Important Questions related to Gorkhaland Issue are addressed below:
Q. Who are Gorkhas? What do they want?
Gorkhaland is the name of the proposed state in India that the Nepali-speaking Gorkha ethnic group in Darjeeling and the Dooars in north West Bengal are fighting for. They want a state for themselves called Gorkhaland, leading to start of Gorkhaland Issue.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) headed by Bimal Gurung have high hopes from NDA at Center. Earlier during 2000, NDA in Center had created 3 three independent states (i.e. Uttarkhand, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand which were divided although the basis for the creation of these states is said to be socio-political and not linguistic). Based on this division of state due to administrative convenience benefits, the party expect a state for themselves will be approved.
Q. What triggered the Gorkhaland Movement? How did it evolve?
Between 1907 and 1987, demands for a separate Darjeeling were raised on “at least on 15 occasions”. But it was not given much heed. Very recently Ms. Mamata Banerjee made Bengali a compulsory language in West Bengal. This flared the issue of Identity in Darjeeling and other places under Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) who’s primary language is not Bengali.
They say that like before Bengali must be an optional language. The fear of riots made the WB Govt. to withdraw their decision but the Gorkhaland Issue continued. The GTA has administrative, executive and financial powers but no legislative powers over the said land. The GTA has been under administration of GJM.
Sometime back in 2017, The Trinamool Congress (TMC) argued that the GJM was losing the people’s mandate on account of mismanagement of funds. In a blog, TMC MP Derek O’Brien has argued that the GJM-run Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) “received” ₹1,500 crore from the State and the Central governments in the last five years but refused to file the accounts. As the TMC asked for a “special audit”, it “rattled” the GJM, the MP said. It is also said that GJM wants to hide under the veil of Gorkhaland Issue or Movement, to avoid the irregularities in funds allocated for development in GTA.
Q. History of Darjeeling?
Around 1780, the Gorkhas invaded Sikkim and captured most part of it which includes Darjeeling with Siliguri. Lepchas were nomadic tribes and were engaged in zoom (shifting ) cultivation. They used to hang around the hills from one region to another. Sometimes they were in Nepal and sometimes in Sikkim.
The Lepchas are the original inhabitants (they of course are, along with other tribes of this region) of this place is based on the account of one Capt. Lloyd, who wrote in his account that there were some 100 Lepcha huts in Darjeeling at the time. The British were looking out for an alternative to tea trade in India since the export of tea from China was proving to be increasingly expensive. And the successful tea experiment in Darjeeling came as a boon to the British.
It was under Dr. Aurther Campbell the town started to prosper. Once the town started growing wealthier, the Lepchas who had taken refuge in Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan returned to live there and the distressed socio-economic condition of the inhabitants in Nepal, lead to huge scale migration to Darjeeling.
Q. Demand for Gorkhaland?
The few Bengalis present in the hills were and have always been the ‘babus,’ the perceived elite who worked for the British and then the Indian government. The Marwaris came in as traders and have controlled most of the wealth.
The Nepalese through time found themselves increasingly isolated and discriminated against. They were often given the jobs of coolie. It was also the unwritten law in this district is that once a tea garden coolie, always a tea garden coolie.
The demand for Gorkhaland has always found its support among the tea plantation workers. The Nepalese find themselves reduced to second class citizens, at the hands of these otherwise minuscule inhabitants. A certain amnesia prevails in the hills; the history of the Nepalese has been erased.
With little to hold on to historically, the relationship with ‘maato’ (land) and the tea-bushes their ancestors planted, has grown stronger.
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