goethals, Victoria,Downhill, HBS (to certain extent) students (hostelite) can say that as maximum of them had no connect with the town. They used to come to town once a week may be or else Darjeeling or SLG.... But ask those Bengali's who stay here or have passed out from Pushparani, St.Joseph, Played in Montiviate or Pankabari fields (as their was no other fields to play). We want our GORKHALAND. We may not be Nepali's, but as we are born and brought up here, we are a part of this movement since 1985... Few odd Bongs who doesn't stay here will never understand the sentiment."

Hence we are reproducing this older article by Upendra which was originally posted in Darjeeling Times in 2008 as it echos exactly these same sentiments.... Also this article may allow the Abhadralok form Kolkata to see that Gorkhaland is not just a demand by Nepalis, the term Gorkha includes everyone living in our beloved hills

WHY I SUPPORT GORKHALAND: The tale of a non-Gorkhali
This write up is based on true experiences of a dear friend of mine, who has been living in Darjeeling for the past 35 years. He is a Bengali originally from a place near Siliguri. He shared his experiences with me, and I in turn extracted his permission to add my own two bits and publish. This write up is special to me, because, my friend had tears in his eyes, by the time he was done sharing his emotions. The words are mine, but the narrative and the feelings are entirely his.

Many ask me why do I support the notion of Gorkhaland even though I am, visibly a minority, do not prefer to speak Nepali and am not even married to one. My “so called” friends and well-wishers wanted to know why am I so much Pro-Gorkhaland? Was I being bribed or was family being threatened?
WHY I SUPPORT ‪GORKHALAND‬: The tale of a non-Gorkhali
File pic for representative purpose only - Photo source DT
It happens often, when I travel to the plains, and breach the topic of unrest in the Darjeeling Himalayas with people I know, they assure me, “Chinta Koris Naa, Aamra Aacchhii” (Hey!! Don’t worry, we are there). When I say, “I am not worried at all, but seems like you all are”, they look at me with disgust and say, “Mono hocchye paharey bosey tor matha kharab hoye gyecchey noiley Bangali hoy keno Gorkhaland support korchiss rey?” (Seems like having stayed in the hills for so long, your brain is sick. Otherwise why else would you support Gorkhaland, being a Bengali yourself?) What my “so called” friends fail to see is that’s all the opening I need to educate them as to why I support Gorkhaland.

Right and Justice
I am a Bengali and not the self-hating kind. I love my country. I strongly believe that all the sections of our nation’s population should have the right to self-determination. One of the most well-known phrases of Indian freedom movement was,“Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it”. Our country was founded on the idea of Swaraj (self-rule) so I believe, when the Gorkhalis of Darjeeling demand a land of their own to rule and to prosper, it is in fact not only their right but it is the governments’ duty to ensure that their right is protected.

A tea garden worker in Darjeeling earns INR 65 per day, and there are thousands of them. Their pay has remained unchanged for almost a decade now where as the pay of everyone who works in The Tea Board of India, headquartered in Kolkata has seen a raise twice (fifth pay and sixth pay commission) and there is a talk of more increases soon. Even the peon there earns at least 10 times more than these workers. I ask my “so called” friends, how do you justify this? When people who do the actual production are starving to death in Dooars, Tea Consultants in Kolkata are earning millions of rupees and flying all over the world representing Darjeeling tea and Dooars tea. I pose this question, “Should we allow our ego to overrule logic and facts? Is it fair for these tea garden workers to starve here, while someone in Kolkata enjoys all the privileges? Un-surprisingly, my “so called” friends have no answer.

The 'Sarbaharas'
The district of Darjeeling has seen population growth of phenomenal proportions since 1965s. The decadal growth of population has been a steady 40% and is perhaps the highest in the country. Given the area that is, this kind of population growth is unnatural so I pose this question to my “so called” friends from the plains, “how did the population of our district raise so drastically”? They do not reply, for they know the answer but obligingly I help, “Remember the post-1965 illegal immigrants from erstwhile East Pakistan”, who came over with nothing more than just the clothes they were wearing?

These illegal immigrants, who liked to call themselves 'sarbaharas' (ones who've lost everything) have now settled in places in and around Siliguri. Those who are the original residents of West Bengal, widely known as the ‘Ghotis’ (which includes my family) resent the large-scale influx of these illegal immigrants (the ‘Bangals’). They have diluted the original population of the place and now these illegal immigrants have an upper hand. So every native, including the ‘Ghoti’ Bengalis, will support a separate state in Darjeeling and Dooars, in order to protect the original inhabitants of the land “What about you guys?” I ask friends and they stand mute.

CPI (M) and Trinmool Congress (TMC)
Everyone in Bengal knows that the CPI (M) rode to power in Bengal on the unflinching support of the 'sarbaharas', who came to regard the Marxists as their saviors. These illegal immigrants are still being brought over in hordes especially in North-Bengal earlier by the CPI (M) and now by the TMC. I find it amusing that, the Government of India has not bothered to check the legal status of these illegal immigrants. I am sure, none of these people applied for immigration legally. Has the government of India taken their assimilation for granted? Or does the government of India not care?

The Midas like touch which the CPI (M) had earlier exhibited and now TMC has continued, turned everything they touch into garbage, instead of gold. Look at all the industries that West Bengal had and compare it with the present day. Failure to deliver any developmental projects in Nandigram, Singur, Lalbagh, Dooars has now turned desperate TMC into a beast ready to do anything to retain its power. By now my audience tries to run away but I do not let them get away. I press further.

North Bengal
The Left, the right and the center in West Bengal is biased towards the development of South-Bengal. Of the 14 districts in the state, 6 are in North-Bengal and 8 in South-Bengal. The population ratio of South to North is approximately 3:1, which means for every person in North-Bengal there are three in South-Bengal. However, South Bengal has over 14 universities, whereas North-Bengal has but one. South Bengal has over 25 medical colleges, whereas North-Bengal has but one.

So finally I ask my “so called” friends, “Why should we want to remain with West Bengal, when they do not consider us equal?” Just because I am a Bengali does not mean I have been treated as equal or fair. Why should we want to remain in a state where we do not matter? All our decisions are taken by people from South. What has the CPI (M) government done in terms of development in its 33 years of rule?

At least, if Gorkhaland is formed Siliguri and Dooars is guaranteed and bound to develop whereas if we remain with West Bengal, we will never develop.

By now, most of my “so called” friends have already left, but with a thoughtful look in their eyes.

I support the notion of Gorkhaland and I am sure many others do… and if it could be explained to the people living in Siliguri and surrounding areas, that our economic well-being and prosperity is tied to us severing ties with West Bengal, I am sure many more would support the formation of a new state. Whether you call it Gorkhaland or simply the state of “Darjeeling and Doors” is a separate matter.


Via The DC


Gorkha Janamukti Morcha to face stiff opposition in the hills

8:29 AM
Writes Drimi Chaudhuri

Darjeeling, Apr 14, 2016, For the first time since its formation in 2007, the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) might be facing a road block due to the machinations of TMC chief Mamata Banerjee, in the Darjeeling Hills.

Months before the  Assembly elections, Mamata managed to break into the Morcha’s ranks and engineered the departure of Hadka Bahadur Chhetri, arguably the most articulate Gorkha leader. A doctor by profession, the soft-spoken man from Kalimpong won the Assembly seat in 2011 and emerged a popular face from within the Morcha leadership.  After he quit Morcha over “ideological differences”, Chhetri floated his own outfit, Jan Andolan Party (JAP) in November 2015 and posed a threat to Bimal Gurung's Morcha.

GJM Bimal Gurung to face JAP Harka Bahadur Chettri and  Mamata Banerjee alliance
GJM Bimal Gurung to face JAP Harka Bahadur Chettri and  Mamata Banerjee alliance
Things went a different way after Mamata drove a spike through the , announcing the state government's decision to set Kalimpong as a separate district. Soon, Chhetri aligned himself with the ruling Trinamool Congress and will be contesting in the second phase of the six-phase state polls on April 17 with support from Trinamool. If the enthusiasm of supporters at his rallies and public meetings are anything to go by, Chhetri will manage to upset Morcha's cart and retain his seat.
Chhetri has also brought about a change in Hill politics after almost three decades of agitation, which often turned violent and obstructive.

The sitting MLA from Kalimpong has refused to use the plank of the statehood movement for a separate Gorkhaland. "Gorkha political leaders have always used the issue of Gorkhaland as a poll plank, be it in the Panchayat elections or the parliamentary polls. I want to bring about change by maintaining amicable relation with the state government," he said.

Chhetri, who won the 2011 Assembly elections with nearly 1.3 lakh votes, hopes to repeat the feat and give a drubbing to his earlier party in the hustings.

 "I want to ensure actual development for Darjeeling and adjoining areas. My focus will be on getting steady water supply, set up schools and technical institutes, bring reliable healthcare facilities, things people need,” he said.

Chhetri believes that despite pressure from Morcha, he can turn things his way because he has the people's support .


Via  DHNS

 
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