Showing posts with label Opinion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Opinion. Show all posts

Gorkhaland, a demand whose time has come

5:12 PM
Gorkhaland, a demand whose time has come: Demand of the sons of the soil and the myths that tarnish the movement

When Jamyang Tsering Namgyal of Ladakh gave one of the most passionate, factual and heart-breaking accounts of how Article 370 had kept the people of Ladakh deprived, discriminated against and treated as a second class citizens, he forced people across India and the world to take note. Far away from Ladakh from where he belongs, or Delhi where he was giving his speech, people in the Eastern Himalayan region of Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars were glued onto their TVs. For us here in Darjeeling region, Jamyang wasn’t just describing the pathos of Ladakh, he was resonating each and every sentiment that we the people aspiring for Gorkhaland statehood have felt and lived through in West Bengal.
Gorkhaland
Gorkhaland 

‘Gorkhaland’ the very name evokes strong sentiments – from a motley crew of passionate supporters to very dedicated gang of opposers, to a vast majority of well-meaning but clueless neutrals who irrespective of their understanding of the issue or absolute lack of it, comment on it passionately.

Trying to explain the nuances of the demand for a ‘Gorkhaland state’ individually is very difficult, which is why it is imperative to explain the finer details of Gorkhaland demand in detail.

I am basing this article on a Q and A format so that everyone reading the article will find it easy to understand the issue in depth.

Everyday Identity Blues:

Curious stranger: Hi! You look a little strange…Where are you from? Nepal?

Me: India

Curious stranger: Let me guess… North East

Me: Darjeeling

Curious stranger: Oh! It’s in Nepal no?

Me: No, it’s in West Bengal

Curious stranger: Nice! So you are a Bong? Do you speak Bengali?

Me: No, I am a Gorkha, and our lingua franca is Nepali.

Curious stranger: Huh! So you immigrated to India?

Me: No, I was born here

Curious stranger: When did your family come to India?

Me: We didn’t immigrate, we came with the land. We are indigenous to the land.

Curious stranger: Like… seriously?

Me: Yeah! Like very very seriously.

On and on, every day we the Gorkhas have to face one set or other of these series of questions. Our children and youth who have to leave home for study and work grow up with this “crisis of identity” where we have to assert and reassert our Indian-ness day in and day out.

In the plainest of terms, the demand for Gorkhaland state is an attempt on the part of people from Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars to do away with this “crisis of identity” that Gorkhas across India have and have had to face and to assert our Indian Identity. So when Jamyang spoke of the people of Ladakh wanting to become Indian for over 70-years, we here in Darjeeling absolutely understood what he meant. He was, in more ways than he knew to narrate our plight.

I hope the following series of Q and A will help many of you understand the demand and its implications.

Is ‘Gorkhaland’ a demand for separation from India?

Foremost, let us all be clear about one thing – the demand for Gorkhaland is not a demand for separation from India. It is a demand for the formation of a separate state within the constitutional and geographical contours of India. Much like how Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Chattisgarh, Telangana were formed, people living in Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars have been demanding the formation of a separate state called Gorkhaland, away from West Bengal.

What areas are being demanded as Gorkhaland?

The aspired Gorkhaland region comprises of the districts of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and parts of Alipurduars and Jalpaiguri.

Is there any historical context to these particular areas being demanded as Gorkhaland?

The History of Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars is distinguished by one peculiar aspect – it has always been in a state of flux. Given its geostrategic location, this region was a hotly contested landmass between Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, and Tibet. For centuries the dominant kingdom among these four took control of this region.

From 1662 until 1777 this region was under the Kingdom of Sikkim; however, in 1777 Nepal Army had defeated the King of Sikkim and established their dominance in this region. In 1816 the British Army defeated the Nepal Army, after which they took over and handed over these lands to the King of Sikkim as a gesture of friendship.

In 1835 the Brits took these lands on lease from the King of Sikkim to establish a sanatorium but ended up establishing their military garrison here. By the year 1866, the British had annexed the present day of Kalimpong and Doors from Bhutan following the defeat of Bhutan in the Anglo-Bhutan war of 1865, they then added this newly annexed area to the existing Darjeeling district – which we today know as Darjeeling Hills, Terai and Dooars.

It is these areas that never shared any history with Bengal, which the people here are demanding to be formed into a state called Gorkhaland.

Who are Gorkhas in the Indian context?

The ‘Gorkhas’ in the Indian context are Indian citizens of Nepali ethnicity, who live across the length and breadth of India. The term ‘Gorkha’ in the Indian context is used to differentiate the Indian citizens of Nepali ethnicity from the citizens of Nepal, who prefer to be called ‘Nepalese.’

Did the Gorkhas immigrate to India?

Majority of the people who identify themselves as ‘Gorkhas’ in India are sons and daughters of the soil, and their forefathers ‘came with the land.’ They did not immigrate to India. However, it is well recognized that there are many immigrants from Nepal, who have also settled in India, post-independence.

What do you mean by ‘came with the land’?

The Nepali kingdom in the 17th and 18th Century was spread all over the Himalayas. In the year 1777, Nepal had appropriated the Kingdoms of Sikkim, Kumaon, Garhwal and Kangra. However, following the Anglo-Nepal war of 1814-1816, Nepal agreed to cede most of the Terai region, the lands of Sikkim, Kumaon, Garhwal and Kangra to the British through the Treaty of Sugauli (Sugauli Sandhi), which was signed on 4 March 1816. After the Anglo-British war of 1865, the British appropriated the lands that are today known as Kalimpong and Dooars. Therefore, all the people of Nepali, Sikkimese, Tibetan and Bhutanese origin who were living in these tracts automatically came under the British and subsequently under India (after the British left), hence the term – ‘came with the land.’

Were there ‘Gorkhas’ in Darjeeling region prior to the British coming to India?

Recorded history shows that the region was inhabited as early as the 9th century. When Guru Padmasambhava had passed through this region in the 9th century, he had established Buddhism in the region – which indicates the presence of people living in the areaway, before the British ever landed in Asia.

In the Indian context, the word ‘Gorkha’ is an umbrella term used to identify a varied group of people, as one unified entity. In terms of Darjeeling communities such as the Róng – Lepchas, the Tsong – Limbus, the Kirat – Rai, the Dukpas, the Bhutias and the Magars are the aboriginal/ethnic/native people of the region, who constitute a large chunk of the ‘Gorkha’ people living in the Darjeeling region. Hence, it can be safely said that the majority of the ‘Gorkhas,’ who belong to these communities and are living in Darjeeling, ethnic to the region.

In addition, other groups of people such as the Gurungs, Thapas, Chettris, Newars, Sunwars, Bahuns, Kamis, Damais, Sarkis, Bhutias, Thamis etc, traversed these lands for trade or settled here following wars. For instance, the establishment of the Kingdom of Sikkim in 1642 brought in a large Bhutia population from Tibet and Bhutan into the region. Similarly, the Nepali incursions starting from as early as the 1700s brought many present-day Nepalis to the region.

While kingdoms changed, the people remained.

Over centuries the people from this region could be broadly categorized as – Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Dukpa, Tsong, Rai, Magar of the hills, and Nepali, Dukpa, Koche (Rajbanshi), Meche, Rabha, and Toto of the plains.

Later Adivasis were brought in from Chota-Nagpur plateau to work in the tea gardens of Dooars, then Bengalis and another mainland Indians gradually came and settled in the region.

Around the 1890s the dominant Nepali-Bhutia-Lepcha groups subsumed the rest of the hill tribes into their fold and a unified identity “NeBuLa” was used to define the hill people. In Darjeeling, this gradually metamorphosed into the term “Gorkha”.

Hence, one can safely concur that the ‘Gorkha’ presence far supersedes the British arrival in the region.

It is important to note that today, the term ‘Gorkha’ is used to indicate people who are from this region – which today includes everyone from Bengali Gorkha, Bihari Gorkha to Marwari Gorkha etc.

When was the demand for Gorkhaland first raised?

The first demand for a separate administrative unit for the Darjeeling-Dooars region (a la Separate State in today’s term) was first raised by the Hillmen’s Association in 1907, making the demand for a separate state constituting the Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars region the oldest demand for statehood in India.

Why did the British not entertain this demand?

The only reason as to why such a demand was not entertained by the then British Government is because the Darjeeling and Dooars region was a highly contested geographical region which they had taken on lease from Sikkim and Bhutan. The British had declared our region to be a “non-regulated area”, which meant that the rules and laws developed for the rest of India would not be automatically applied to the region.

What historical claims does West Bengal have over the Darjeeling-Dooars region?

Ironically None! There is no shared history between the Darjeeling-Dooars region and the rest of West Bengal.

Historically, the district of Darjeeling never formed a part of Bengal and no King who ruled the plains of Bengal ever had any suzerainty over those areas. Ethnologically, the Mongoloid and semi-Mongoloid races inhabiting the Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars have more affinity with the Hill tribes of Assam than with the people in the plains of Bengal. Geographically the district of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar are completely cut off and distinctly different from the rest of West Bengal. Linguistically, the people residing in this region have a greater affinity with Hindi, the Lingua Franca of India, than with the state language Bengali

Why is Darjeeling a part of West Bengal?

Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars were forcefully included into West Bengal without any consultation with the local populace using two flimsy acts enacted by WB Legislative Assembly:

The Requisitioned Land (Apportionment of Compensation) Act, 1949 (51 of 1949). Darjeeling District – transformed to the Absorbed Areas(Laws) Act, 1954.

The West Bengal Raw Jute Futures Act, 1948 (West Bengal Act No. 25 of 1948)

Why are people in Darjeeling demanding Gorkhaland?

The demand for a separate administrative unit (a separate state in today’s term) for the Darjeeling region had started as early as 1907. However, the influx of Bangladeshi refugees starting in 1965 and later state-sponsored illegal immigrants from Bangladesh post-1971 for vote bank by subsequent West Bengal governments led to the marginalization of the ethnic Gorkha, Kamtapuri and the Adivasi communities of the region. The demand for Gorkhaland is a demand to protect the identity, culture, history, traditions and the rich bond of people from the Darjeeling region, which they share with their land.

Furthermore, the Gorkhas from the Darjeeling region have continued to be labelled by the fascist and state-sponsored Bengali organizations such as Bangla O Bangla Bhasa Bachao Samity, Amra Bangali, Jan Jagaran Morcha, Jan Chetna Morcha as illegal immigrants and the demand for Gorkhaland illegal. They have rendered the ethnic Gorkha people as an intruder in his/her own ancestral lands. This has caused widespread socio-economic and political marginalization of the Gorkhas. All these factors have resulted in the Gorkhas being under-represented, stereotyped and communally discriminated in almost all sectors.

Moreover, Bengal has always been colonial in its approach to this region. The large revenues collected from the Darjeeling region have been used to develop other parts of Bengal while neglecting even the basic infrastructure in the region.

Case in point: Since the year 2002, over 3000 malnutrition-related death (death due to starvation) have been reported from the tea gardens of this region and yet the West Bengal government has not taken any steps to alleviate the sufferings of the people in the region. Instead, they have continued to deny the tea garden workers minimum wages.

Is the proposed Gorkhaland region economically viable?

The proposed Gorkhaland region is rich in bio-diversity, scenic views, hydro potentials, tourism, NTFP, Tea and numerous other resources, making this a resource-abundant region.

Currently, the aspired Gorkhaland region contributes to the least 20-23% of the total revenue collected in West Bengal. Even the most conservative estimates put the revenue potential from tea, tourism and hydro from the proposed Gorkhaland area at over 20,000 Crores per annum. In return, West Bengal only spends around Rs 5000 crores in the region annually (including salary paid to Govt officials). Thus, draining off a large portion of the revenue collected from the region.

It is estimated that the revenues from Tea and Tourism alone will make the proposed Gorkhaland region a revenue surplus state.

The revenues collected from hydro development, NTFP, cross-border trades and other resources will make the proposed state of Gorkhaland as one of the most economically vibrant states in India.

What is Chicken Neck region and how will Gorkhaland impact the National Security or our nation?

Darjeeling district is home to the proverbial “chicken neck” region, a roughly 200-km stretch which borders four nations — Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Tibet — in distances varying from 25 kms to 60 kms. It has seen a large-scale influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh, which started as a trickle in 1965 and turned into a gushing torrent post the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war, that lead to the creation of Bangladesh.

The ‘Siliguri Corridor’ has today become one of the most porous border regions in the world, and Pakistan’s ISI has used this to operate its agents freely. In fact, in 2002, the writer Pinaki Bhattacharya had highlighted how the ISI was using the ‘Siliguri Corridor’ as a supply route to provide arms and ammunition via Bangladesh to insurgents in the North East. Following investigations into the Burdwan bomb blast, in May 2015, the National Investigating Agency released a report that explained how Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) had networks in West Bengal and lower districts of Assam, and that JMB had been using West Bengal as a safe sanctuary.

Given all this, if there is one state in India which is actually a safe haven for terrorists, it is West Bengal, and if the state government was capable of addressing national security concerns, it would have done so a long time ago. The presence of ISI modules and terrorists of the various ilk in Bengal actually prove that the state government in Bengal isn’t able to protect the vulnerable “chicken neck” area.

One possible reason for this could be that the state capital and its power centre, Kolkata, is located too far away from the region, because of which the state administration isn’t able to focus much on the north Bengal districts.

A state of Gorkhaland, including the hills of Darjeeling, Terai and Dooars, would, therefore, help ensure better safety and security for the “chicken neck” area. Smaller states are also easier to govern and the presence of the entire state machinery being in one region would help keep close tabs on infiltrators, unlike what is possible out of Kolkata.

Why is West Bengal opposed to the formation of Gorkhaland?

The state of West Bengal is one of the most economically backward states in India. Even though it is the 5th largest in terms of its size, but due to the high debt burden of over Rs. 4.35 lakh Crores, West Bengal is practically bankrupt and is highly dependent on the Central Government and the revenues generated from the proposed Gorkhaland region for its sustenance and economic survival.

So despite all the rhetoric stating, “Darjeeling is Bengal’s Abhinno Aanga,” Bengal is scared of losing its hen, which is currently laying the golden eggs. It is scared of losing the cash cow that has continued to discount the development of Bengal’s other regions over and over since independence.

Further, Bengal has always held a parochial, colonial and discriminatory attitude towards the proposed Gorkhaland region and continues to do so. Every time the Gorkhas have demanded justice or our rights, we are labelled as intruder, terrorists, and foreigners in our own land.

Hence the urgent need for Gorkhaland state to be formed.

We are hopeful that someday soon, our Member of Parliament from Darjeeling will also be able to speak with the same passion and emotion that Jamyang Tsering Namgyal did and tell the nation how the formation of Gorkhaland state or Union Territory will benefit mother India.

** This article was written by Mr Upendra Mani Pradhan, a Darjeeling-based Political Analyst [Twitter: @jorebungley] and co-authored by Dr Vimal Khawas, an Associate Professor in the Dept of Peace and Conflict Studies, Sikkim University [Twitter: @vimalkhawas]

[ Via: https://www.opindia.com/2019/08/gorkhaland-a-demand-whose-time-has-come-demand-of-the-sons-of-the-soil-and-the-myths-that-tarnish-the-movement/ ]

No matter who loses, we, the Gorkhas, have already won

8:05 AM
Writes: Upendra

In the 2019 elections, Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat is being viewed by almost everyone interested in politics as a litmus test to adjudge if the Gorkha aspirations of having a state of our own will prevail, or if the iron will of TMC chief Mamata Banerjee to obliterate the demand forever will deal a crushing blow to the same.

In the muddled regional political atmosphere, which has gone topsy-turvy post the 2017 Gorkhaland agitation, it would take a political analyst of superhuman powers to predict who will win the seat. While the BJP sounds hopeful of retaining the seat, TMC is confident they will wrestle the seat away from the BJP, which has held the seat for 10-long-years, and has nothing to show for it. Chequering the political equation further is the lack of a strong regional political party that could decisively swing the elections one way or the other.

Currently, for me though, no matter which candidate loses, the Gorkhas have already won, and here’s why.

2017: The game changer

Not many may be aware that till date, Nepali – a language, which is one of the recognised national languages of India, and is included under the 8th Schedule of our Constitution, is not included as an optional paper in the West Bengal Civil Services (WBCS). While one can choose Nepali as an optional paper in the IAS exams, its non-inclusion was highlighted repeatedly in West Bengal Legislative Assembly, yet the powers that be have continued their defiant stand against Nepali language inclusion in WBCS.
These are copies of the same textbook -- same class, same subject. While the copy on the left, for Nepali medium schools, is printed in black and white, the right is for Bengali medium schools, printed in colour
File image

Instances of textbooks published by the West Bengal Secondary School Board discriminating against Nepali language have been reported in local media over the years. The most blatant of all being a Nepali medium book being printed in black and white, whereas books in other languages were printed in colour. After the failure of Gorkhaland agitation in 2013, the Trinamool Congress government had increasingly shown their disdain towards Nepali language, and there was a growing resentment against the same.

On May 15, 2017, West Bengal education minister Partha Chatterjee made an announcement that “the government [of WB] will introduce three-language policy, the students will have to take Bengali compulsory as one of the three languages”.

This same fact was reiterated by Mamata herself in a Facebook post dated May 16.

The Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars, which have a very cosmopolitan mixture of Gorkhas – Nepali, Lepcha, Bhutia – Adivasis, Rajbonshis, Rabha, Toto, Mech, Bengali, Bihari, Marwari, Punjabi and almost every other major ethnic groups from various parts of India erupted in protests. Leading the protests were the Gorkhas whose lingua franca is Nepali.

Gorkhaland agitation: A quick recall

Protests against attempt at linguistic imperialism on the part of TMC government quickly snowballed into a full-fledged demand for separate state of Gorkhaland. Even quicker was the response of the state machinery, which violently crushed the movement. The Gorkhas, who were demanding the formation of a Gorkhaland state within the geographic, political and constitutional contours of India, were labelled as separatists and terrorists. The administration even said those demanding Gorkhaland have linkages to militants in Northeast and Maoists in Nepal, they didn’t bother mentioning which faction, though.
Darjeeling residents take part in a protest against, what they call, linguistic imperialism

Towards the end of September 2017, the Gorkhaland statehood movement had died a natural death, with movement leaders choosing to go underground.

Ready at hand were second-rung leaders, who quickly stepped in to fill the void, not in leading the agitation for Gorkhaland statehood, but in handling the local Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) on behalf of the West Bengal government.

Since then, there have been attempts at completely subverting any and all forms of expressing of the Gorkha identity issue in the region.

As all of this was unfolding BJP and its entire leadership, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi preferred to keep a safe distance from the entire issue, and didn’t even utter a single word of sympathy, solidarity, support or outrage. It was almost like, for BJP, the perils facing Gorkhas was an unpleasant distraction, they could very well do without.

The Congress and CPI (M), the other two main political parties in the region, did make some noise about everyone coming to the table and indulging in a dialogue to resolve the impasse, both were functionally indifferent towards the plight and sufferings of the Gorkhas.

Time and tide

But the Gorkhas are a hardy bunch, and we endured all the hardships, with a smile on our lips and hope in our hearts.

Today, as the election comes knocking at the door, lo and behold, the Gorkhas are a priority for all the political parties. Every major political party is trying their best to reconnect with the Gorkhas, whom they had, for all intent and purpose, forsaken and left for dead only a year ago.

Today, three among the four major political parties have nominated a Nepali speaking individual as their candidate for the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat. BJP has nominated Raju Bista, CPI (M) has nominated Saman Pathak, and Trinamool Congress has nominated Amar Singh Rai. Congress has nominated Sankar Malakar, who by the virtue of being a bhoomiputra from Darjeeling Lok Sabha constituency is fluent in Nepali. In fact on his very day after being given the Congress ticket, he headed to Kurseong and interacted with the locals, reminding them of TMC atrocities and BJP betrayals in the language majority of the people in the region speak – Nepali.

Raju Bista is a political novice, but what swung BJP ticket in his favour was his Indian Gorkha heritage. The BJP is hoping that his ‘Gorkhaness’ will rub off against the unpopular anti-Gorkha stand of TMC during the Gorkhaland agitation in the region and help their candidate to shine. Their secret weapon, his mother tongue, is the same that of the shared lingua franca of our region – Nepali.

Saman Pathak comes with years of experience in politics; in fact, he is one of the most experienced candidates around. His father, Anand Pathak, too, has represented Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat in Parliament, and he was himself a member of Rajya Sabha previously. His mother tongue, too, is Nepali.

As for Trinamool Congress, which wanted to impose Bengali across West Bengal, they didn’t move even a single paper in that regard after the protests against their attempted linguistic imperialism broke out in Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars. What is almost ironic is that TMC that brutally crushed down the demand for a land of our own is desperately trying to project their candidate Amar Singh Rai as a son-of-the soil Bhoomiputra. The very same TMC that had labelled Gorkhas as being separatists and terrorists, is today talking about protecting the IDENTITY of the Gorkhas.

The Gorkhas have endured, now it’s time to thrive

From my count, we, the Gorkhas, have endured all that the time, government, system and bureaucracy had thrown our way, and survived. We are still Gorkhas – unchanged, and our indomitable spirit remains unconquered. Every political party that had sought to crush us, that had been indifferent towards our plight, that had been apathetic to our distress, that had been unconcerned towards our misery and suffering are today pandering to us.

For me, this is a win

We, the Gorkhas, have survived, and no matter who loses the upcoming elections or wins, we shall thrive.

(Upendra M Pradhan is a Darjeeling-based political analyst and editor-at-large at The Darjeeling Chronicle. He can be reached at pradhanum@gmail.com)

Source - https://www.eastmojo.com/opinion/2019/04/09/no-matter-who-loses-we-the-gorkhas-have-already-won

ELECTION 2019: NRC, the latest talking point

3:11 PM
Writes NN Ojha

BJP chief Amit Shah’s declaration in Alipurduar on 29 March that NRC will be implemented in West Bengal if BJP came to power has  ignited a debate about how NRC might impact people in Darjeeling hills. The debate has further intensified after Prime Minister Modi repeated his party chief’s statement during his public address in Jalpaiguri on 3 April. While doing so PM assured that the exercise will not harm the Gorkhas in any way. He however avoided saying if it would bring any benefits to the Gorkha. As expected TMC chief Mamta Banerjee took no time in countering the BJP leadership’s statements adding that NRC is a political ploy of BJP to cause dissensions in society and coupled with the Citizens Amendment Bill (CAB) 2016 the scheme makes their communal agenda clear.

In an polarised political atmosphere combined with soon to be held elections debates often tend to be reduced to canvassing and propaganda  for or against the parties in the fray.  The debate on NRC sparked off by Amit Shah and Narendra Modi is no exception.

Preparation, establishment and maintenance of a ‘National Register of Indian Citizens’ (NRC) is provided for in The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issuing of National Identity Cards) Rules originally framed in 1956 as last amended in July 2003. Rule 3(1) of these rules mandates the Registrar General of Citizens Registration ‘to establish and maintain NRC for the whole of India’, not selectively for any particular state or UT

Two questions arise; one, if NRC is mandated for the whole of India why do Amit Shah or Narenfra Modi single out West Bengal for its introduction repeatedly and second, Is the NRC capable of yielding results as per its stated objectives. For examining both these questions we will have to look to the ongoing exercise on NRC in Assam.

In spite of applicability of NRC all over the country Assam is the only state to have had it introduced way back in 1951. The reasons for this exception are in Assam’s  peculiar historical background. The state has had problem of immigrants ever since it was ceded to the  British colonial rulers by the Burmese rulers in 1826.  Alarm bells were rung for the first time in 1931 when CS Mullen Superintendent of Census reported about ‘invasion by hordes of land-hungry immigrants on Assam in the last 25 years that could destroy the whole structure of Assamese culture and civilisation’. The problem  persisted even after independence with an added dimension of national security after the partition of India. As a result an Assam specific legislation, Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act 1950 was passed by the Parliament and Assam became the very first state of India to have an NRC in 1951 for identification and expulsion of illegal immigrants as per the Act.

The exception made in case of Assam because of compulsions of history and law does not take away the fundamental point that as per existing law NRC’s applicability is for the whole of India and singling out west Bengal in particular on election eve is legally and politically improper. We will examine possible reasons for this intimidatory singling out of West Bengal little later. First let us see what has been our experience of Assam NRC in terms of results achieved.

The main objective of  NRC was to identify illegal immigrants  and expel them. Barely ten years after the first NRC the 1961 census found number of illegal immigrants in Assam  to be nearly 2.25 lakhs. In a white paper issued by the Home department of Assam the estimate shot up to five lakhs. In the draft NRC published under the ongoing updation currently underway nearly four millions claimants to citizenship have been excluded for want of certainty about their citizenship status. It is obvious NRC has not contained the influx of illegal migrants in the State even after six decades of its introduction in 1951.

Let us look at the other objective of expulsion of illegal migrants after they are identified as such following the NRC. In  February this year during the  hearing of current status of Assam NRC updation government of India submitted before the apex court that out of 52000 individuals identified as foreigners by the Tribunal set up under Foreigners Act of 1946 only 162 were deported. This is an irrefutable proof of the failure of NRC in curbing infiltration or expelling infiltrators. Interestingly it was also submitted by the government before the court that 27000 individuals attempting to cross over from the border into Assam were pushed back by our security forces. Quite obviously a vigorous security setup to guard the borders against infiltration is more effective than an elaborate and time and resource consuming exercise of NRC that till now has hardly resulted in anything but discord and disaffection in society and harassment and humiliation of our own citizens.

These being the results why the idea of NRC is being marketed so aggressively by BJP for Bengal? Obviously the motive appears political. When you see NRC in conjunction with BJP’s another brainchild the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) 2016 the motive becomes crystal clear. CAB divides illegal immigrants into infiltrators liable to be expelled and refugees likely to be granted citizenship depending upon the faith they practise. Thus by combining the two BJP may expect to neutralise anti BJP vote of those liable to be expelled and  consolidate its hold on those likely to be granted citizenship. People in Assam and other North Eastern states see CAB as a counter measure to nullify the objectives of NRC and have risen in protest against what they term  BJP’s   duplicity.

How will NRC if introduced in Bengal impact people in Darjeeling region? We have PM  Modi simply saying this won’t harm the Gorkhas but choosing not to say that it would benefit them. Then we have Raju Bista saying NRC will benefit the Gorkha by making them more secure in their land without explaining how exactly. At the cutting edge level we have  BJP supporters canvassing relentlessly that if NRC comes ‘90% of the Bengali speaking people in terai and duars will be pushed back to Bangladesh’. I am not aware how they are sure of their figures or the end result. However they seem unaware of the perilous procedure fraught with long spells of harassment, humiliation and uncertainty for the common man irrespective of who is pushed back to another country and who is entitled to remain in the end. They are also unaware that if CAB comes - and it is sure to come if NRC comes, both being dependent on BJP’s return to power - then many among those our friends are expecting to be pushed back to Bangladesh may end up getting citizenship due to the faith they practise. Obviously the painstaking propaganda by some of our youngsters is either a command performance or due to ignorance about the procedure involved. My advise to them is to go through the Citizenship (Registration of citizens and issuing of National Identity cards) Rules of 1956 and their 22 amendments, the last one being of 7 July 2003 and be unbiased in their views.

It is true that no Gorkha can be liable for expulsion from India irrespective of whether or not there is NRC in Bengal. Even those who may be deemed to be citizens of Nepal and not India can remain under the Indo-Nepal treaty of 1950. To that extent the PM is right that NRC will not harm the Gorkhas but there is no additional benefit that it brings to the table for Gorkhas which the Gorkhas don’t have already. When you think of this status quo with or without NRC and take into account the harassment, humiliation, uncertainty and the enormous resources needed for the exercise it may appear to be futile and even counter productive. In Assam where just an updation exercise for an existing NRC is going on nearly 40000 workers (30000 regular government  employees and 10000 contract workers) are engaged in the task. Twenty different types of customised computer soft wares have been developed mostly through private sector at huge cost and over 2500 data digitisation hubs established for the purpose. Diversion of such huge resources for an exercise at the end of which you are getting ready with another law to grant citizenship to many who may be found to be illegal immigrants or if you are able to deport only 162 illegals out of 52000 identified definitely needs to be given a fresh look. If your motives are purely political for which you couldn’t care less for the resources or  the harassment common people are subjected to during the exercise then it is a different story.

I am not for a moment arguing that we need not have NRC and let India be a caravan serai for immigrants. What I am saying is do not use NRC as an electoral gimmick and if you have NRC at huge cost to the nation do not neutralise its gains by a counter statute like the CAB. My argument is also to see if the objectives of NRC could be fulfilled by having a robust border guarding system instead of the cumbersome and frightfully expensive procedures involved in NRC that also become unduly bothersome for the common man. My appeal to every one is not to mix up a legal issue that also has bearing on national security with petty politics and unfounded or exaggerated claims about its gains or pitfalls.

Via The DT

Darjeeling Lok Sabha Election 2019 and the Gorkhas

9:10 AM
TMC
Darjeeling Parliamentary Constituency Election 2019 and the Gorkhas: Some Observations

Writes: Dr Vimal Khawas

The Gorkhas of Darjeeling Hills, as initially decided, could not arrive at a common consensus candidate. Therefore, a total of sixteen (16) potential and aspiring candidates affiliated to various political parties as well as those desiring to contest as independent candidates have filed their nominations for the position of the Member of Parliament from Darjeeling Lok Sabha Constituency in the upcoming General Elections, 2019. Darjeeling Constituency is, perhaps, one of the most fiercely contested constituencies in the country today.


If we closely examine the current electoral landscape in the region, the pattern broadly looks as follows:

Clearly, chances of an independent candidate to emerge victoriously are slim to none, both because of their past political baggage and also due to the lack of their ability to create an adequate platform for grassroots mobilizations. Further, lesser political parties like, CPIM, BSP, IDRF, GRC and even national parties like INC may also not be able to wield much impact in the ensuing election due to both local and regional political dynamics.

Consequently, there are primarily two probable political scenarios to choose from before us for this election. Leaving aside political contenders highlighted above, the real fight is only between TMC (supported by GJMM2) and BJP (supported by GJMM1 and GNLF).

Scenario #1:

If we vote for TMC and make them victorious, there is a very high degree of probability that Mamata Banerjee would gradually grab the entire region under her fold. This election is just a gateway for Mamata and her party TMC to bigger political shares in the region via MLA and GTA elections, subsequently. The steady increase of TMC domination in the hills also means steady uprooting and waning of Gorkha identity and Gorkha political aspirations. They are inversely related to each other.

Under such a situation, in a decade or two, the entire notion of Gorkha and Gorkhaland may have been rendered irrelevant! We may be only referred to as a Thapa, a Chettri, a Bhujel, a Damai, a Rai, a Kami, a Sherpa, a Limbu, a Lepcha, a Bahun, a Dukpa, a Sarki, a Newar or Nepalis and many times immigrant Nepalis. We would, most probably, cease to be the Gorkhas. No one would have the guts to utter ‘Jai Gorkha’. We all may collectively and/or forcefully be made to chant ‘Jai Bangla’.

She is already on her way up the hills with a number of detrimental political cards. Her Development Board approach is one of the ways forward in this regard. She would never go for such appeasement politics had she loved the region and its people, to the extent of dividing the Gorkhas into ethnic lines. More importantly, TMC’s unscientific and draconic handling of the 2013 and 2017 Gorkhaland agitation/uprising is yet another critical example of how it perceives the Gorkhas and their long pending aspirations in the region.

Scenario #2:

If we vote for BJP and render them victorious, nothing may happen. The last 10 years were rather fruitless and going by that trend, the next five years may not bear fruit, either.BJP may be busy spreading its political and strategic tentacles across geographical spaces of the country with its Hindutva card. It may keep on struggling to take control of Bengal but without any notable results. BJP would not give us Gorkhaland! They have their state government in Assam. Has Bodoland been able to see the light of the day?

This MP would, in all likelihood remain a mere puppet within the larger framework and schemes of Bharatiya Janata Party!

However, the Gorkhas will have the freedom to shout ‘Jai Gorkha’ and ‘We want Gorkhaland’ under BJP unlike under TMC which is fundamentally and ideologically against the idea of Gorkha and Gorkhaland! And yes Gorkhas would, at least, have the hope to have their own separate state called ‘Gorkhaland’ or to be known by any other name someday.

Sapana nai bhaye pani haami dekhneh chau ra dekhi rahaneh chau

The choice is ours, to opt for scenario #1 or #2. No one shall force us.

Concluding Note:

The unscientific, unorganized and premature conclusion of 2017 Gorkha uprising has deeply lowered the self-respect and dignity of the entire Gorkha community. It may be difficult to reinstate our old glory in the foreseeable future unless we unite and stay united. For the first time, I feel insecure to wear a T-shirt that reads ‘I support Gorkhaland’ even in Kalimpong, not to talk of Siliguri.

For me ‘Entry of TMC into Darjeeling Politics is beginning of the end of Gorkha Political Aspirations’

[Originally posted on : https://thedarjeelingchronicle.com/darjeeling-parliamentary-constituency-election-2019-and-the-gorkhas-some-observations/]

गाेर्खाल्याण्ड : भुसभित्रकाे अागाे

10:13 PM
हालै एउटा समसामयिक पत्रिकामा प्रकाशित एउटा लेख।

                             
   ।। गाेर्खाल्याण्ड : भुसभित्रकाे अागाे ।।
                                                                                                     ✍ पुरण छेत्री

बर्ष २०१७, दार्जिलिङबासीहरूले कहिल्यै भुल्न नसकिने बर्ष भएर गए। करिब एक चाैथाई बर्ष दार्जिलिङले हडतालमै बिताए। कतिले यी सबै घटनाहरू भुले तर बिनय - अनितलाई भने याे अान्दाेलन ढकमक्क फूले।

अलिकति पृष्ठभूमि :

१६ मई २०१७ मा बंगालका शिक्षा मन्त्री पार्थ च्याटर्जीले राज्यभरिनै कक्षा १ देखि १० सम्म बंगाली भाषा अनिवार्य भएकाे घाेषणा गरे। बर्षाै देखि अाफ्नाे जातिय सुरक्षाकाे प्रश्न लिएर अाफ्नाे छुट्टै राज्य हुनु पर्छ भन्ने भावना पालेर बसेका गाेर्खाहरूकाे मुटुमा याे घाेषणा काँडा भएर बिझे। १९८६ मा सुबास घिसिङकाे अान्दाेलनकालमा जन्मिएका बालक ३० बर्षकाे लक्का बेकारी जवान बनिसकेकाे अवस्थामा याे निर्णय बिकशित जातिले हामीमाथी जबर्जस्ती थाेपिएकाे निर्णय महशुस गरे। चारैतिरबाट यसकाे बिराेध हुन शुरू भयाे।

जुन ५, २०१७ मा बंगालका मुख्यमन्त्री ममता ब्यानर्जी पहाड भ्रमनमा अाईन्। उनकाे भ्रमण अवधि मिरिक सौरेनीमा कालो झण्डा देखाउने वीर अान्दोलनकारी नाेलडाँडाका पूर्ण सिंह राईलाई अाधा घण्टा भित्रै पक्राउ गरिएकाे थियाे। यसरी शुरू भयाे २०१७ काे भाषा अतिक्रमण बिरूद्ध अान्दाेलन। पूर्ण सिंह राईनै २०१७ काे अान्दाेलनमा पक्रा पर्ने पहिलाे अान्दाेलनकारी हुन्। भारत जस्ताे विशाल गणतन्त्रमा अाफुलाई मन नपरेकाे कुराेकाे शान्तिपूर्ण ढंगमा बिराेध गर्न सकिन्छ। अन्य राज्यहरूमा भने थप्पड हान्ने, जुत्ता-चप्पलकाे झटाराे हान्ने, कलमकाे मसी छर्कने जस्ता घट्नाहरू भएका छन्। तर बंगालमा शासकदलकाे बिराेध गर्नुलाई राष्ट्रद्राेहनै मानिन्छन्। यसले बंगालकाे राजनैतिक संस्कार कतातिर लम्किरहेकाे छ भनेर अनुमान लगाउँन सकिन्छ।

अान्दाेलनका केही घटनाहरू:

जुन् ८,२०१७ मा पूर्व घाेषणा अनुरूप दार्जिलिङमा राज्यका मन्त्री परिषदकाे "क्याबिनेट स्तरीय" बैठक राज भवनमा चलिरहेकाे थियाे। गाेजमुमाेले साेही क्याबिनेटमा गाेर्खा बाहुल क्षेत्रहरूमा बंगाली भाषा "अनिवार्य" नरहने प्रस्तावना पास गराउँन दबाव दिईरहेकाे थियाे। क्याबिनेटमा साे बिषयकाे चर्चा नभए पनि मुख्यमन्त्री ममता ब्यानर्जीले सभा पश्चात, "पहाडमा बंगाली भाषा एच्छिक बिषय मात्र रहने" घाेषणा गरिन्। असन्तुष्ट प्रदर्शनकारीहरू र पुलिसमाझ भएकाे झडपले निकै ठुलाे रूप लिने छाँट देखे पछि सेना उतार्न परेकाे थियाे। पश्चिम बंगाल सरकारले साेहि दिन देखि, जी०ट०ए० चेयरम्यान बिमल गुरूङकाे सुरक्षा गार्ड फिर्ता लगे।

युवा माेर्चाकाे १२ घण्टा पहाड बन्दकाे घाेषणा, मुख्यमन्त्री ममता ब्यानर्जीकाे सिलगडी प्रस्थान र केही अागजनी घटनाहरू बिच, १३ जुनकाे दिन पहाडकाे राजनैतिक दलहरूकाे सभाले अब उसाे पुनः अलग राज्य गाेर्खाल्याण्डकाे माग अघि बडाउँने प्रस्ताव पारित गरे। जीटीए संग असन्तुष्ट रहेका गाेजमुमाे प्रमुख बिमल गुरूङले "गाेर्खाल्याण्ड" मुद्दा यथावत राख्दै चुक्ती गरेकाले उक्त मागलाई फेरि अघि बढाउँन सकिने प्रशस्त ठाउँ थियाे। पहाडमा सबै भन्दा बलियाे र व्यापक जन समर्थन रहेकाे दल गाेजमुमाे रहेकाेले राज्य सरकारलाई अलग राज्यकाे अान्दाेलन तेज गराउँन सक्ने भय पनि गाेजमुमाेसंग नै थियाे।

२०१७ काे जुन १५ मा अचानक पुलिसले गाेजमुमाे कार्यलय र अध्यक्ष बिमल गुरूङकाे घरमा छापा मारे पछि, बिनय तामाङले "अनिश्चितकालीन बन्दकाे" घाेषणा गरे।

१७ जुनमा जनअान्दाेलन र गाेर्खाल्याण्डकाे अान्दाेलन  शहिदहरूकाे रगतले रंगिए।
      - सहिद सुनिल राई, कैंजले
      - सहिद बिमल शासांकर, गाेक
      - सहिद महेश गुरूङ, रेलिङ

१८ जुनबाट सरकारले पहाडमा ईन्टरनेट बन्द गरिदिए। यसले अान्दाेलनकारीमाझ खवरकाे अादान प्रदानमा बाधा अायाे।

२० जुनकाे सर्वदलीय बैठक पछि, जीटीएका ४५ जना सभासदकाे राजिनामा, जीटीए खारेज अादीकाे प्रस्तावना हुुँदै अनिश्चितकालीन बन्द बिस्तारै १३ दिनमा प्रवेश गरे। गाेजमुमाेकाे प्रभावकारी कार्यक्रम र बंगाल सरकारलाई चाप दिने नीति अनुरूप तत्कालीन गाेजमुमाे  २७ जुनमा सह सचिव बिनय तामाङकाे अगुवाईमा २०११ मा गरिएकाे जीटीएकाे चुक्ती पत्र जलाईयाे।

जुलाई महिना भरि घरि केन्द्लाई रिझाउँने, घरि गाली गर्ने त कहिले राम्राे खवर अाउँने हल्लाहरू बिचदैनिक धर्ना र जुलुसहरू जारी रहे।

७ जुलाई जनअान्दाेलन र गाेर्खाल्याण्डकाे अान्दाेलन  पुन: शहिदकाे रगतले रंगिए।
      - सहिद टाँसी भाेटीया, साेनादा

८ जुलाईमा जनअान्दाेलन र गाेर्खाल्याण्डकाे अान्दाेलन  फेरि शहिदहरूकाे रगतले रंगिए।
      - सहिद सुरज भुसाल, तुङसुङ
      - सहिद समीर गुरूङ, सिंहमारी
      - सहिद अशाेक तामाङ, लुईस जुबली

१७ जुलाईमा जनअान्दाेलन र गाेर्खाल्याण्डकाे अान्दाेलन  अझ शहिदहकाे रगतले रंगिए।
      - सहिद अाशिष तामाङ, मगरजुङ

अगस्त १३ मा केन्द्रीय गृहमन्त्रीले डाकेकाे बैठकमा बिमल गुरूङ अनुपस्थित रहे। केन्द्रले डाकेकाे बैठकमा बिमल गुरूङले उपस्थिति नदिएर एउटा ठुलाे भुल गरि पठाए। भाजपाकाे घटक दलकाे रूपमा बिमल गुरूङलाई बैठकमा बाेलाईए पनि, GMCC ले नै अगुवा गर्न खाेजेकाे याे बैठकमा केन्द्रीय गृहमन्त्रीले त्यति चासाे देखाएनन् र साेझै राज्यकाे मुख्यमन्त्री ममता ब्यानर्जी संग कुरा गर्ने सुझाव दिए।

त्यसैलाई अाधार मानेर २४ अगस्तमा गाेरामुमाेकाे पक्षबाट वार्ताकाे निम्ति निरज जिम्बाले मुख्यमन्त्री ममता ब्यानर्जीलाई पत्राचार गरे।

२९ अगस्तकाे नवान्नकाे सर्वदलिय बैठक पछि, बिनय तामाङले १२ दिन अर्थात अघिल्लाे सभा सम्मकाे निम्ति बन्द स्थगित गर्ने सुझाव दिए।

३१ अगस्तमा पुनः एक सहिद
      - सहिद श्यामाला / प्रमिला राई, युथ हाेस्टेल

१ सितम्बरमा राेशन गिरीले, बन्द उठाउँनु जनअावाज बिरूद्ध रहेकाे ठहर गर्दै बिनय-अनित दुवैलाई दलबाट निकालिएकाे घाेषणा गरे। साेहिदिन सिक्किमकाे भुमीमै पसेर अर्का अान्दाेलनकारीलाई बंगाल पुलिसले सिकार गर।
      - सहिद दावा भाेटीया, पेदाेङ

१२ सितम्बरमा नवान्नमा हुने बैठकमा राज्यद्वारा बिनय-अनितलाईनै मान्यतादिने घाेषणा।

२० सितम्बरमा पश्चिम बंगालका मुख्यमन्त्री ममता ब्यानर्जीद्वारा बिनय तामाङलाई GTA काे BOA नियुक्त। बाेर्डमा अनित थापा, सन्चबिर सुब्बा, मन घिसिङ, मले दे (मुख्य सचिव), अमर सिंह राई (बिधायक), अनु छेत्री, ज्याेतिन खातुन अनि एल० बी० राई रहेकाे घाेषणा।

२२ सितम्बरमा केन्द्रीय वार्ता टाेलीका सदश्यहरू के० डी० प्रधान, पी० टी० अाेला अनि त्रिलाेक चन्द्र राेका गुडगाँव बाट पक्राउ गरियाे।

२६ सितम्बरमा केन्द्रीय गृहमन्त्री राजनाथ सिंह द्वारा गाेर्खाल्याण्ड मुद्दा माथी सचिव स्तरिय वार्ता राख्ने निर्देश दिदै, गाेजमुमाेलाई अनिश्चितकालीन बन्द उठाउँने अपिल। केन्द्रीय गृहमन्त्रीको वार्ताकाे पहल र अपिललाई सम्मान जनउँदै बिमल गुरूङद्वारा बन्द खाेलिएकाे घाेषणा।

२५ अक्टोबरमा पुलिस हिरासतमै रहेका र उपचाराधिन गाेर्खाल्याण्डकाे अर्का वीर सिपाही सहिद। सम्पुर्ण पहाड शाेकाकुल।
      - सहिद बरूण भुजेल, पार्षद, कालेबुङ नगरपालिका ।

बंगला गितमा मनाएकाे भानु जयन्ती, जात-जातकाे बाेर्ड गठन, जिल्ला बिभाजन र बंगला भाषाकाे अनिवार्यताले सबै गाेर्खा सन्तानले जातिय असुरक्षा महशुस गरिरहेका थिए। विश्व भरि छरिएर बसेका गाेर्खाहरूले अान्दाेलनलाई समर्थन जनाई रहेका थिए।

बारम्बार पहाड शान्त छ भन्ने मुख्यमन्त्री ममता ब्यानर्जीकाे अालाेचनामा बिपक्षीहरू हात धाेएर लाग्न थाले। अाफ्नाे कार्यकालमा बंगालबाट अलग राज्य गाेर्खाल्याण्ड हुनुभनेकाे उनलाई बंगालकै ईतिहासले भाेली धिक्कार्नु हाे। बिपक्षीहरू यसै मुद्दालाई लिएर उनलाई सत्ताच्युत गराउँने ताकमा थिए। यस्ताेमा उनले जसरी भए पनि याे अान्दाेलन साम्य पार्नु थियाे। उनले लिएकाे कुनै पनि निर्णय बेसक बंगालकै हितमा हुनु पर्ने थियाे। उनले त्यसै गरिन् र बंगालकाे मुख्यमन्त्री हुनुकाे धर्म निभाईन्।

यता अान्दाेलनकारीहरू भने दिल्लीतिर हेर्दै कराई रहेका थिए। बंगाल सरकार संग वार्ता नगर्ने बिमल गुरूङकाे अडान स्पष्ट थियाे। यता अान्दाेलनकाे रूप दैनिक उग्र हुँदै गएपछि बंगाल सरकार अात्तिएकै अवस्थामा दिल्लीलाई गुहार मागे। केन्द्रीय  गृहमन्त्री राजनाथ सिंह र मुख्यमन्त्री ममता ब्यानर्जी बिचकाे वार्ताले केन्द्रीय पुलिस बल दिएर बंगाललाई सहयाेग दिने वचन दिए। केन्द्रीय पुलिसबल अाए पछि अान्दाेलनकारीहरू शीत बंगाल सरकारकाे ब्यवहारनै बदलियाे।

यस अान्दाेलनमा सामुहिक नेतृत्व हुनु पर्छ भन्ने जाेर दिदै बिमल गुरूङलाई जीटीए त्याग्न भनियाे। जीएमसीसीकाे गठनले अान्दाेलनलाई थप उँचाई दिने अाशा गरिएकाे थियाे। प्रथम पंक्तिकाे नेतृत्वहरूकाे अभावमा जीएमसीसी लंगडाे मात्र हिड्याे। वास्तवमा प्रभावकारी कार्यक्रम दिन नसक्नुनै जीएमसीसीकाे असफलताकाे कारण रह्याे। बंगाललाई जसरी भए पनि अान्दाेलन साम्य पार्नु थियाे। साम, दाम, दण्ड र भेदकाे नीति लिएर अघि बडे। गाेरामुमाेबाट निरज जिम्बाले बिष पिएर लेखेकाे पत्र बंगालकाे निम्ति संजिवनी बुट्टी साबित भयाे।

अान्दाेलन पछिकाे अन्याेलता:

केन्द्रीय गृहमन्त्रीको अाश्वासन पछि पहाड अन्यालग्रस्त बन्याे। बंगाल सरकारलाई अाच्छु-अाच्छु पारेकाे २०१७ काे अान्दाेलनकाे लाभ भन्दा धेरै हानीनै देखिन्छ। लगभग घुँडा टेकीसकेका बंगालका मुख्यमन्त्री ममता ब्यानर्जीकाे अन्तर्राष्ट्रियस्तरमा अालाेचनाहुन थालेपछि, बैठककाे निम्ति अाग्रह गरिरहेकी थिईन। भाषा विवादबाट शुरू भएकाे अान्दाेलन छुट्टै राज्यकाे मागमा रूपान्तर भए पछि बंगाल सरकार पनि असमंजसमा परेका थिए।

केन्द्रीय गृहमन्त्रीले तृपक्षिय वार्ता राख्न सक्थे। देशकाे चार अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय सिमाक्षेत्रमा पर्ने दार्जिलिङ असान्त हुनु भनेकाे देशकाे अान्तरिक सुरक्षाकाे बिषय थियाे। एउटा बिशुद्ध राजनैतिक मुद्दालाई राजनथ सिंहले कानुनी समस्या भनेर बताउन साथ गाेर्सखाकाे टाउकाेमा पुलिसकाे डण्ठा बजेन थाले।

देशकाे गृहमन्त्री, हाम्राे निम्ति कामै लागेनन्। बरू हाम्राे अान्दाेलन दबाउँन मुख्यमन्त्री ममता ब्यानर्जीलाई भरपुर सहयाेग गरे। स्वतन्त्र भारतकाे ईतिहासमा सबैभन्दा कमजाेर र डरछेरूवा गृहमन्त्री राजनाथ सिंह नै हुन्।

यसै अान्दाेलनले माटाे प्रेमी र चाैकि प्रेमी छुट्टीए यसकाे मुख्य लाभ भने बंगाल सरकारलाईनै भयाे।

२०१७ काे अगस्त महिनाकाे मध्यतिर अचानक एउठा बयान अायाे, "मलाई बङ्गाल सरकारसित मिलेर दार्जीलिङ र खरसाङका केही अवसरवादी नेताहरूले फसाउने षडयन्त्र गरिरहेका छन्। १०-१२ दिनमा उनीहरू को हुन्, म सार्वजनिक गर्नेछु।’

संसार भरि छरिएर बसेका गाेर्खाल्याण्ड समर्थकहरूकाे सहयाेग रहेकाे याे अान्दाेलनमा यस्ताे प्रकारकाे बयान अचानक अाउँनुले अाफैमा धेरै रहस्य बाेकेका थिएछन्। सम्पुर्ण गाेर्खाहरूकाे समर्थन रहेकाे साथै पहाड, तराई, डुवर्स एक भएकाे याे बृहत् अान्दाेलनमा यस्ताे कार्य कसले गर्लान् भनेर सायद कसैले पत्याएनन्। मैले पनि पत्याईंन त्यसबेला। तर बताउँनै परेन, समयले सबै कुराे उदाङ्गाे पारीदियाे।

अनिश्चितकालीन बन्द डाक्ने देखि जीटीएकाे चुक्ती पत्र जलाउँने सम्म गाेजमुमाे सह सचिव बिनय तामाङकाे भुमिका सराहनीय रह्याे। उनले अान्दाेलनलाई अाफै अघि अाएर नेतृत्व दिन खाेजेकाे दृश्यहरू जता ततै पाईन्छ। बंगाल सरकार संग मिलेर एक प्रकारले अान्दाेलन बिथाेलेकाे अाराेप लागे पनि वास्तवमा उनले गाेजमुमाेकाे सह-सचिव हुनुकाे धर्म वार्ता सम्म राम्रै निर्वाह गरे।

अान्दाेलनमा शिथिलता अाए पछि, एउटा अन्तरवार्तामा बिनय तामाङले भने, "बन्द यति लामाे हुन्छ भनेर मलाई थाहा थिएन"। यसरी नतिजा के हुन्छ भन्ने कुरा नबुझी बन्द डाक्ने नेताकाे पछि लागेर हामीले अनावश्यक दुःख पाएका थिएछाैं। अहिले अाएर बन्द डाक्ने मानिस नेता भएर मन्त्रीको अहाेदा पाएर गजक्क छन्। उनकाे अादेश मानेर बन्द गराउँनेहरू अदालतमा मुद्दा खेपिरहेका छन्। पुलिसले खेदिरहेका छन्।

क्रान्ति बिना मुक्ति हुँदैन। २०१७ काे जनअान्दाेलनले मुक्तिकाे मार्ग खाेजीरहेका थिए। अान्दाेलन साम्य भए पछि भने बिनय तामाङकाे भुमिका जनहित बिपरित देखिए। उनले बिमल गुरूङ गलत मार्गमा थिए भने, अान्दाेलनलाई त्यहिबाट उठाएर सहि दिशा दिनु पर्ने थियाे। बिनय - अनितले दिशा परिवर्तन गरेर बंगालतिर फर्किए । गाेर्खाकाे जातिय उन्मुक्तिकाे युद्धमा "मिरजाफरकाे" उपाधी लिएर भिखमा पाएकाे कुर्सीमा बिराजमान छन्। पुलिस- प्रशासनकाे अाडमा गरिएकाे कुट्नितीले जातिलाई कस्ताे निकाश दिने हाे हेर्न बाँकीनै छ। संसारमा कस्ता-कस्ता क्रुर शासकहरूकाे अन्त्य जनतालेनै गरेका छन्। दार्जिलिङ पनि अाखिर भुसभित्रकाे अागाेनै हाे, कहिले यसले बिकराल रूप लिनेछ, कल्पना बाहिरनै छ।

Sons without a Soil: Bhoomi is the Issue, Not Putra

8:19 PM
‘Bhoomiputra’ has become the latest catchphrase for political parties in Darjeeling Hills. CPRM was the first to announce former MP RB Rai as its candidate for 2019, soon followed by ‘bhoomiputra’ candidates from TMC-GJM (Binoy faction), Congress, CPIM. The lone ‘putri’ (daughter) in the fray is Reseeka Chhetri who has announced her candidacy as an independent contestant.

A New Catchphrase

Bhoomiputra or the son-of-the-soil theory is not new to Indian politics and have brought about sea change in the social narrative of our nation. However, for Darjeeling Hills, Bhoomiputra has never been an issue of asserting identity and have historically elected political representatives both from within and outside the region. After the Gorkhaland issue became the mainstream of Darjeeling Hills politics, people have always for the issue, notwithstanding party or leaders. The core philosophy of local politics has been aptly described in the words of Subash Ghising: “Party bhanda Jati thulo, Jati bhanda Maato thulo”

The whole jingoism about Bhoomiputra is only an attempt to divert public attention from the core issue of Gorkhaland. For every voter, Gorkhaland has always been the core political issue and the current generation have witnessed several dramas unfold around the statehood movement in their lives. After having made all efforts to divide the people through boards, councils, and administrations, the son-of-the-soil rhetoric is another ploy to crush the statehood movement and its supporters. This Bhumiputra debate is a classic case of using the ’US’ vs ‘THEM’ idea as a political tool.

The Friendship Treaty Bogey Call

The alliance of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress and the Hills parties have conveniently shifted the goal post for Gorkhaland. In an article published by Economic Times, Binoy Tamang states “we must demand a review and revision of the India-Nepal Friendship treaty, and there should be a clear demarcation of borders between these two countries. This is the reason why people still call us Nepalese and treat us like foreigners. If this isn’t done, no way can we remove the foreigner tag. Gorkhaland has become a tool for politicians. Before every election, they sell us the dream of Gorkhaland. If we fail to correct the basic issues which are stopping us from getting Gorkhaland, Gorkhas will continue to die and we will never achieve our goal”.

The Government of India formed an Eminent Person’s Group (EPG) in 2014, comprising of experts from both India and Nepal to examine the Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty 1950 and modify its provisions to reflect the realities of current times. This committee has taken representation on Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty from various sections of the society from both India and Nepal, and already submitted their final report in July of 2018. The Government of India is expected to renew the treaty in the later half of 2019. With or without TMC-GJM(BT) group making it an election issue.

The sudden realization that the India-Nepal Friendship treaty is the obstacle to the identity and statehood movement to be led by TMC is highly doubtful. If we remember, this is the same government which hounded Gorkhaland movement supporters for months and even killed 13 innocent protestors in broad daylight.

A new beginning for hill politics

Be it the first memorandum submitted by Hillmen Association in 1907, the violence of 1980s, or the recent 2017 agitation, the demand has been a separate administration and self-rule within India’s democratic union. The Anglo-Nepal treaty is an international treaty between two nations and are being discussed at the level. The Gorkha statehood movement is a demand for state protection for Indian Gorkhas who have been left out in the constitutional process. It is a desire for the recognition, respect, and integration of Gorkha peoples in the Indian nation-state

Now as GJM (Bimal faction) and GNLF have come together to fight the elections and carry the Gorkhaland issue forward, there is a chance that Gorkhaland will not be decimated from the central politics. If the primary objective is to push forward the Gorkhaland issue, then the goal should be to find the right person to do it. There is no point harping on ‘Bhoomiputra’ where there is no ‘Bhoomi’ in the first place.

To have one Gorkhaland supporting MP in the Lot Sabha is to have a voice in the parliament. With the coming together of the two parties, the TMC led alliance is startled. Mainstream media is already abuzz with digging out the violent history and personal differences of leaders to create a rift. In coming days, there could be more incidents reported to fuel the differences of the past.

As voters, we can only hope that GJM and GNLF remain true to the cause because it is Gorkhaland issue had brought them to the position they are today. They must realize that the core issue for which they have fought is much bigger than the rewards of local politics.

For the voters, we must realize that five years is a long time, long enough for one generation of kids to forget about the issue. The solution might take time, but voting the right candidate is the only way we have to keep our issue alive in political discourse in the center. To lose that voice for 5 years will take us back further.

Leaders and parties are free to campaign and promise anything as long as we know what we want.

[Originally Posted here https://thedarjeelingchronicle.com/darjeeling-elections-bhoomiputra-issue/]

What Gorkha Youth Thinks

9:14 AM
Writes: Dibya Chhetri

Gorkhaland has again become the most popular topic for discussion with the upcoming Elections in April. At every corner, you can hear people discussing whose fault was it the last time and who is to be blamed. Having failed so many times, we have even stopped learning lessons from the past mistakes. We always find an excuse to blame someone and continue repeating the same mistakes time and again.

However we may want to believe, it has always been our lack of unity and integrity that is to blame.  It is us who split out because of petty differences and aspirations compromising the larger cause of the community. The sacrifices of the martyrs who died believing in Gorkhaland have been reduced to mere stories today. Blaming ‘THEM’ has become our culture today simply because it is easy. ’THEY did this to US’ is easier than saying ‘WE did it ourselves and rectify our actions.

Our refusal to introspect our actions have made it difficult for us to learn from the mistakes and take corrective measures. I certainly don’t believe that only protests and shutdowns Darjeeling or Delhi should be the first and easy alternative for us use. What we lack is honest people to represent our voice at all levels, a vision for the youth, and a willingness to change for better.


Let us look around us for a while, the youths are leaving the place for a better life outside in bigger cities. Hundreds others are neck-deep in alcohol and drug addiction. Those who want to work, don’t have the knowledge or resources to start something. With such situation at home, the only option we have left is to work in service of others. Perhaps we are happy doing the *ji saabji* and even used to it now. Of course, we sometimes get sentimental and cry victim when something unfortunate happens; but happy to narrate our glorious history when all other excuses fail.

Dear Gorkhas ,
Make sure people will know you by your present action and not by your history .
Be the sun that shines everywhere
Be it education, entertainment, sports, or politics
Business or social services
From dash to dash


Via thedarjeelingchronicle.com


A crisis within crisis: The fault line of India’s longest statehood demand- Gorkhaland

3:54 PM
By SHWETA RAJ KANWAR 

100 years and more, the longest statehood demand in India’s history, the demand for Gorkhaland has, many times reached its peak; and yet has always come tumbling down. Time and again, the unfulfilled aspirations have been doused by temporary promises and in 2017, the ‘Queen of Hills’ was under siege as Gorkhas all around the world stood in unison against this incessant predicament of proving their identity as Indian citizens. Despite dating back to 1907, why is it that the demand for Gorkhaland has fallen into deaf ears? Why is it that despite agitations and protests, the issue still lays unresolved, pushed into the corner of nothingness- like a dormant volcano that erupts from time to time, only to be silenced again. What is it that reignites this movement time and again at regular intervals and leaves it without any solution?
India’s longest statehood demand- Gorkhaland
India’s longest statehood demand- Gorkhaland

History of Gorkhaland demand

The demand for a separate administrative unit in Darjeeling has existed since 1907, when the Hillmen’s Association of Darjeeling submitted a memorandum to Minto-Morley Reforms demanding a separate administrative setup. Also, it may be mentioned that in 1947, the undivided Communist Party of India (CPI) submitted a memorandum to the Constituent Assembly demanding the formation of Gorkhasthan comprising Darjeeling District and Sikkim.

In the 1980s, under Gorkha National Liberation Front’s (GNLF) Subhas Ghising, the movement reached its peak. 1986-88 were on of the most violent years of protest: approximately 1,200 people died. The agitation ultimately led to the establishment of a semi-autonomous body in 1988 called the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) to govern certain areas of Darjeeling district. Eventually, Ghising faded from the limelight and in 2008, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) began spearheading the movement. In 2011, GJM signed an agreement with the state and central governments for the formation of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, another semi-autonomous body that replaced the DGHC in the Darjeeling hills.

The 2013 agitation was also one to remember wherein for the first time in 106 years, all the major political parties of the hills agreed to come together and jointly take the agitation forward. Even in 2017, the agitation bore no fruits. Protests first started on June 5, after the West Bengal government announced an intention that the Bengali language would be made mandatory in all schools across the state. People of Darjeeling and the adjoining areas who are predominantly Nepali speaking, saw this as an imposition of an alien culture upon them. Fuelled by the determination to preserve their own culture, identity and language, this protest soon turned into a full-fledged resurgence of the agitation for a separate state of Gorkhaland. July 30, 2017 saw the culmination of Gorkhas (and also some non-Gorkhas) all over the world taking part in a Global Rally for Gorkhaland. And as the Gorkha Global Rally completes a year in 2018, the issue still remains at large.

Where the problem lies
As is evident from history, agitations and semi-autonomous bodies have not been able to provide any respite to the Gorkhas’ demand. What is clearly lacking here is an accountable and transparent leadership- one that inspires not only a group of people but that which motivates everyone to come along with him/her and move forward for a common cause with renewed strategies and fresh perspectives.

On these lines, Shankar Pandey, a lawyer from Shillong opines, “Talking about leadership, accountable and transparent leadership is the need of the hour. It may be recalled that during Subhash Ghishing’s time, everybody looked up to him in the hope that he would give them Gorkhaland in a platter but the results proved otherwise. In 2017 again, it was the same state of affairs. However, a close look in the 2017 agitation will show a difference in strategic approach. It has been seen that people have learnt their lessons and GJM chief, Bimal Gurung was at the centre of the storm as people were on the lookout for accountability and transparency.”

It has been seen time and again that the major problem with Gorkhaland movement is the attitude of shifting responsibilities to one person or a group of people who display a level of ‘so-called’ leadership which is not even visible to common masses. It is significant to realise that the onus of Gorkhaland falls upon each and every Gorkha residing in any part of the world. Another major problem with the Gorkhaland demand is the presence of power corridor- A sense of democracy needs to be instilled in the minds of leaders.

“Gorkhaland is purely a matter of safeguarding identity”, Mr. Shankar adds. “When we compare the demand for Gorkhaland to those of Telangana, Uttarakhand and the likes, we see that the demand for these states was solely made from developmental point of view but this is definitely not the case with Gorkhaland. However, this does not mean that development is not a major factor in Darjeeling Hills, but identity is a primary force while all others feature subsequently”, he states.

The problem of identity crisis has been haunting the Gorkhas in India since times immemorial. Hence, this is not a fight for a separation from India but a fight of Indians to retain who they are!

Mr. Shankar makes an important point when he says, “The issue of identity can only be solved by statehood and not by any form of autonomous body of governance that has been seen as a solution to douse previous agitations. This is an attempt to dilute the greater demand”.

What is the solution?

“There is a need to set up a mass network of which each and every Gorkha can be part of a larger platform. The movement should not be confined to only the hills of Darjeeling but to all over India. Everybody should come together and take responsibility. There should be Gorkhaland campaigns and we should hold leadership accountable to us. There is no proper information dissemination. Knowledge is power and lack of knowledge makes the people and movement weak”, says Mr. Shankar.

The need for alternate leadership with young people from all fronts of life is the need of the hour. Youth should take up responsibility to cover up the limitations in the movement. A fresh approach is needed. Darjeeling is lagging behind in every front in terms of overall development as compared to other states of West Bengal which all the more justifies the need for demand of separate statehood.

It is a test of endurance and this is not the time to fade away into oblivion. This is infact the only movement that says that Gorkhas want to be part of India with an identity of their own. It is not about ‘Azaadi’ here, it is about ‘Identity’ while upholding the saying ‘Bharat Maata ki Jai!’

“Gorkhaland is not only about protests and agitation. It is time to understand that there are other more influential methods of demanding the same. It is high time we change our approach and work together smartly for a common cause. Even at the grassroot level, it is important for people to know what the movement is all about so that they can form opinions and work towards attainment of a larger cause. Ignorance in this case is definitely not bliss”, he adds

Founding Vice Chancellor of Sikkim University, Mahendra P Lama, while addressing a gathering in Shillong, Meghalaya on the Gorkhaland movement last year also drew focus to an important point when he said, “The problem of Gorkhaland does not belong to only Darjeeling alone but it is a national issue. The identity problem with Indian Gorkhas has increased manifold as we do not have a proper state representation”. Mr Lama was the pro vice chancellor of IGNOU and at the age of 45, he became the youngest vice chancellor of a central university in India.

He emphasises on the need to create a central committee to bring matters concerning all Gorkhas into the fray. For this, Mr. Lama stresses on the need for an organizational structure in the form of a central body that would overarch the national body and the inclusion of a national negotiating team as well. Following this, the next step would be to take the Gorkhaland issue to the National level with Parliamentary discussions on it. The issue should reach political parties, national civil society and other stakeholders including industrial and business houses.

He goes on to state that the orientation of the movement should undergo a major shift from emotional outpourings to more concrete discussions and debate. Tangible restructuring and reorientation of leadership pattern and political action should be carried out while also focusing more on central government to solve the issue rather than approaching the state government thereby confining the movement only to local fronts. It is important that a central committee should comprise of credible faces and influential minds so that the union government will take the plunge and be serious about negotiations.

Gaurav Lama, a supporter of Gorkhaland movement adds, “The movement in 2017 gained much more attraction due to social media. While it is good that the common man was honestly and strenuously involved, we must strive to strike deep into the BJP camp to make inroads. We must try to convince top BJP heads to push this matter forward.

The ruling government must prove to be more than just another power greedy party. They must come forth and stand by their promise of working on making Gorkhaland a reality. This can be achieved only if the senior BJP leaders are serious about Gorkhaland and if there are a bunch of people who shall talk to and remind the BJP senior hierarchy that they have their promises to keep.”

As is rightly said, “We have to tread the unorthodox path. A desperate situation requires a desperate solution”-Mahendra P.Lama

DISCLAIMER- The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TNT- The Northeast Today. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of TNT- The Northeast Today

The writer can be reached at shwetarajkanwar@gmail.com & shweta@thenortheasttoday.com

Via The Northeast Today

MINIMUM WAGES –Tea Garden Workers and Vultures

8:51 PM
Writes: Chandan Pariyar

It’s time for the Monsoon flush, fighting with the wind and the rain women are seen bent at their waist behind the tea bush, plucking the tea leaves and carefully tucking it inside the cane basket hung on their head.

Their sunburnt faces and the frostbitten hands may tell you hundreds of stories of betrayal and vaguely inferior complexities that keeps swaying in the forest and the tea gardens. Each one of them though in the group, instinctively try to listen to the voice echoing in the valley, but the good news of their wage hike seems to be lost within the mountains. At the end of the day, a disappointed murmur overwhelms them and the group members’ console each other and instinctively protect themselves from the shock and pain, of expectations not being met once again.
MINIMUM WAGES –Tea Garden Workers and Vultures

When the world get their pot full of Darjeeling tea in the morning, they praise the aroma and the exquisite flavour that lightens up their day, but don’t even give a thought to the diligent workers who work in the Sun and the rain alike making white, black, green or oolong tea, bumping in the hump of the garden, steadily collecting each new bud, and moving from one stunted shrub to the other. While many flock to the factories, managing the quality and protecting for future use, but the chemistry between the tea workers and the tea seems unmatched when Makaibari tea makes 1,10,000 rupees per kg in the foreign market, the workers receive in return of their gratitude a sum of rupees 132 per day.

Needless to say that the gardens thirst for their blood and the workers have no choice but to sacrifice their lives in the tea bushes.

No one is free in a TEA-Estate, how can one be free ????

When you can’t move out of the plantation, since four or five  generation your family is engaged in the gardens but still you don’t have any rights over your own land, you can’t get anything from the forest, the rivers are dammed, the quarries closed, how can one survive with such meagre income, when  there's nothing to supplement your income; and if you don’t work in the estates, you become homeless.

Where would they go??

Their son's shoulder is laden less with the responsibility of a family and more with rifles and the responsibility of protecting the nation, and back home there is serious worry about Displacement.

So the workers who produce the 'Champagne of teas ', had to be grown to imitate the three wise monkeys - speak not, see not, and hear not until the day, God turned his attention to the tea.

But Darjeeling has uncrowned kings here and there, who make unwanted noise to wake up people from those tea gardens – promising the heavens and their rightful wages and facilities. Their fates seem so uncertain, that the tea garden workers are forgotten in barely a week. The people have no remorse, but each one of those celebrity lions inevitably brought their bill and took their money, from the garden owners.

So each time when the sky promises a thunderstorm, one of them enters the garden, but every time with a different frequency, the challenge is to bring all of them in the same frequency. Sometimes Siliguri, Kolkata, Darjeeling, Babus hold meetings and send back a hike as less as Rs 4 and attach a letter for the loss of 104-day strike in the gardens that are still not managed.

The innocent workers look up to the uncrowned king, the king has changed, so has his gestures. With hands in the pocket, the local garden commander looks up at the vultures soaring high around the garden.

He thinks to himself, maybe there is still a little more the workers have to sacrifice to get the MINIMUM WAGE.

Via: The Darjeeling Chronicle

Whom Shall We Remember Today?

3:01 PM
Writes - Jyoti Thapa Mani

“A nation’s culture resides in the heart and soul of its people” -Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi 1869-1948

For the last two years, I have been penning Independence Day articles for TheDC, hailing heroes and heroines from the Indian Gorkha community who fought for India’s freedom.  This year I feel a vacuum. Because I feel we are still struggling more than ever before.


Recently, I attended a panel discussion on ‘In today’s globalised world, what role does nationalism play in India’s context?’ A mouthful of words, but essentially I think, it was about how nationalistic we are in this global age. One panellist said that nationalism is about the national bird, animal, dress, anthem and khichri. Another said it was about remembering our freedom struggle against the ‘other’, meaning the British rule. And what a costly affair it was, as freedom came with a big rider—the division of India and Pakistan based on religion.  A criterion, which after seventy-two years, appears as so very wrong. Millions were rendered homeless as they staggered across the borders by foot, on bullock carts, in trains and buses under the onslaught of massive violence and suffering. Lives, families and belongings were lost in the mayhem to reach a new homeland as per their religious identity. The governments in their hurry failed at maintaining a peaceful exchange.

After the British ‘other’, new ‘others’ took its place. Many Indians are still struggling for their identity. Some inside before 1947 are still crying for recognition. On the other hand, millions of refugees continue to pour into India. Some intellectuals say India is a huge tent where everyone can be accommodated. Others say sorry there is no more space in the tent.  Some expostulate that India stands for compassion. Clearly, idealism and reality knock heads in many ways and no one sees the middle path. Power and money appear to be the new nationalism. Nobody talks about the need to strengthen nationalism in terms of the Indian citizens feeling at home.

Millions of Indians born and raised in India go abroad and take oaths such as “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America”. Where does the Indian nationalism go then?

Either, there are those living in the world of ‘global opportunity-nationalism’ or clinging to archaic forms of racial insularity by dominating the minority. Dirty words like fascism are still surviving under new names. Leaders try hard to convince that we are a multinational and multicultural state because it sounds so good and upwardly mobile.  But murky waters lie deep beneath. Nationalism has different connotations for everyone and ironically the government has to force Indians to stand for the anthem in movie halls. Terms like the nation, nation-state, state, global citizen are weighing down or buoying up mindsets.

How nationalistic do we Indian Gorkhas feel? We are the country’s sterling defence force, but socially we are still perceived as immigrants from Nepal, foreigners on Indian soil. Despite the fact, that we have been citizens of this land for more than two hundred years. Our Indian identity on the face of it is as vague as a peel-off beauty mask. Funny thing is that while millions of Indians are migrating to the west, we are still here struggling to be accepted as Indians.  Its been a year now since the last agitation for Gorkhaland in the Darjeeling Hills witnessed yet another saga of dead bodies, persecution, humiliation and forceful crackdown. The Gorkhas of Darjeeling Hills are still fighting for independence from the ‘other’ being West Bengal government. Ironical, because the same government allows foreign nationals from Bangladesh to pour in millions and work without even a work permit. Bangladesh and India have no such treaty facilitating this.

So whom shall we remember today?

Shall we remember the 1947 era Gorkha freedom fighters for India’s Independence? They include patriots such as Amar Singh Thapa, Agam Singh Giri, Bhagat Bir Lama, Bhim Singh Rana, Balbhadra Chhetri, Bairagi Baba, Bhairav Singh Lama, Buddhiman, Bir Bahadur Gurung, Bishan Singh Khatri, Bishan Singh Rana, Bishnu Lal Upadhayay, Bhakta Bahadur Pradhan, Bhagwan Singh Thapa, Bhim Bahadur Khadka, Bhim Lal Sharma, Chandra Kumar Sharma, Chabilal Upadhyay, Dal Bahadur Giri, Dig Bir Singh Ramudamu, Dalbir Singh Lohar, Dhruba Singh Thapa, Devi Prasad Sharma, Dharmananda Upadhyay Mishra, Damber Singh Hingman, Gorey Khan, Gaga Tshering Dukpa, Gopal Singh Rana, Gopal Singh Shahi, Hari Prashad Upadhayay, Harish Chhetri, Hoshiyar Singh Karki, Hari Prashad, Hira Singh Khatri, Ishwarananda Gorkha, Indrani Thapa, Jung Bir Sapkota, Jai Narayan Upadhayay, Kumud Chandra Gorkha, Krishna Bahadur Sunwar, Khadga Bahadur Singh Bista, Laxman Limbu, Lal Bahadur Basnet, Man Bahadur Thapa , Mohan Singh Thapa , Mahabir Giri, Man Bahadur Rai, Maya Devi Chhetri, Niranjan Singh Chettri, Norbu Lama, Neetanand Tim Sinha, Pratiman Singh Lama, Parash Ram Thapa, Putlimaya Devi, Pushpa Kumar Ghisingh, Punna Singh Thakur, Padam Prasad Dhungel, Prem Singh Bista, Ratan Singh Lama, Ram Lal Upadhyay, Ram Singh Gurung, Shyam Bahadur Thapa, Samsher Singh Bhandari, Shyam Singh Shahi, Shiv Singh Thapa, Sher Bahadur Thapa, Sher Bahadur Allay, Shanker Dev Sharma, Savitri Devi, Thakur Prasad Kumai, Tej Bahadur Thapa (1), Tej Bahadur Thapa (2) and Tej Bahadur Subba.

Or shall we remember the INA freedom fighters from the 2/1 Gorkha Rifles? Including, the zealous INA Major Durga Malla, INA Captain Dal Bahadur Thapa, INA Captain Ram Singh Thakur, Bhim Singh Rana, Man Bahadur Thapa, Mohan Singh Thapa, Gopal Singh Shahi, Shaheed Shiam Bahadur Thapa and about forty-six more names.

Post 1947, do we remember the one thousand two hundred and one (1201) martyrs of the Gorkhaland agitation?  They include the thirteen unfortunate people killed by police firing in 1986 in Kalimpong and so many more with bullets shot straight to the head by WB police forces.

Or do we remember in recent times those killed in the 2017 Strike for Gorkhaland?  They include amongst many, the names of Bimal Sashankar of Goke, Mahesh Gurung of Relling, Sunil Rai of Kaijaley, Tashi Bhutia of Sonada, Suraj Bhushal of Tung Sung, Samir Gurung of Singamari, Ashok Tamang of Lewis Jubilee, Asish Tamang of Sukhiapokhri and Dawa Tshering Bhutia of Pedong.

Via TheDC

From Gorkhaland to GTA and then to Greenfield: A Road to Serfdom

6:34 PM
Writes Pratik Rumba for YKA

“For a colonized people the most essential value, because the most concrete, is first and foremost the land: the land which will bring them bread and, above all, dignity.” – Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth.
Activists of Gorkhaland Sanyukta Sangharsh Samiti shouting slogans during their demonstration at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi | PTI
Activists of Gorkhaland Sanyukta Sangharsh Samiti shouting slogans during their demonstration at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi | PTI

The state of ‘Bangla’ has finally fulfilled, as the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) chairman says, the dream of ‘People of Darjeeling’ by granting a university in state assembly. The leader of Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha (GJM- B) left no space and time to express his gratitude towards the Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee for showing her ‘benevolent’ attitude towards the ‘non-tax payer’ of Darjeeling region. Now even the sons and daughters of ‘illiterate’ and ‘un-productive’ tea garden workers, who generate huge revenue to the owner and state government, can fulfil their dreams,  in the ‘Indian labour market’ that has been eagerly waiting for them from centuries. The people who are ought to be displaced for the new railway project may probably find a job as a construction worker in the upcoming university.

The forte of happiness was so much so that a central committee member, who was formerly a student leader, equated the decision of state university to ‘Gorkhaland in the field of education’. What could possibly have happened had the central university bill been passed in the parliament? Yes! Then according to his argument it seems there would have been a Separate country in the field of education. This sudden mania of the GJM leaders and its cadres is astonishingly stupid as ‘Annexure B2’ of the memorandum of agreement for GTA, signed in 2011, had already listed various institutes (such as Central institute of technology, NIT including IT and Bio-Technology, Fashion Technology institute, medical and nursing colleges and Central university) to be established as grand ‘developmental projects’ under GTA with an aid from both central and state government.

Manias

The manias of GJM-B only manifest their incapacitated ruling of the GTA-2 since they took charge of Lalkothi last year. This (manias) could very well be the reflection of the limited time GJM-B has onwards to Lokhsabha election. From its inception in 2011, GTA hardly made any difference in the lives of people apart from repairs of roads and timely ‘statehood’ threat from the then GJM supremo to state and central government. The helplessness of the situation only aggravated the crisis further leading up to another uprising for statehood in 2016.The GTA gambling card that was placed on the table at Pintail village by both state and centre was supposed to achieve ‘all round development of the people of region’ in terms of socio-economic, infrastructural, educational, cultural, and linguistic developments. Now, the seven years down the line the GTA card turned out to be the lowest of all the poker hands and has nothing to show in concrete in the run up for Lokhsabha election campaign in 2019. In this context, the manias of the GJM-B is lucidly justifiable.

What’s in a name? —

What was fishy (daal me kala) about the bill was the name of the University. They (the state) named the upcoming university in the region as ‘Greenfield’ university. All the universities established in the state of West Bengal has been named either after the name of the region (Bankura, Bardaman, Raiganj etc.) or after some historical figures (Rabindra Bharati, Sido Kanuhu Murmu, Kazi Nazrul etc.). The government that has been constituting “n” number of ethnic boards supposedly for promoting local culture and dialects could not manage to find even a single word that could well describe/ define the historical specificity of the region. Such move of naming the university bereft of any local/regional specificity is to make people of the region cognizant of the fact that they have no historical figures, whom they can look up to.

As a crutch to the state government, some cadres of the GJM through various social media platform started a campaign ‘What’s in a Name’. The name is not as simple to be relegated to just a word but it also carries with it the objective reality. However, the political manoeuvring of words is not new in Darjeeling politics. The power and solemnity of a word is to be learnt from late Subash Ghishing. After a compromise of Gorkhaland movement in 1986, the then chairman of Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) went to claim that Identity problem of the Gorkhas has been resolved as the state and central government has agreed to add ‘Gorkha’ in Darjeeling Hill Council. We now know for how long GNLF ruled the region under the shadow of the then Left front government by just adding a word Gorkha to the Hill Council. For that matter, even the united GJM (A+B) after their compromise in 2011 had openly taken credit and pride of having the word ‘Gorkhaland’ in the new territorial set up (GTA).

The GJM-B, particularly at this juncture, is well aware of the implication that a word can have for its ‘own’ survival and would rather prefer to leave no stone unturned. As expected, GJM MLA approached the monitoring team at Nabanna requesting a change in the name from ‘Greenfield’ to ‘Darjeeling University’. But it still raises few doubts. First, had they (anyone from the region) not been consulted beforehand while formulating the bill? Second, why has the state government preferred to use a ‘foreign’ name that has nothing to do with the people and their regional history? Third, is it an act of denial of people’s history in the region? The state government may rename the university from Greenfield to Darjeeling University, which of course is a politically neutral word that should not bother much, sooner or later but the whole political cinematography only reflected the high handedness of the state government over the region and the ‘puppetism’ of the local leaders.

Gorkha National Question (s) and the Development

At the pick phase of the last Gorkhaland movement, an old man from a tea garden was asked to define Gorkhaland in an interview by a local media. His answer was simple and succinct: For him Gorkhaland meant land (Gorkhaland Bhaneko Mato Ho!). How would have the leader of the Gorkhaland movement answered the very same question? Not surprisingly, the answer would have been the ‘lack of development’. Not only has the beguiled leader of the movement but even the honest Gorkha intellectuals and supporters confused the Gorkha national question (s) with the (one point) ‘undervelopment’ problem.
The argument of ‘underdevelopment’ has its origin in the left front rule in West Bengal. Whenever the demand for separate statehood intensified the ruling class and its intelligentsia always brought  ‘underdevelopment’ on the table for discussion thus diverting the core question of national political identity for Gorkhas to the general problem of underdevelopment faced by every people and regions in India. GJM leaflet (2009) at the very outset quite correctly identified the core problem of the Gorkhas that read ‘the demand for Gorkhaland is basically a question of the Gorkha Indian Political Identity…as the spectre of ‘alien-ness’, being called ‘foreigner’ and ‘eviction’ continues to hunt the Indian Gorkhas even today…”.  However, major part of the leaflet emphasised on the question of ‘economic deprivation’ and ‘discrimination’.

Economic backwardness may be one of the aspects of the crisis in the region but an information document (1986) of West Bengal itself suggests that the district, in terms of various economic indicators, stands out to be better than any other districts in north Bengal or any districts in western Bengal such as Purulia, Bankura, Birbhum and Midnapur. If economic development is the panacea for century old unrest in the region then one would expect cropping up of such statehood demand in every regions of the state.

Now let us assume that the state/central government is going to fulfil all the major projects, listed in MoU of GTA, including the establishment of various institutes and central university in the region. Are these ‘mega’ projects going to resolve the national question (s) of the Gorkhas? For elucidation, the Chinese government has changed and transformed the face of Tibet better than any cities in India through its mega developmental projects. Has it also changed the aspiration of the people of Tibet? Since 2011, around 152 Tibetans have self-immolated for their national cause.

Gorkhaland and the Land Question

The major part of Darjeeling district is covered by forest and tea gardens. Almost 70 percent of the population lives in forest and tea gardens. Since the forest and tea gardens come under the jurisdiction of state government, none of the population staying in the forest and tea gardens has the ownership right over land. Even for small repairing work of the houses, one has to take permission beforehand from the management to whom the state government has given the land in lease for pittance. Not only the tea gardens and the forest, there are several villages near the towns (comes under municipality) that have no valid and legal documents to support their claim/ownership right over land. It is precisely due to this alienation of people from their own land, which time and again gets articulated in terms of strong posturing of land question in the movement for Gorkhaland.

A significant number of the tea gardens are in a state of lock down as workers demanded a hike in wage rate. Lockout has become a popular instrument of keeping the wages at the subsistence level in tea gardens. Even the plantation labour act 1951 that favours the owner and the management are being violated. Some of the tea gardens are locked down throughout the year except in the plucking and harvesting seasons. In doing so, the management is not liable to provide basic rights such as ration, medical facilities, bonus etc. There are also instances when the workers have requested the management to run the factory without even providing statutory rights to them. In some of the abandoned tea gardens, the workers by defying the state government formed a cooperative and started running the factory. However, the state government later leased out the same to private players. This is how generations after generations of the tea garden workers have been kept under starvation and poverty. This is also probably the reason that the people from tea gardens stand out quite vehemently at the forefront of every Gorkhaland agitation.

Moreover, the tea industry has not been doing quite well particularly in the neo-liberal phase of globalisation. The reason for this could be growing competition in the tea industry. Another reason for this dwindling situation of the tea industry is the reluctance of the management to reinvest back in the production site. This has resulted in the limited development of productive forces and has also constrained the increase in the productive capacity (employment opportunity) in the tea industry. Can the people of district go for other livelihood options (at least where the factories have been shut down for a long time) so that they can raise the standard of living and send their children to Greenfield University in the coming few years from now? The state of West Bengal is known for having more or less successful land reform, where the state confiscate the land from the land lord and distribute it to the bargardars (tenants), in the history of Indian land reform. One may be interested in knowing the proportion of land that was distributed to the people of Darjeeling during the much celebrated ‘operation Barga’ (1978-1985). Can the state government distribute abandoned tea estates to the erstwhile tea garden workers? The monitoring team at Nabanna would not be pleased to hear all that ‘crap’ as the Nabanna is also constantly monitored by domestic and foreign capital.

The beginning

The century old national question (s) of the Gorkhas in the district of Darjeeling cannot be resolved through extravagant use of money and power. The same old method of silencing the dissent voices has only postponed the crisis in the region as the frequency of the statehood demand has increased in recent years. Moreover, the state led financing of the anti-statehood squad (ethnic boards, GJM-B etc.) in the region is unsustainable in the long term as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) data noted that the West Bengal debt (second top borrower only after Maharashtra) burden has increased staggeringly in the last few years. It is more likely that the people of district is going to witness a change in the squad in coming years.

The state government has been acting like a ‘traditional landlord’, where it refuses the release the productive forces but collects handsome revenue by leasing out land to the tea owners. In the absence of enough employment opportunity there has been a temporary migration in big cities and many have piled up in the informal sector of the region. The outcome of national register of citizen (NRC) in Assam may likely to further aggravate the situation, in the region, as it did in the late 1980s when Bhutanese government enforced the citizenship act of 1958.
The territorial separation of oppressed, marginalized and discriminated region is a step ahead for the democratization of the oppressive and centralized social structure of India.  However, there is a need to enlarge the canvas of Gorkha national struggle vis-à-vis other struggles by oppressed nationalities, oppressed communities and religious minorities in Indian subcontinent today. However, the major concern of the Gorkhaland movement since from its inception has been liquidation of the movement from the rank of its own leaders.  The regular betrayal has led the movement to the road of serfdom at various points . Such betrayal is to be overcome through concerted spirit and uncompromising participation for the statehood and their own homeland which assign them the real political identity in Indian subcontinent.
 
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