Political message through cultural display: Classic example in Darjeeling district

By Dr D.N.S.Dhakal

There are many uniqueness of Bengal. The East India Company consolidated its hold in India from its headquarters in Calcutta. Rabindranath Tagore was one of the first non-white scholars to receive noble price in literature. Intellectual Bengal is alive but not vibrant.

The native Bengalis are over 250 million in Bangladesh, Tripura, Assam and West Bengal combined. This would place them in third largest linguistic group after Mandarin Chinese and Hindi.

In the past Bengali scholars and tantric teachers visited Tibet and established connection with China. The nostalgia of the past is still alive in the minds of intellectual Bengalis, and that has made them imaginative in culture and politics.

This extraordinary quality is seen in this year’s Durga Puja pavilion. A huge pavilion created out of bamboo and clothes mimics a durga temple in Chinese style. Goddess Durga appears like a Chinese women riding a dragon in the battle against Maisasur.Durga Puja

The makeshift temple looks like a graft from Chinese hinterland. This pavilion is built near Champasri Mode which serves as interface between the Hills and the plain population.

The Nepali speaking community also organized their Phulpati Procession in the style Gorkha kings did in Nepal. The Communist Party Marxist (CPM) had started this tradition in response to Ghising’s attempt to deepen his political grip in the Hills by cultural polarization.

No political scholar would disagree on political significance of Darjeeling Hills to Bengali population. The Nepali community in the Hills which compares with its neighbors in Sikkim finds merit separating the Nepali dominated hills from Bengal by creating Gorkhaland.

This tussle has created a great setback in the Hills which could have very well become a top tourist destination. This has also impacted education sector which was one of the mainstays of economic activities up until the last quarter of the 20th century.

The rise of Ghising came in the aftermath of CPM victory in West Bengal. Ghising started with Gorkhaland, accepted Gorkha Hills Autonomous Region, and shifted the demand to protected territory under Sixth Schedule of the Indian constitution.

His understudy Bimal Gurung usurped political power sticking to Gorlhaland demand. BJP has used him as a tactical ally for winning Lok Sabha election in exchange for support to Gorkhaland.  At present all the hills MLAs have abandoned him.Durga Puja siliguri

Trilok Kumar Dewan and Rohit Sharma have resigned.  Dr Harka Bahadur Chettri has decided to continue as independent MLA. He is campaigning for conversion of Kalimpong Sub-division into a district, and reportedly warming up with Trimul Congress to fight the upcoming election.

Mamta Banerjee has succeeded to create constituency in the hills for her party by creating development board to different communities.

She has created five development board for different ethnic groups. Lepcha, Bhutia, Tamang, Magar and Sherpas. She is also pushing educational institutions from the plains to establish their base in the hills.

Darjeeling that was once center for Nepali literature and culture is submerged in the shadow of power politics. The notion of strategic location has taken the toll of the Queens of Hills unless the hill population overcome the mindset of separate state and focus at least for now on socio-economic development.

Obviously power comes with money. Resident of Darjeeling whether within and outside should aim for now at economic empowerment.