Showing posts with label Identity Crisis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Identity Crisis. Show all posts

Gorkhas May Suffer if NRC implemented in West Bengal

11:15 AM
If the NRC Is Extended to West Bengal, Indian Gorkhas May End Up Suffering
Swaraj Thapa

Questions over identity and citizenship of Indian Gorkhas have long persisted, which is one of the reasons behind the community's consistent demand for a Gorkhaland state.

As the debate continues over what will happen to those who will eventually be excluded from the final NRC list, Gorkhas or Nepalis in India would be well advised against rushing in to draw conclusions with regard to the exercise and instead analyse and assess possible implications that it could have on them, their status and identity.

On the face of it, the move to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) initiated at the behest of the Supreme Court to identify undocumented immigrants in Assam is welcome. For Gorkhas of India, who have been beset with an identity crisis and sometimes perceived as foreigners, it would naturally follow that an NRC would be another step in certifying them as Indians. Enlistment in the NRC will after all, affirm citizenship.

However, there are a few reasons why Gorkhas must tread with caution.

Gorkhas are well represented in the army and have given their lives in every battle fought for the country. However, recent news reports state that over one lakh Gorkhas or Nepalis have been excluded from the draft final NRC list. These Gorkhas or Nepalis, of course, will be given an opportunity to submit documents in support of their claim of being Indian citizens. They may be included in the final list or be excluded, if they are identified as immigrants from Nepal.

But this development points to the larger malaise afflicting Gorkhas or Nepalis in India: that of identity and the perception that all Gorkhas are immigrants from Nepal. How does one ensure that Indian Gorkhas do not get excluded from such a list?

In fact, it is this flogging stick that is invariably sought to be flashed whenever Indian Gorkhas or Nepalis have attempted to re-assert their identity and stake their rightful claim in nation-building. The most recent example was witnessed in Darjeeling last year. What began as a protest to oppose attempts to impose Bengali language in all schools in the state, including Darjeeling, soon turned into an agitation for identity and a demand for a separate state.

As the state began to crackdown on the protesters, it wasn’t long before the narrative took a different turn. The top leadership was charged with having links to Nepal’s Maoists. Some of the leaders involved – elected members of the Darjeeling municipality, a former elected councillor – were singled out to be alleged Nepalese citizens and hence foreigners. Systematically, their membership from respective elected bodies were sought to be cancelled and their names struck off the voters list. Reports also began circulating that authorities were considering looking at documentation of the local population dating back to 1950: a message that migrant Nepalese will be weeded out.

Hardly new tactics

Such tactics are hardly new for Gorkhas in India and those in public life have had to face it at every corner. Sikkim chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling has been accused of being a Nepali citizen, notwithstanding that he recently became the longest serving chief minister in the country. M.K. Subba, a three-term former MP from Assam, faced allegations that he was a Nepali citizen. He was expelled from the Congress party in 2014 and suffered a sudden illness soon after. Balkrishna Acharya, the low profile MD of Patanjali Ayurved and arguably among the richest Indians with a reported networth of US$6.5 billion, faced investigation under the UPA government on charges that he was a Nepali citizen and had forged documents to obtain an Indian passport. In Darjeeling itself, Gorkha candidates contesting local polls in Terai regions like Naxalbari and Phansidewa are faced with slogans that they should go back to Nepal. Questioning the identity of Gorkhas of India, make no mistake, has been around for a long time.

Admittedly, one of the key reasons for Indian Gorkhas or Nepalis facing this crisis is the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship signed by India and Nepal. The open border between the two countries as a consequence of the treaty, allowing citizens of both countries a free passage. Indeed, barring electoral privileges, any Nepali citizen can purchase property in India, do business and even join government jobs at certain levels officially while continuing to remain citizens of Nepal.

Article 7 of the friendship treaty states:

“The governments of India and Nepal agree to grant, on reciprocal basis, to the nationals of one country in the territories of the other the same privileges in the matter of residence, ownership of property, participation in trade and commerce, movement and other privileges of a similar nature.”



There is also a history of Nepali citizens joining the Indian Army, many of whom are now in senior positions. I have met officers in the rank of Colonel, who are Nepali citizens. There is a sizeable migrant population.

An identity crisis

The confusion created by the arrangement in the mind of an average Indian also poses an identity crisis for Indian Gorkhas. While the borders are open, there exists no mechanism for a head count of the people entering or exiting. This makes it difficult to estimate the actual number of immigrant Nepalis in India.

While the 1950 treaty entitles Nepali citizens to live in India, I am apprehensive that should the NRC exercise ever be extended to West Bengal, it could pose problems for Gorkhas or Nepalis because a majority of the population in Darjeeling and surrounding Terai region have rarely maintained adequate documentation with regard to their residential claims. BJP leaders in West Bengal have already saidthey will implement NRC in the state if the party comes to power. Assam and West Bengal, incidentally, have the highest number of Gorkhas in the country.

An attempt to amend the 1950 treaty has been underway for some time now with a joint Eminent Persons Group (EPG) set up by both governments. It has finalised its recommendations. If the EPG is able to recommend a mechanism that will make a clear distinction between Indian Gorkhas and Nepali nationals living and working in India, the former would not face questions over their identity.

A public Indian identity

Historically, Darjeeling and Sikkim, because of the concentration of Gorkhas living there, have led the campaign for a public Indian identity. Leaders from the two places were at the forefront of the Nepali language movement. But naturally, language was also the rallying point for a wider political demand, as witnessed anywhere else. Whether it was the anti-Hindi imposition agitation in the South or the Bengali language movement in Assam, the result was a political consolidation of the forces opposing such moves.

Similarly, Gorkhas or Nepalis of India got together after former Prime Minister Morarji Desai erroneously said in 1977 that Nepali is a foreign langauge and all Nepalis in India are foreigners. It triggered a nationwide Bhasha Andolan, which became a unifying factor in the bid to fashion a distinct Indian identity.

The formulation of Indian Gorkha identity received wider support during the Subhash Ghisingh led Gorkhaland movement of the mid-1980s, not just in the Darjeeling region, but even elsewhere in the country. Although self-rule and identity were the primary objectives, language also played a key role. Ultimately, the Centre conceded and Nepali was included as one of the official languages in the eighth schedule of the Constitution in 1992. Additionally, the Centre also issued a gazette notification in 1988 clarifying that Gorkhas residing in India were Indian citizens.

Mamata Banerjee’s Bengal and Assam contrast

Today, when West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee vociferously takes up the cause of the 40 lakh people excluded from the NRC final draft list – most of them speakers of the Bengali language – one cannot but compare the contrast in her actions with respect to Gorkhas. A poem titled “Identity” that she penned for the 40 lakh excluded from the NRC could well have echoed the pain and anguish suffered by Indian Gorkhas for several decades now.

Yet, it is ironical how Banerjee failed to appreciate the similarities between Bengali speaking population of Assam and Nepali speaking population in West Bengal. Both are multilingual states where minority groups are under pressure from the majority, resulting in identity assertion of the minorities. That was the logical explanation for the flareup over language issue in Darjeeling last year.

There are lessons to be learnt in every movement. While every state is multilingual and mandated to respect the rights of linguistic minorities, political practice has demonstrated that the official language symbolises the state. Speakers of minority languages find that discrimination against them by the majority community is based not on language competence or achievement, but on language identification. The Rajbanshis and Kochs of Cooch Behar have assimilated themselves, adopting Bengali as their language. But Gorkhas have resisted this and have paid the price. As a consequence, Gorkhas of Darjeeling feel that a separate state is the only answer to the problems of identity and discrimination.

An NRC in West Bengal may not be unwelcome, but a clear distinction has to be made between Indian Gorkhas and immigrant Nepalese living in India first.

Swaraj Thapa is a political commentator and activist.

Via The Wire

Pawan Chamling talked about Identity crisis on Bhanu Jayanti

8:02 PM

Buddha was of Nepali origin,’ says C.M.

SUJAL PRADHAN

Gangtok 13 Jul 2018 On the occasion of Bhanu Jayanti, Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling has called for preservation of the communal harmony that prevails in the State.

“Our government has maintained peace, security and harmony in the State all these years. I urge everyone to take ownership and responsibility as dutiful citizens and give their full support in ensuring continuity to the communal harmony that exists in the State,” he said, addressing the State-leval Bhanu Jayanti celebration at Manan Kendra on Friday.

In Sikkim, celebrations on the occasion of birth anniversary of poet Bhanu Bhakta Acharya are not limited only to the Nepali community. People from all communitiestake part in the festivities related to Bhanu Jayanti, reaffirming the communal harmony that exists among the Sikkimese people. The theme for this year’s Bhanu Jayanti is “Jatiya Sadbhavana” (Communal Harmony).

On the occasion, the Chief Minister also talked about the identity crisis of the Nepali community. He said: “We still suffer from an identity crisis. We are still viewed as immigrants by our mainland countrymen. Doubts are cast on our nationality. Even personally also, I was made a victim of this crisis, when a case was filed in the Court questioning my nationality. It is during such times that we, the Nepali people, have to be united and prove that we are proud Indians having made our contributions towards the nation, right from the time of Lord Buddha. History is proof that the Buddha was of Nepali origin, having being born in Nepal. So, if we have to prove our identity, we can say that we are Indians as much as Lord Buddha is! Therefore, whenever aspersions are cast on our identity, we as a community should stand for each other and protect ourselves from such derogatory attacks.

He also made a few announcements. “Our Government has endeavoured towards the promotion of Nepali language. Nepali is taught in schools and colleges; from this year, we are taking further steps to encourage our students to take up Nepali as a subject in schools and colleges. A language can be safeguarded, promoted and recognized if people study it as a subject. People from the Nepali community can even write UPSC examination in Nepali language as it comes under the eighth schedule of the Constitution. Such efforts will go a long way in promotion and recognition of Nepali language,” he added.

He directed his department to look for land for construction of Bhanu Bhawan in Gangtok. The State Government would bear all expenditure for its construction.

Via EOI

where is my Home?

8:45 AM
Writes:  Binayak Sundas

There are those Nepalis in India who are from Nepal and hold Nepali citizenship and then there are others who live in India and hold Indian citizenship

In the last few decades there has been a steady rise in literature on experiences of people visiting those parts of their socio-cultural spaces separated by partition. Hence people discover that the land that they grew up thinking as the quintessential other and enemy was not after all so different. The people, that they always thought of as the evil incarnate could have easily been neighbors, friends or even family. Such is the complicated history of the subcontinent and the problems of the concept of the nation-state in the region.

A person from Kolkata may find that he has far more in common with someone from across the border in Dhaka than he has with someone from his own state in Darjeeling. Similarly, a person from Lahore may find that Amritsar is far closer to home than Quetta or Karachi. These dilemmas and complexities have led to a plethora of beautiful, yet melancholic stories that have captured the imaginations of readers and caused them to rethink certain aspects of nature of nationalism and renewed connections across the border.

The partition of Punjab and Bengal in 1947, a tragic event of Himalayan proportions, and its aftermath are very difficult to be compared with anywhere else. It was an incident that was a product of specific historical events that were unique to the region and yet one cannot help, but wonder if similar literature is possible to be written between Indian Nepalis and Nepal’s Nepalis.

I have over the years of my research come across many academic literatures that have tried to clearly make the difference of Indian Nepali from those in Nepal. They have suggested the use of terms such as Nepa-mulya and Bharatiya Nepali, but nothing seems to have quite captured the imagination of Indian Nepalis, as that of the “Gorkha” since nothing speaks of pride like a colonial imaginary construct, used to garner cheap military labor. The two kinds of Nepalis in India are those who are from Nepal but are in India to work and earn their livelihoods and hold Nepali citizenship and the other who have lived in India and hold Indian citizenship.

The common perception is that the accents in their Nepali are the main marker of difference. This is, of course, a mistake since Nepal does not have a unified accent, neither do Indian Nepalis.

During my stay in Delhi, I had the privilege of making a lot of friends from Nepal, the picture that they painted of Nepal and its socio-economic dynamics seemed to be very different from the one that I remembered from the tales of my mother or my brief visits to Dharan and more importantly from the socio cultural and economic scenario in Darjeeling, the hub of Indian Nepalis. The language too seemed different; Bahuns, Ranas and Shah friends spoke a form of Nepali, that they claimed was the equivalent of King’s English. They were mortified when they heard me speak in Nepali, some were out rightly offended, some laughed and one friend said I spoke like a Taba Keta (drug addict) from Thamel.

Tracing the root

On my father’s side, my family was from Dolakha. Once, as my grandfather narrated the story to me, one of my ancestors, a Damai, accidentally touched a Brahmin bride on her wedding day, which caused her to lose her caste and the marriage was called off. By the evening the entire village was gathering for traditional Jhar Katnu (hacking him to death). How else would the groom’s and bride’s family regain lost honor and the rest of the village salvage the entertainment denied to them?

Maybe someone informed them, my family left the village with whatever little belongings they had before the mob arrived.  Realizing that they could never go back home they made their way to the only refuge for the wretched of Nepal: Darjeeling, along with the Brahmin bride. This was a hundred years ago, during the same period the ancestors on my mother’s side were facing a different dilemma.

After the Gorkha state’s victory in Limbuwan hills, the state’s appropriating class were vigorously taking over Kipat (communal land holding) lands of Limbus and converting them to Jagirs (land grants given in lieu of salary). The Limbus rose in rebellion several times but failed. The only two way left for Limbus were: accept the Gorkha rule, new land revenue structure and a debt trapped life or leave the region altogether. My ancestors made way to Munglan (India) in search of the promised life.

The British at that point of time were perpetually caught in one conflict after other both in the western and eastern frontiers and were expanding Gurkha regiments to include the Rai and Limbus as well. This was a departure from the earlier policy of only hiring Magars, Gurungs, Thakuris and Khas. In the Gurkha regiment my ancestor was introduced to the brilliance of the martial race theory and how it manages to gain cheap military labor and can repeat it over generations. My family has served the British and Indian armies for the next hundred years.

I made my way across the River Mechi, but graves of my grandparents were on the other side of the border. I paid a visit to my great aunt and uncle’s graves on Nepal’s side of the Mechi River. Buried on the border, was perhaps a fitting metaphor for what I was to discover in the coming days. On a lighter note, it was a bit ironic that they were buried next to each other. In life they could never stop bickering.

Journey to Nepal

A few brief anxious moments circling Kathmandu and then we landed. My first steps in the city that I had read and written about but never visited. I looked around and saw what the Malla rulers must have seen, large hills surrounding the valley, like massive walls that could never be breached. A fortress that had stood the test of time, of course until Prithvinarayan Shah came. Prithvinarayan too saw the hills and he too realized they were walls, except they were not the walls of a fortress but that of a prison.

He imprisoned the Mallas within the valley until they did not even put up an effective fight, choosing to rely on faith than in a final battle as the Gorkha army walked into the city.  My introductions to the city were the taxi drivers and they were exactly like the ones back home. Their Nepali was exactly like mine, perhaps a bit more polite, which made me wonder where were those who spoke in “King’s Nepali.” I never had a problem with the language while my stay there. The only problem though was that the people in Katmandu and even in Pokhara for that matter spoke too softly and I realized that I must have sounded like I was screaming half the time.

The driver started to complain about administration and corruption. I felt at home again. The night of course belonged to Thamel, I had heard a lot about this place, but nothing prepared me for what I experienced. The Sarangi players made me realize how amateurish the ones in Darjeeling and Sikkim are. The people, the shops, the bars, they could trap anyone here for a long time. I walked around aimlessly until late at night and I made my way back reluctantly to my hotel.

The next day I made my way to the old city and this place felt alien. Don’t get me wrong I loved the place, the culture, the architecture and the people but none of it seemed familiar to me. It was beautiful but foreign to me, the Newari accent seemed curious and it was not one I had heard before, well at least in real life. The Newars in Darjeeling and Sikkim have long given up the language and no hint of this accent remains in their Nepali. The smell and the sight of this place seemed odd. I wondered if the first soldiers of the Gorkha army felt this unease and strangeness of this place.

Perhaps the strangeness of this place was what caused Prithvinarayan to lament about the simple life of home, where people drink from streams than this valley where water comes in cisterns. As I placed my hand on the old walls with the sun uncomfortably on my back, history was alive for me. The debates over socio-economic structures, class relations, the impact of new ruling class, modes of production etc were all forgotten and a different kind of history took its place—the one that had the thrill of living through it, of extending your hand through time to capture a moment gone by, a history of emotions so to speak.

I did not go to any of the palaces though. I watched all of them from across the road. A hundred years ago I would have been flogged for just being this near the royal palaces or any other palaces. I have been inside palaces elsewhere of course, but somehow the resentment here seemed very personal, anger with these Rajput status claiming rulers went back far too long back in history, I doubt if anyone else could even understand it.

The structures as magnificent as they were, just did not impress me, every brick of these palaces was wet with the tears of some indebted peasant who was forced to sell his children to pay the Sarkar and Sahukar. As I blew my smoke towards the palace I smiled to think of the fact that they no longer lived there, at last they would know the pain of leaving their homes behind. All that money, all that eulogies and all that false status, and son had killed fathers and brothers had killed brothers, in the end just dust in the vast expanse of history, like the rest of us.

My mother had lived in Pokhara for two years in her youth, back then when teachers from Darjeeling were in demand in Nepal. A visit to this town was mandatory, but nothing about this place seemed like the stories I had heard. As mesmerizing as the lakeside was it was easily eclipsed by the next place I visited, Mustang. You could write several books about this place and still could not do justice to this desolate beauty.

My mind could not help, but think of all the Newari traders and Tibetan scholars who might have passed through this place or places like this, what they must seem what fears they had and how this place looked to them. My heart also could not but think of all the soldiers of the Gorkha army as they first crossed to invade Tibet and how frostbitten defeated they retreated with the great Chinese general Fu’ Kwan hot on their heels, on his way to invade the Gorkha empire.

Muktinath temple deserves an article by itself, a great remnant of the syncretic traditions of the Himalayan region, perhaps a remnant of the Khas Empire itself. The place perfect for worship, it reminded me so much of the Mahakal Mandir in Darjeeling, thought it also made me lament thinking of the commercialization of the temple at home.

We are all Nepalis

In most places I was asked of my caste, though I don’t think it was so much of the apprehensions but mostly due to curiosity, my Limbu and Damai heritage has given an interesting face. The fun part was when I told them I was Damai, one shopkeeper laughed and when he realized I was serious he quickly diverted the topic, a security guard turned all shades of yellow and some went on  long monologues how caste didn’t matter in modern Nepal, which sort of proved to me that it did.

The one thing I realized was Darjeeling accent was not a unique accent and it was a mere extension of the eastern accent of Nepal with a bit of Janjati and a perhaps a little bit of Madhesi accent. We were not different at all. We are all a part of a larger socio cultural space. We are all Nepalis. As I made my way back across the border leaving behind a place where everyone spoke in my language, into a place where people spoke languages that I did not speak, I wondered where home was.

The author is a PhD researcher at Centre for Historical Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Via: My Republica
Author can be reached at: binayaksundas@gmail.com

CK Shrestha Rejects Felicitation - After Organizers Refer to Him As Being From NEPAL

10:20 PM

Gorkha Theater Legend CK Shrestha Rejects Felicitation - After Organizers Refer to Him As Being From NEPAL

The Identity crisis felt by the Indian Gorkhas has bogged down generations of our people, and not just the ordinary people like you and I, even our celebrated artists, scholars, politicians and every prominent personality has to face this often repeated question - are you from NEPAL?

It is one thing to question, quiet another to say so on an invitation card for a program to be held at Siliguri by a West Bengal-based organization, in which the Bengal Tourism Minister Gautam Deb was to inaugurate the program.

A Calcutta based organization Sarbabharatiya Sangeet-o-Sanskriti Parishad was set to felicitate renowned Gorkhali theater personality Mr. CK Shrestha at Dinabandhu Mancha in Siliguri today. The Chief Guest of the program is J. C. Roy, Director of Cultural and Information Directorate, Bengal government.

Yet,the Invitation card states that Mr. CK Shrestha is from NEPAL.

Protesting against the humiliation, not just against himself, but also against the Gorkhali community, Mr. CK Shrestha has refused their invitation, and has declined to attend the program today.
 CK Shrestha Rejects Felicitation - After Organizers Refer to Him As Being From NEPAL
 CK Shrestha Rejects Felicitation - After Organizers Refer to Him As Being From NEPAL
In a stern letter written to the organizers, Mr. CK Shrestha has said, 'my eagerness to attend your function was cut short when I received the invitation card today, which labels me as a citizen of Nepal. To be branded a foreigner in your own country is the gravest insult that can be given to a person, and the last thing I expected from an organization of your stature. This is simply unacceptable and I take serious offence in this act of humiliation that I have been subjected to. I am an Indian Gorkha, and being a citizen of this country is something that I am very proud of.'

Mr. Shrestha further writes, 'If a well known person like me is humiliated in this manner, I shudder to think about the fate of the countless other lesser known Gorkhas who are a part of this country.'

Take strong exception to the humiliation, Mr. Shrestha adds, 'I strongly condemn this mindless and deliberate branding of members of Indian Gorkha community as Nepali citizens, and in protest, I hereby decline the felicitation extended to me by your organization.

Jai Gorkha! Jai Hind!"

This is percisely why we need GORKHALAND statehood... as long as we remain a part of Bengal... we will continue to be humiliated.

Via The DC

Gorkha community plans to re-establish their identity

9:49 PM

Melting pot: How Gorkha community in the city plans to re-establish their identity

Writes Sadaf Modak 

The Gorkha population, residing in various northern and north-eastern states, has also settled in Mumbai for over five decades.

FOR THE Gorkha community in Mumbai, a recent portrayal of its members as watchmen in an e-commerce website advertisement was a reminder of how often their identity is reduced to a ‘caricature’.

“Due to our physical appearance, Gorkhas are easily identified and misconceived to be from the neighbouring country of Nepal. There is a misconception that all are Nepali citizens who have migrated to India. Many are Indians but are made to feel like foreigners due to lack of knowledge,” said Dhruva Pradhan, chairman of the Bhartiya Gorkha Ekta Sangh in Mumbai.

He says not many are aware that a Treaty of Sugauli was signed between the East India Company and the King of Nepal in 1815-16, which had led to one-third of Nepalese-controlled territory to be given to the British, and which continues to remain part of Indian territory.
Hamro Parichai - A Gorkha Cultural Show
The Gorkha population, residing in various northern and north-eastern states, has also settled in Mumbai for over five decades. The Ekta Sangh was formed as a socio-cultural welfare organisation in 2002 with an approximate number of over a lakh Gorkhas who currently live in Mumbai.

Rohit Pradhan, the secretary of the Ekta Sangh, says that on the streets of the city, Gorkhas are often asked if they are from Nepal. “This could be due to ignorance or lack of geographical knowledge. But, when it is done by established entities in popular culture like the recent advertisement, it seems like a deliberate attempt,” he said. The members are now in the process of preparing a blueprint to be distributed to television, film and advertisement production houses, political parties and government organisations elaborating on the history of the community in India and its contribution to various fields including the economy, sports and the defence of the country.

The members also organise annual cultural programmes and celebration of Dashain (Dussehra) and Tihar (Diwali) in the city to ensure that the younger generation does not lose touch with their culture.

Another issue that the community faces is the lack of a shelter for members coming from other states to the city for medical care.

“When I first came to the city in 1989, I did not know anyone from the community. Many Gorkhas from Darjeeling would come to the city to Tata Memorial Hospital for cancer treatment. They would have nowhere to stay. Some states have their own bhavans like Assam Bhavan, Meghalaya Bhavan, where first timers coming to the city for medical care, education, employment can stay. No such facility exists for Gorkhas,” Dhruva said.

He said that for a year now the community has set up a centre in Kurla for cancer patients coming to the city for treatment but they have not kept it limited to Gorkhas alone.

The members plan to approach state government authorities for a Gorkha Bhavan or an allotment of land for its construction.

Via indianexpress

Kangra (Himachal Pradesh) Gorkhas facing identity crisis

9:21 PM

Writes Yudhvir Rana

BAKLOH: Few people know that the eight tiny hilly villages nestled in the lap of Dhauladhar Ranges in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh bordering Punjab is the abode of nearly five thousand Indian Gorkhas - the very name personifies courage and loyalty and brings to mind the image of khukhri (curved knife) wielding warriors and their blood curdling war cry "Ayo Gorkhali (The Gorkha's are coming) resonating through the ear or a friendly loyal Bahadur.

Though, originally, their forefathers hail from Nepal, in present day they are proud Indians having a fusion of Indian and Nepalese culture and cuisine which reflects from their ways of living.
Kangra (Himachal Pradesh) Gorkhas facing identity crisis

Tucked away in mountains, the Indian Gorkhas are concentrated in the lesser explored villages of ¼ Bazar, 2/4 Bazar (Chilama) (named after Gorkha regiments), Ghatasani, Kakira, Kalu Ganj, Kumlarhi, Barmoola, and garrison village Bakloh, nearly 70 kilometres from Pathankot.

Despite having been born and brought up here and having served the nation all through their lives, the Indian Gorkhas living in these village are fighting their own battle of identity crises.

"No doubt our forefathers arrived here from Nepal, but we, our fathers were born here, yet we are generally dubbed as Nepalese which is incorrect and hurt our feelings. We are Indian Gorkhas and not the Nepalese Gorkhas," explains Vijay Kumar Gurung, president, the HP Gorkha Ex-Servicemen Welfare Association (Gorkha Sabha), Bakloh while talking to TOI.
He recalls an incident when a young Gorkha boy was turned away from an interview for his appearance of a Nepalese. "This is what hurts us. We are Indians and people should know that we are Indian Gorkhas," he said.

Association vice president Krishan Singh Thapa was of view that a 'tribal status' to Gorkhas would help them maintain their identity and would also provide certain benefits given under the category. "We have passed through all kinds of predicaments including poor education and health facilities in these remote villages. A tribal status will give us some relief," he said.

A veteran Gorkha, G S Gurung, said, "You can witness a unique amalgamation of Himachali and Nepalese culture in these villages. For example, the Gorkhas have adopted tradition of Dham (lunch served in traditional marriages of Himachal Pradesh). Similary, the locals have also adopted several Gorkha ways of living "adding that many Gorkha families speak Punjabi and Himachali as fluently as Gorkhali language".

Meera, a Gorkha woman who speaks fluent Punjabi finds no difference in cultural, social and while finding linguistic similarities between Himachalis and Gorkhas except when they were pinpointed for their 'Nepalese' looks.


Source TOI

Reflect on the "Identity Crisis" We ‪Gorkhas‬ Face, and Why ‪Gorkhaland‬ is Necessary

8:47 AM
How a Bollywood Movie Stereotype Made Me Reflect on the "Identity Crisis" We ‪Gorkhas‬ Face, and Why ‪Gorkhaland‬ is Necessary
Writes: Abriti Moktan*

I was doing a project on the "identity crisis" faced by the Gorkha communities in India and after having worked on it I have become more sensitive towards the issue. My brother friend who graduated from IIM Bangalore had once told me that identity crisis can be checked only by the community itself by earning a credible name in every sector through hard work and perseverance. But now it makes me wonder even after having luminaries in every field from literary, social activism, journalism, education, sports, fashion, music, corporations, bureaucracy, politics to science, the country still thinks the Indian Gorkhas who are ethnically Nepalese and whose mother tongue is Nepali to fall in the servant class.

It was indeed very sad to have encountered a small part in the “Kapoor and Sons” where Alia Bhatt’s caretaker servant is portrayed to be a Nepali. The locale of the movie is the hill station Coonoor, which also resembled my hometown Darjeeling in many ways, with its tea plantations, view points, and the curvy roads. The movie was intriguing with the kind of story it depicted. The audiences can relate to it and enjoy every bit of emotional upheavals which was so very played by all the characters. A small world with the complexity in every relationship where the differences among the family members is finally resolved. Tears rolled down my eyes too, but something in the movie left a very bitter taste, the depiction of ‘Kishore’, a character in the film.”
Gorkhalis burning Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty in 1986 which lead to the Kalimpong Massacre, thus leading to violence in the hills in which over 1200 Gorkhas were killed
Gorkhalis burning Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty in 1986 which lead to the Kalimpong Massacre,
thus leading to violence in the hills in which over 1200 Gorkhas were killed
“Kapoor and Sons” is directed by Shakun Batra, and featured Fawad Khan and Alia Bhatt, two of my favorite actors. Alia’s (Tia) caretaker servant is portrayed to be a Nepali/Gorkha guy.

Interestingly the writers this time did not stick to the conventional name “Bahadur” and named the servant as ’Kishore’ The movie was smoothly running until when “Kishore” entered the frame and asked Tia (Alia Bhatt) if he could go and watch a Nepali film that has released in the town. Tia asks him to go and watch it alone as she doesn’t understand the Nepali language. The second time “Kishore” enters the frame is when he offers help to Tia when the electricity is down in the house.

Well, the whole scene of this Nepali Servant might not even have lasted for more than two to three minutes but it left a lasting impression on me.

The locale of the movie is Coonoor which made me curious of the fact that the hilly place must have been chosen for some reason. When I recollected the number of Bollywood movies shot in Darjeeling and researched, I was surprised to find that one or the other kind of misrepresentation has happened in the past too.

After I have done all my research on the ‘identity crisis’ for my university papers, perhaps I am now more aware in understanding how outsiders perceive about us and our Identity. My brother’s friend who graduated from IIM Bangalore had once told me that “identity crisis” can be checked only by the community itself by earning a credible name in every sector through hard work and perseverance. But now it makes me wonder, even after having luminaries in every field from literary, social activism, journalism, education, sports, fashion, music, corporations, bureaucracy, politics to science, the country still thinks the Indian Gorkhas who are ethnically Nepalese and whose mother tongue is Nepali to fall in the servant class.

Mr. Shakun Batra, the director who happens to be the co-writer too, I just have one question for you. “When you wrote about “Kishore” did u think of him to be just an immigrant from Nepal or an ‘Indian Gorkhali?’

Either ways there is an illustrious history of Nepalese people from Nepal and the Indian Gorkhalis residing in India. Time and again portraying a particular community to be a servant class does not get digested well. The cliché that has been attached to the Nepali community needs to be DROPPED.

For those of you who are interested in reading my University presentation, here is the detailed paper I have researched on the identity and political history of the Gorkhas in India.

Demand for a separate state Gorkhaland vis-à-vis Identity Crisis
The queen of the hills Darjeeling found in the lap of the Himalayas is located in the northern region of West Bengal. This territory of Darjeeling was transferred to the Bengal presidency in 1935 when the British rulers faced difficulty in its administration. Ever since it has been a part of Bengal. The denizens of this region are ethnically, linguistically, culturally and traditionally different from the rest of Bengal. The everyday experience of this community of people known as the Gorkhas has given impetus to the “identity crisis” which has been felt by them since time immemorial. The identity crisis can be seen to be a social construct but when the Gorkhas have to face an insult on an everyday basis the demand for national identity becomes all the more relevant and valid for them.

Before Telangana state was formed, a friend from Darjeeling who lives in another city had posted this conversation, which explains how the "identity crisis" manifests:

"Monday morning on my birthday day... had gone to the temple... and the conversation followed:
Pandit Ji: Where are you guys from?
Me: Darjeeling
Pandit Ji: So you guys are Nepali?
Me: Ethnically, yes...
Curious random stranger from Kerela: Where are you from?
Me: Darjeeling
Pandit ji: That's in Nepal?
Me: No, it’s in India
Pandit Ji: Oooooo which province?
Me: West Bengal
Curious random stranger from Kerela: O so you guys are Bengali?
Me: No... I am a Nepali... whose state is West Bengal
Curious random stranger from Kerela: So you are from Nepal?
Me: No uncle ethnically I am a Nepali, and I am from India
Pandit Ji: So how are you in India? did you guys immigrate?
Me: No Panditji, we came with the land, that's why we are demanding Gorkhaland... our own province to end this confusion."

The first deputy Prime Minister of India Shri Vallabhai Patel stated his doubt over the patriotism, loyalty and the sincerity of the Gorkhas. Prime Minister Moraji Desai termed Nepali the mother tongue of the Gorkhas as a “foreign language.” The prominent political figures of the West Bengal state Dr.Mukund Majumdar, CPI(M) leader Asok Bhattacharjee and many other Bengali scholars like Sumanta Sen continue to claim the ethnic Gorkhas as foreigners and intruders. Mr. Chandra Kumar Bose the grand nephew of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose who is contesting for the upcoming legislative assembly election in Bengal went on to say that “slogans like ‘Bharat ki Barbaadi’ and ‘Gorkhaland’ attack the integrity of India” (Darjeeling Times).

Here is a short historical fact. Darjeeling and the Terai areas was a part of the Kirat kingdom Bijaypur, after the disintegration of this kingdom Darjeeling was annexed with Sikkim and Bhutan. Thereafter the Anglo-Nepalese war of 1814-1815 ensued; Treaty of Sugauli was signed between the Nepal and East India Company in 2nd December 1815 and implemented in 4th March 1816. Under this Treaty Nepal had to cede away a huge expansion of its territory to the Britishers. The east India Company after forcing the treaty upon the Nepal king returned Darjeeling to Sikkim through Treaty of Titaliya (Datta, 2014). Britishers when encountered the Gorkha warriors they saw in them the everlasting fire of bravery and proclaimed them to be a martial race. They recruited them in the British army and established the Gorkha regiment in the year 1814.

Later Darjeeling was leased out to the British by the Maharaja of Sikkim to build a sanatorium (Datta, 2014). The Britishers had thus discovered the Queen of the hills with its native populace. Down the years in order to establish their base through construction of infrastructure and industry the colonizers facilitated the migration of people from Nepal for more manpower.

The highlanders under the suppression of the colonizers had managed to form ‘The Hillmen Association’ which put forward the demand for a separate administrative set up for Darjeeling in 1907. This is taken to be the first demand for the separation of Darjeeling. This was followed in similar suit in the subsequent years of 1917, 1920, 1929, 1930, 1934, 1935, 1937, 1941, 1943 (Wangyal).

In 1947 the CPIM members of the hill demanded for a separate nation Gorkhasthan comprising of Nepal, Darjeeling, Sikkim to the vice president of the interim government pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. This was followed again by the demand for a separate administrative set up in the years 1949, 1952. In 1986 which happened to be the 23rd demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland within India was spearheaded by Shri Subash Ghishing the leader of the Gorkha National Liberation Front. The trigger for this movement had been the ‘Bhumiputra - son of the soil movement’ in the north-east which had led to the eviction of the Gorkhas from the state of Meghalaya and Assam. The 1986 agitation saw a scenario like the tragedy of Jallianwalla Bagh; on 27th July 1986 the protesters in Kalimpong while burning the Indo-Nepal treaty of 1950 were fired at indiscriminately which resulted in the death of 13 people and leaving 50 injured.

The hill people regard this day as the Black day in the history of the Gorkhaland movement (Rai, 2005). Thus from 1986 to 1988 Darjeeling saw an agitation wherein 1200 Gorkhas were left dead. This Gorkha Movement was termed as antinational by the then CPIM government. The official 1987 report of the state government claims that the basis of separation from Bengal by the hill people did not have any strong ground.

Subash Ghising had written a letter to the king of Nepal and UN regarding the situation of the Gorkhas in India wherein they were subjected to the discrimination and eviction within their own country. He had written to the benign majesty stating the suffering of the Gorkhas who had been the victims of the movement of border of their own land. This act of Subash Ghising was taken to be ‘anti national’ and ‘secessionist’ (WB Govt official document 1987).

The state government vehemently opposed the silence of the central government on this matter. But the Gorkhas had already gained momentum in their movement, they had an armed Gorkhaland Volunteer Cell to counter the state sponsored arms against them, together with the atrocities of the central reserve police force. The state government claims that GNLF had intimidated the common people and were imposing their diktats, nowhere in the official document the government mentions about the atrocities imposed by them on the Gorkhas.

It is a fact that there was a division in the hills for the demand of Gorkhaland. The CPIM in the hills were against it and hence they had the support of the state government even in terms of illicit arms. But the state claims that a majority of people were anti-Gorkhaland and thus GNLF was not a mass movement of the natives. Contrary to this, it is a known fact that in Darjeeling GNLF was the single largest party enjoying the support of all the classes of Gorkhas.

The state even goes against the fact that Darjeeling was a part of Nepal and hence does not validate the Treaty of Sugauli which happens to be the integral part of the history of Darjeeling. The state of Bengal terms the very word Gorkha misused by the natives of Darjeeling. But the scholars of Darjeeling state that Gorkha is an umbrella term unifying the communities living in the Darjeeling area under one roof.

The natives/ aboriginals of Darjeeling include Lepcahs, Limbus, Rai, Dukpas and the Mangars. Following the subsequent wars prior to the British taking over Darjeeling region the Gurungs, Thapas, Chettris, Newars, Sunwars, Brahmins, Kamis, Damais, Bhutia, Thami, and Tamangs came to the region. But the state considers only Lepchas to be the natives. The state government refutes the argument of the Gorkhas that the Indo- Nepal treaty 1950 which facilitates the free movement of citizens between the two countries has endangered their national identity. The state government claims that Darjeeling stands fourth in the per-capita income and the literacy rate is also high as compared to other districts of Bengal (Official document, 1987). Thus, they claim that the hills is neglected in terms of education, economic development is considered baseless.

The then Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi, and Home Minister P. Chidambaram did recognize the agitation as a national problem but did not agree with the state government for terming the GNLF movement as anti-national. The state clarifies itself by saying that the GNLF movement was anti national but not the Gorkhas which in itself reflects the paradoxical argument. The bloodshed, the continuous strike for 42 days had crippled the life of the Gorkhas in the Hill. Their unsolicited faith in the leadership for bringing a separate state was crushed when Subash Ghising signed for the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) on 22nd august 1988 in a tripartite meeting comprising of the state, central and the GNLF.

DGHC failed to bring regional autonomy to the Gorkhas. It was designed to be financially crippled. Nevertheless, Subash Ghising run his writ and consolidated his position firmly. The politics in the hills took a turning point in 2007 when Gorkha lad Prashant Tamang made it to the finals of the popular talent show Indian Idol (Rai, 2005). Gorkhas were adamant to make him the winner in the show which would be a projection of their identity as well. This resulted in the formation of fan clubs for the voting process. Subash Ghising might not have thought about the gravity of the situation when he failed to render any support to the aspiration of the denizens. He got alienated from the masses and this resulted in the birth of Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJMM) in the latter half of 2007 under the leadership of Bimal Gurung, a former confidant of Shri Ghising.

Within a year GJMM took upon its shoulder the onus to raise the demand for Gorkhaland once again which would be the 26th demand for a separate state. GJMM emerged as the strongest political party in the hills with no opposition of its stature. It put forth the demand for a separate state on the basis of some strong arguments that were analyzed and studied thoroughly by its intellectual wing. The identity crisis was projected as “strive to gain a space not only in the political arena but also in the social cultural set up.”

The apathy towards the Gorkha people can be seen in any of the fields. The absence of a university and technical or vocational institutes, specialty hospital, the slag in the tourism industry, the tea industry where the tea workers are equivalent to bonded laborers, the railway where the locals have no stake, the forests which are subjected to heavy deforestation, no proper disaster management strategies or trained personnel and simply the exclusion of the locals in the administration (GJMM, 2008). The Bengal administration has been no less than the colonizers to the Gorkha community wherein they were and still are absorbing the rich and natural wealth of the Darjeeling and transferring it to the other parts of Bengal.

The GJMM claims that the revenue generated from the hills are invested only in the plain areas. The west Bengal government formed Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority to which it provides with a hefty grant despite the fact that Siliguri is actually a subdivision of the Darjeeling district (GJMM, 2008). The GJMM questions this treatment of the state towards the Gorkhas in every sector. The Gorkhas are marginalized and oppressed, every time their demand has been crushed using different strategies by the state and the centre.

The Bengal government has violated the constitution of India in its governance policy in the hills. Since 1989 there has been no election for three-tier panchayat, therein violating article 243E of the constitution. There has been no election to the Gram Panchayats since 2004. Siliguri Mahukuma Parishad an intermediate tier of the panchayat was elevated to the Zilla Parishad against article 243B. The party also alleges the Government sponsored infiltration of the Bangladeshis for the vote bank politics which is considered to be a sensitive issue as the Siliguri corridor is considered to be the ‘chicken neck’ which connects the north east region to the rest of India.

Bimal Gurung states that only through the formation of Gorkhaland these issues would be addressed and countered. The patriotism of the brave Gorkha soldiers are questioned by some public figures in the country. The GJMM counters the critics by putting forth the contribution of the Gorkha soldiers against the colonizers for the freedom struggle, the participation of the Gorkhas braves in the Chinese aggression 1962, Indo- Pakistan war 1971, and the Kargil aggression. The Gorkha are termed to be the only ones who are not even scared of dying.

Time and again why do the Gorkhas have to prove their patriotism towards the country for which they continue to shed their blood? The Gorkhas are demanding for a separate state within the Indian nation which is very much their constitutional right as Article 3 implies that the boundaries of the state are not immutable. The aspirations of the Gorkhas are compromised by their very leaders who fall into the meticulous trap of the centre and the state. GJMM after spearheading a strong movement has followed in the footsteps of its predecessor by trampling the aspirations of the Gorkhas by signing the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration on 18 July 2011.

GTA is an autonomous body with financial, executive and administrative powers but devoid of legislative powers (Bagchi, 2012). This argument was well crafted by the Trinamool Congress government headed by the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. It was an outcome of the tripartite dialogue among the state, GJMM and the center. GJMM had helped the TMC to overthrow the CPIM regime little realizing the fact that it would not but them the assurance for the separate state of Gorkhaland. Mamata Banerjee has been boastful about the fact that she has brought about normalcy in the hills within months of her taking power in the office. She might have projected to have a soft corner for the demand of the Gorkhas but ultimately she has like any other political figure from West Bengal shown possessiveness for the Queen of the Hills. She would definitely not support the separate state for the Gorkhas at any given cost.

The statehood demand of the Gorkhas is 109 years old now. They are till date subjected to the beatings of the migration theory that the rest of the country believes to be the truth. Little knowing the fact that the Nepali speaking Gorkhas who are Indian citizens are not migrated individuals but are the son and daughters of the soil that became a part of the Indian nation. The quest for the identity is not just confined to the Gorkhas of the Darjeeling hills but also encompasses the Gorkhas living in the other parts of the country where they are treated as the second class citizens. They also aspire for the fulfillment of Gorkhaland because then they too would have an identity in the political, cultural and social space of the Indian nation.

The struggle has now been running into more than a century but the Gorkhas should not let their faith in the aspiration of separate state of Gorkhaland waver at any circumstance because-
“What we call beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning
The end is where we start from” – T.S. Eliot

REFERENCES:
• Rai.R. (2005). From the Mountain to the Ocean. Chap 8 & 9.
• Bagchi.R (2012). Gorkhaland Crisis for Statehood. Part 2 & 4. Sage publications
• Pradhan.U.M. Gorkhaland- Facts versus Myths. Darjeeling times. http://darjeelingtimes.com/…/6283-gorkhaland--facts-vs-myth… 
• Wangyal.S.B. The never ending wait for Gorkhaland
• http://www.darjeelingtimes.com/…/The-Never-Ending-wait-for-… 
• Gorkha Janamukti Morcha. (2008). Why Gorkhaland?
• Datta.P.(2014). Gorkha Ethnicity: Cultural Revolution and the Issue of Gorkhaland. International Journal of Humanities & Social Science Studies
• Golay.B. (2006). Rethinking Gorkha Identity outside the Imperialism of Discourse, Hegemony and History. Peace and Democracy in South Asia
• Gorkhaland Agitation Facts and Issues (1987). Information Document Government of West Bengal
• Kansakar.V.B.S. (1984). Indo Nepal Migration Problems and Prospects. Tribhuvan University.
• Shrestha.B.N.(2005) What is Sugauli Treaty ? AIMSA Collection for Study
• Sharma. D. What Gorkhaland means to a non Darjeelingey Gorkha http://www.gyasa.org/…/dinesh-sharma-what-gorkhaland-means-… 
• Special Thanks to Mr. Dinesh Sharma of Gorkha Youth and Students' Association of India - GYASA
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*Ms. Abriti Moktan is from Darjeeling and is currently pursuing her MA Degree in Environment and Development from Ambedkar University.

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