Gorkhaland Issue

By Dr. D.N.S.Dhakal

The hills of West Bengal has now two districts. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee created Kalimpong district out of the sub-division. Historically, Kalimpong was the trading outpost. Jalaypa-pass in the Kalimpong area had served in the past as trading outlet into Tibet.

The independent India always maintained a close watch on the hills of Darjeeling since it was an adjoining landmass to the erstwhile kingdom of Sikkim, Kingdom of Bhutan, Kingdom of Nepal and Tibet.

Then, many of the elites in Bhutan, Nepal, Sikkim and the northeast vied to put their children in missionary schools of Darjeeling. Indeed it was considered a school education capital; even the kings of Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim studied here.

Ex-military serviceman Subash Ghising rocked the peaceful atmosphere of Darjeeling District in the early 1980s. The agitation took the toll of 3000 people.

On-going Dharna at Janatar Mantar, New Delhi. Photo by Dr. D.N.S. Dhakal

On-going Dharna at Janatar Mantar, New Delhi. Photo by Dr. D.N.S. Dhakal

The Council has not addressed adequately the aspiration of hill people. Ghising died two decades later after being pushed out from the Gorkha Territorial Area by his own understudy Bimal Gurung.

Bimal Gurung has revived the demand for Gorkhaland. It is an old issue; it is reported that the issue of Gorkhaland was there even before India’s independence.

India has a contingent of armed forces named after their respective states. Though the recruitment in the Indian Gorkha regiments is from India and Nepal the supporters of Gorkhaland believe that Darjeeling inherits the mental of the Gorkha regiments.

The suggested map of Gorkhaland is interesting. It comprises the present day district of Darjeeling and Kalimpong and the contiguous area in the duars along the Indo-Bhutan border up to the River Sunkosh.

Historically, the present day Darjeeling District belonged to the erstwhile kingdom of Sikkim; and the Kalimpong District and the adjoining duars belonged to Bhutan.

Critics of Gorkhaland question the economic viability of the proposed Gorkhaland territory though there are union territories in India which are much smaller in geographical areas.

West Bengal is opposed to further division of the state. The earlier communist regime had even toyed the idea of granting tribal status to the entire hill areas if that would satisfy the aspiration of the Hill people. Subash Ghising himself had advocated the sixth schedule status for the GTA.

Bengalis are culturally rich people with global ethnic strength of over 250 million. Darjeeling is the tourist destination for the Bengalis even for those in Bangladesh.

Rabindra Tagore and Subash Chandra Bose had spent time in Darjeeling. It used to be the summer capital of the colonial India when the operational headquarter was in Calcutta.

There is a growing voice in the region that reintegration of Darjeeling with Sikkim would be the lasting solution. If one gives credence to the historical antecedent then only Darjeeling District qualifies that argument but not Kalimpong District and the Duars.

Reportedly, the governor of Sikkim has mentioned recently in governors’ meeting about the need of addressing the Gorkhaland issue. Sikkim’s Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling has also made his position clear on Gorkhaland. The road to Doklam passes through the area of GTA.

Creation of smaller, administratively efficient state is also the policy of RSS, the fountainhead of the ruling party in New Delhi. The area houses large contingent of armed forces that oversee the northern border.