Recently, there has been an uproar with respect to a demand for a separate state of Gorkhland near Darjeeling in West Bengal. The current Gorkhlanad movement is a fight in search of identity. They(Gorkha people) believe that only a separate state can give them this identity, which is true to some extent given the circumstances. It has little to do with development of their land and people. Lack of development often provides people a reason to revolt. Mixing these two things, identity and development, isn’t a very good idea as it is seems to somewhat fool the people. This would simply amplify the movement, something which is uncalled for, especially when it is about a particular sect of people, that too in India.
A bit about Gorkhaland
Gorkhaland is but a proposed state, demanded by the people of Darjeeling and the people of Indian Gorkha ethnic origin on the Northern part of West Bengal on the basis of linguistic and cultural difference wrt Bengali culture. So far, there have been 2 mass movements:
1. Gorkha National Liberation Front (1986-1988)
2. Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (2007-present)
A brief history about the movement
The demand for a separate administrative unit in Darjeeling exists since 1907, when, Himmen’s association of Darjeelingsubmitted a memorandum to Morley-Minto reforms committee demanding a separate administrative setup. This mainly involved the people of Darjeeling, Siliguri and Dooars. These people felt that on the basis of their ethnic history and distinct identity, a separate administrative unit would be for the greater good of their community. This demand was for a separate state within the territory of India.
- Ari Bahadur Gurung, a member of the Constituent Assembly raised this issue in the Assembly. The same issue was later revived by Subhash Ghisingh, a former army soldier and a poet. He’s the person to coin the term ‘Gorkhaland’.
- A violent agitation followed shortly after, which was led by the the Gorkha National Liberation Front.
- The then West bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu relented and agreed to set up the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, an autonomous body under the concept of state within a state.
- In 1929, Hillmen’s Association again raised the same demand before the Simon Commission.
- 1930, a joint petition submitted by Hillmen’s Association, Gorkha Officers’ Association and Kurseong Gorkha Library to the Secretary of the State of India, Samuel Hoare for separation from the province of Bengal.
- 1941, Hillmen’s Association under the leadership of Rup Nayan Sinha, urgeed the Secretary of State for India, Lord Pethick Lawrence, to exclude Darjeeling from the province of Bengal and make it a Chief Commissioner’s province.
- In Independent India, the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL) was the first political party from the region to demand greater identity for the Indian Gorkha ethnic group and economic freedom for the community, when in 1952, under the presidency of N.B. Gurung, the party met Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India in Kalimpong and submitted a memorandum demanding the separation from Bengal.
- In 2007, Bimal Gurung split from the Gorkha National Liberation Front and started a new party, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
- After a prolonged agitation of about two long years, the GJM agreed to set up a Gorkha Territorial Administratio, an autonomous body headed currently by Bimal Gurung.
- Gurun also demanded that the district of Darjeeling be included in the separate state of Gorkhaland, and also parts of Dooars.
There are several more attempts made to separate Gorkhaland and include Darjeeling in it, but we don’t want to go too much in depth of the timeline. But, India entered into a treaty with Nepal in 1950- The Treaty of Peace and Friendship. The Article 7 of this Treaty reads: “The Government of India and Nepal agree to grant on a reciprocal basis to the national of one country in the territory of another the same privileges in the matter of residence, ownership of properties, participation in trade and commerce, movement and other privileges of similar nature”.
This treaty brings ambiguity to the citizenship of the Gorkhas in India, and it led to the loss of their Indian Identity. It makes a Gorkha’s Indian citizenship a reciprocal one.
So, one must understand this, the fight for Gorkhaland isn’t against Bengal or its people. It is purely out of identity crisis. If and when the new state comes into existence, the Gurkhas in India won’t ever be deemed as foreign nationals.