.9th April 2005 – Letter sent to Sri Kunwar Singh (Chairman National Commission for ST,Govt of India, New Delhi )
Writes: Seetam Thakuri
I would like to expressed my thanks and gratitude for granting scheduled tribe status to “Tamang” and “Limbu” of India which was done vide Govt. of India Gazette Notification no 10 dated New Delhi the 8th January 2003. However, this action of govt. of Indian has created confusion, controversy and ill feeling among others Gorkha Tribes like “Khambu ( Rai)”, “Gurung”, “Mangar”, “Newar”, “Khas (chhetri)”, “Baahun (Brahman)” and other tribes etc who followed same language culture and religious beliefs and all of them including “Tamangs” and “Limbus” come under “Bonbo” (worshipers of stones, river, trees, deities etc) and as such grave injustices have been done to these above other left out tribal communities.
This matter were already discussed in the 2nd round tripartite review meeting on Memorandum of Settlement of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council dated 28th Jan 2005 at Round Table Conference Hall of Union Home Ministry under the chairmanship of Shri Dhirendra Singh, Union Home Secretary at New Delhi.
I would, therefore on behalf of DGHC, request you to consider the above case for granting Scheduled Tribe status to all the members of the other left out Gorkha communities as a special case.
With Regards, Yours Sincerely, Subash Ghisingh, Administrator of DGHC.
When the politics of Tribalism started deepening its root in the hills of Darjeeling, Subash Ghisingh could clearly foresee the fragile crack within the gorkha communities, he could clearly sense the crack that would divided Gorkha communities into various categories like General, ST, SC and OBC’s; The Hill Tribes that were once unified as Indian Gorkha for a common goal of “Gorkhaland” a state that would provide their identity in India, is now seen dividing and willing to walk individually for the status of Scheduled Tribes in India.
When the politics of tribalism started getting its momentum in Darjeeling hills; and by that time DGHC had emerged as a weak administrative setup having no real executive or legislative power, further Subash Ghisingh had realized that the grant of statehood was not forthcoming, however, strong constitutional guaranteed setup was required to fulfill the aspiration of Hill people. It was then we saw the political swing of “Sixth Schedule”, the swing that shifted the politics of Gorkha Hills, thus, adding the new terminology in politics of Darjeeling.
He then advocated that all gorkha communities should be granted the status of Scheduled Tribe in India referring to the census of 1931 which had shown all gorkha community as “Backward Tribes” under the banner of “Hill Tribes” during the British Raj in India. Further he knew it clearly that, if Gorkhaland is to be achieved than all gorkhas should stand united at any cost, therefore, we could see the sharp shift of Ghisingh’s politics to Sixth Schedule, so that the Indian gorkha may “exist together” united in one banner of “Gorkha as a Tribe (ST)”.
Technically to qualify for the status of Sixth Schedule the percentage of tribal community do plays the vital role, hence, he started urging all gorkha community to move towards tribalism, further he believed Darjeeling which was once a part of “Gorkha Kingdom” now “Nepal” promoted Hinduism and declared Nepal as a Hindu kingdom so as to keep their national unity intact, in a process of which all gorkha tribes happened to forget their original “Bonbo culture” and became more inclined towards the Hinduism.
Hence he promoted the celebrations of Bonbo utsav, sansari puja, Jhakri puja every year, temples were made where only stones representation of gods and goddesses were kept, Jhakri were appointed as the priest in these temples, Iron Pillar were worshipped during vishwakarma Puja in chowrasta; though many thought it to be an idiotic act, however the sense of tribalism was essence of these act.
He used to say we cannot behave civilized and ask for the tribal status, we need to show it by our action, hence the crazy act of the Governor of WB seeking blessing from Jhakri and Boju devata was clearly seen in the inauguration ceremony of Nightingale Park in Darjeeling, during those days Union Ministers in Darjeeling were welcomed by tribal dance and blessed by Dhami Jhakris !
Moreover, if we closely see, we gorkhas, have complex culture and tribal character with our own practices, we recognize the existence of spirits and worship nature, believes in Boju Devata, Jhakri, Ban Jhakri,; we perform Nya ko puja, Udawle Ubawle, sansari puja, ban devi puja etc. we also have appetite of gundruk, kinima, ban tarul, ghar tarul, simal tarul, iskus-ko-jara, jar, tongba… such culture and religious practices are typically tribal in character, even the British did recognized the fact and declare people of Darjeeling as Hill tribes during British Raj.
He was also of the opinion that only facility given by tribal status will not help the community, as we can see majority of tribes and casts still struggling despite of their ST / SC status, hence, He demanded that the area of DGHC be brought under the Sixth Schedule of the constitution of India. The Sixth Schedule deals with the autonomous administration setup for tribal area with executive, legislative and judicial powers, moreover it is the special setup under the observation of President of India and also defined as state within the state. The councils under Sixth Schedule are the product of the Constitution of India, hence, it draws all its powers and functions from the Constitution itself. Had it been implemented in Darjeeling Hills it would have been 100 time better than DGHC or the present GTA both of which emerged from the state act of west Bengal legislative Assembly.
However, special status of Fifth or Sixth Schedule of the constitution were directly applicable for all excluded and partially excluded areas of British Raj, and Darjeeling being partially excluded area under British raj till the time of independent should have come under the Fifth Schedule or otherwise Sixth Schedule with certain amendments in the constitution long time back in Independent India.
Chronology of Administrative Setup Pre/Post - Independent and why Fifth or Sixth Schedule is Applicable for Darjeeling.
Darjeeling was never directly governed by the Provincial government of Bengal, however in a sense it did shared the governor with Bengal. In fact Darjeeling was governed by special act under British India as British knew it clearly that these areas came to East India Company as per the Treaty of Sugowlee with Nepal (1815) and Treaty of Sinchula with Bhutan (1865), Moreover British felt that the gorkhas living in these areas required to be protected.
Darjeeling was initially a "Non-Regulationdistrict / Area" where acts and regulations of the British India did not automatically apply in line with rest of the country, unless specifically extended.
In 1874 Darjeeling was declared “Scheduled District” which was subject to special laws and administrative procedure.
In 1919 Darjeeling was declared "Backward Tract" and continued to be ruled by special law, the administration of the district was then vested to the Governor General in Council. Any Act of the Provincial Legislature (Bengal provinces) or all India acts did not apply to the tract, or shall apply subject to such exceptions or modifications as the Governor may think fit.
In 1935, Darjeeling was declared “Partially Excluded” area, where Governor had a special responsibility for this area, no legislative enactment whether of the Federation or of the Province did apply unless the Governor so directs by a notification, this set up continued till the new constitution came into effect in 26 January 1950 for Independent INDIA
1946 The Cabinet Mission, sent by the British Parliament under Sir Stafford Cripps made a public statement and also suggested for the formation of an Advisory Committee to work out a modus operandi in the constitutional arrangement for tribals of excluded and partially excluded area and to enable them to safeguard their ethnic identity and culture in a democratic way in Independent India.
On 24th January, 1947 - Advisory Committee on fundamental rights, minorities and Tribal and Excluded Area was set up with Vallabhai Patel as the Chairman by the Constituent Assembly, two subcommittee was formed to take forward the work:
1. North-East Frontier Tribal Areas and Assam Excluded & Partially Excluded Areas Sub-Committee: under Gopinath Bardoloi
2. Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas (Other than Those in Assam) Sub-Committee: under A. V. Thakkar.
Based on the reports and recommendation of these committee Sixth Schedule emerged, where all excluded and partially excluded areas of Assam was incorporated in article 244(2) read with 275(1) of the constitution of India. However excluded and partially excluded areas other than Assam (rest of India) was incorporated in the Fifth Schedule in Art. 244(1) of the Constitution of India.
As per these schedule special Autonomous Administration setup and Tribal Advisory Council for self-governance was to be formed for the upliftment of tribes under the control of President through its representative the governor of state.
8th August 1947 - INTERIM REPORT OF THE EXCLUDED AND PARTIALLY EXCLUDED AREAS (OTHER THAN ASSAM) SUB-COMMITTEE stated The Darjeeling District is shown to contain 141,301tribes out of a total population of 376,369 in 1941. The prominent community in Darjeeling is the Gurkha or Nepalese community which numbers about 2 1/2 lakhs. The Gurkha are not regarded as a backward tribe and the thirteenth schedule to the Govt. of India (LegislativeAssemblies) Order does not include Gurkha. Thus the committee decides Darjeeling need no longer be treated as partially excluded areas hence the special status given by British Raj was lost in Independent India.
However, the fact that the Census of 1941 based on which the fate of hill tribes of Darjeeling was decided by Advisory Committee had some flaw on itself, as it had delisted the Tribes title of approximately 2,35,068 (62.45%) of the total population of Darjeeling Hill reducing the tribal population only to 37.54%. the reason for this de-listing have been due to the inclusion of mother tongue question in census and the census report being based on language and script among other criteria’s. It is believed that the majority of hill tribes were unaware of the consequence, moreover the sentimental attachment with Nepali language propelled them to mention Nepali as their mother language instead of their tribal dialect; as Nepali language happened to be derived from Sanskrit language hence the essence of tribalism was missing, which resulted to exclusion of majority of hill people from the backward tribe status. Further the word gorkha have been used very vaguely without seeing the history of hill tribes by advisory committee.
In order to rectify the injustice done by Advisory Committee, Subash Ghisingh proposed for constitutionally recognition of the entire hill people into Scheduled Tribes category with reference to the Census of 1931, further he also demanded the DGHC be brought under the special administrative setup of sixth schedule with required amendments to the constitution. Please Note: The provision of Autonomous District / Regional Council is incorporated in the Sixth Schedule of constitution, moreover it also enjoyed comparatively greater power and autonomy than Fifth schedule of Constitution, however both the fifth and sixth schedule did emerged for the administrative setup of excluded and partially excluded areas and Darjeeling happened to be partially excluded.
6th December 2005 - Memorandum of Settlement for Sixth Schedule was signed between Govt. of India, Govt. of West Bengal and Shri Subash Ghisingh, Administrator DGHC, for the creation of an autonomous self-governing Council under the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution, for the hill areas of Darjeeling District.
16th March 2006 - The West Bengal Legislative Assembly adopted a Resolution recommending grant of Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling hill areas.
30th November 2007 - Two Bills were introduced in the Lok Sabha The Sixth Schedule to the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2007 and the Constitution (One Hundred and Seventh Amendment) Bill 2007’
The Bills were referred to the Standing Committee on Home Affairs (Chairperson: Smt Sushma Swaraj)
28th February 2008: The Standing Committee on Home Affairs submitted its 129th Report:
The Bills seek to create an autonomous self-governing Council called the Gorkha Hill Council, Darjeeling (GHC) under the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution. The GHC shall have legislative, administrative and financial powers in respect of specified subjects.
The Committee noted that two divergent views. The majority of the views were opposed to the Bill on various grounds and were in favor of Gorkhaland (a separate state). The official viewpoint stated that there would be agitation and chaos if the Bill was not passed.
The Committee could not verify the claims of the central and state governments since it could not visit the area and feel “the pulse of the people.” Therefore, relying on the official claims, the Committee recommended that both Bills be PASSED after certain amendments were made. It suggested that
(a) 33% of the seats in the GHC should be reserved for women; and
(b) an appropriate number of seats should be reserved for Scheduled Castes in the GHC.
However, Govt. of India was not in a position to approve the bill, reason being the ongoing agitation led by Bimal Gurung, who opposed the Bill and demanded separate state of Gorkhaland. The bill remained pending in parliament till May 18, 2009 and finally lapsed automatically after 14th Lokh Sabha got dissolved.
Unfortunately neither Sixth Schedule nor Gorkhaland were achieved, agitation led by GJMM went on for 3 more years and finally landed up signing an Agreement for GTA on 18 July 2011 at Pintail Village near Siliguri; a semi-autonomous administrative body enacted by state Act of West Bengal Legislative Assembly, Thus, Rejecting The Sixth Schedule of the constitution which was already tabled in the parliament of India.
Now again we find ourselves standing in the same point of Political Crossroad, whom… we are to blame?