Gorkhaland

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Category Statehood Movement
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Gorkhaland (Nepali: गोर्खाल्याण्ड) is the name given to the area around Darjeeling and the Duars in north West Bengal in India. Residents of the area, mostly Nepali speaking Gorkhas have long sought a separate state for themselves to improve their socio-economic conditions and to preserve the identities of the non-Bengali majority in the area who form a minority in the whole of Bengal.

HISTORY

Pre-British Era

Historically, Darjeeling and its surrounding terai areas formed a part of the then Kirat kingdom called Bijaypur. After the disintegration of the Bijaypur kingdom, it annexed with Sikkim and Bhutan.

British Era

After the Anglo Nepalese War (1814-1815), the Treaty of Sugauli was signed between Nepal and the East India Company. Darjeeling was taken from Nepal by the British and returned to the Sikkimese after the Treaty of Titaliya. In 1835, Col Lloyd became the representative of East India Company for Darjeeling. During his tenure Darjeeling was leased by the British Indian Empire from the Maharaja of Sikkim for an annual amount of Rs 3000 [1] . However the original map of Darjeeling came into existence only after the induction of Kalimpong and Duars area after the Anlgo-Bhutanese war of 1864 (Treaty of Sinchula). Darjeeling as we know of today was organized in 1866. The term Gorkha is used by the people of Darjeeling to separate themselves from the Nepalese (citizens of Nepal. The term Gorkha encompasses all the three original inhabitants of the Darjeeling Hills viz: Nepali, Lepcha and Bhutia[2].
By the start of the twentieth century, Gorkhas made socio-economic advance through government service, and a small fraction developed among them as literate people. Following this in 1907, the first ever demand for a separate administrative setup for the District of Darjeeling was placed before the British government by the leaders of the hill people. Their main reason for doing so was to assert their identity, which was entirely different and separate from those who lived in the plains. In 1917 the Hillmen's Association came into being and petitioned for the administrative separation of Darjeeling in 1917 and again in 1930 and 1934. In 1923 the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (All India Gorkha League) was formed at Dehradun.It soon spread to Darjeeling. On 15 May 1943, All India Gorkha League came into existence in Darjeeling.

Late British and India

On 19 December 1946, the Gorka League's heart and soul, D.S. Gurung even made a plea in the Constitution Hall before the Constituent Assembly for recognition of Gorkhas as a minority community "Sir, the demand of the Gurkhas is that they must be recognized as a minority community and that they must have adequate representation in the Advisory Committee that is going to be formed. When the Anglo-Indians with only 1 lakh 42 thousand population have been recognized as a minority community, and Scheduled Castes among the Hindus have been recognized as a separate community, I do not see any reason why Gurkhas with 30 lakhs population should not be recognized as such."

Leaders within the league's ranks such as Randhir Subba were not satisfied with this meagre request. Soon after the death of D.S. Gurung, Randhir Subba raised the demand for a separate state within the framework of the Indian Constitution called Uttarakhand. Uttarakhand could be composed one of the following ways.

Darjeeling district only or

Darjeeling district and Sikkim only or

Darjeeling district, Sikkim, Jalpaiguri, Dooars and Coochbehar or

Darjeeling district, Jalpaiguri and Coochbehar

Initially Randhir Subba was in favor of a militant movement, but this option never gained momentum as its leaders were mobilized to other purposes by apt politicians of the central government and leaders of the West Bengal government.

On April 6, 1947 two Gorkhas, Ganeshlal Subba and Ratanlal Brahmin, members of the undivided CPI (Communist Party of India) submitted a quixotic memorandum to Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Vice President of the Interim Government for the creation of Gorkhasthan – an independent country comprising of the present day Nepal, Darjeeling District and Sikkim (excluding its present North District) in the line of Pakistan.

During the 1940s, the Communist Party of India (CPI) organized Gorkha tea workers. In presentations to the States Reorganisation Commission in 1954, the CPI favored regional autonomy for Darjeeling within West Bengal, with recognition of Nepali as a Scheduled Language. The All India Gorkha League preferred making the area a union territory under the Central government.

Then during the 80s Subash Ghising raised the demand for the creation of the state of Gorkhaland to be
carved out of the hills of Darjeeling and areas of Dooars and Siliguri Terai contigious to Darjeeling, with a large population of ethnic Gorkhas. The Gorkhaland movement took a violent turn in the 1980s when Subash Ghishing lead Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) issued a violent demand for statehood, which lead to the death of over 1200 people. This movement culminated with the formation of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) in 1988. Over the years the state government allowed a free rein to Subash Ghishing and GNLF. The West Bengal government did not seek to control the DGHC as long as the demand for Gorkhaland was not brought up again.

After 20 years of GNLF rule the people of Darjeeling revolted against the tyranny, atrocities, high handedness and corruption of the GNLF and prevented Subash Ghishing from entering the Darjeeling hills. It was common knowledge that Subhash Ghising was close to senile as evident by his speeches at GNLF party congregations where he talked about the indigenous bougainvillea flower should be called “Gunakeshari” and the flower was a panacea for almost all diseases from common cold to diseases like AIDS! Apart from that he was always accompanied by his personal “witch woman” who would give him the precise locations where he should erect a temple. One incident being he declared a big boulder lying on the side of a road in near Mirik as a rock from outer space, and ordered all of his “followers” to build a temple around it and to worship it. It Since then the people of Darjeeling and Doors have reignited their fight for right to self assertion and development of the region by demanding the formation of Gorkhaland.

Recent Developments

Since late 2007 the demand for a separate state within the Indian Union has been started more intensely by the Gorkha leader Mr. Bimal Gurung, under the newly formed party called Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJMM) [3]. This movement has vowed to create a separate state by 2010 [4]. He has called for a more non-violent form of protest by refusing to pay state taxes to the government including electricity and phone bills. People have resorted to changing vehicle numbers from WB (West Bengal) to GL (signifying Gorkhaland).

The administrative machinery in the hills of Darjeeling seems to have broken down, with most of the Government offices non-functional, and even the police unable to maintain law and order in the district. The scene became particularly violent when a female GJMM supporter was allegedly shot dead by GNLF supporters during a protest. Rioting followed. The situation became normal after GJMM leaders called for restraint. The central and the West Bengal governments have called for a tripartite meeting with the GJMM leaders to resolve the issue, although breakthrough seems unlikely as both the GJMM leaders as well as the West Bengal government are taking a hard line. The former has refused to consider anything less than Gorkhaland while the later has been adamant in claiming that they would not allow further division of Bengal.

Activities for support of Gorkhaland has also been seen in areas outside Gorkhaland. The mainstream parties of Sikkim have openly supported the Gorkhaland movement and pledged solidarity [5] .
[edit]2009 BJP's support for Gorkhaland

Ahead of the 2009 General Elections in India. The BJP again announced their policy of having smaller states and will create 2 more states Telangana and Gorkhaland if they win the general election.[6] They also said that smaller states are better governed and developed.


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