Gorkhaland-Rise of the Gorkhas

Gorkhaland-Rise of the Gorkhas:

Gorkhaland is a region in the north of the Indian state of West Bengal that is administered by the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, an autonomous District Council for the Darjeeling and Kalimpong areas. The GTA was formed in 2012 to replace the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, which was formed in 1988 and administered the Darjeeling hills for 23 years.

GTA presently has three hill subdivisions Darjeeling, Kurseong and Mirik and some areas of Siliguri subdivision of Darjeeling district and the whole of Kalimpong district under its authority. Gorkhaland-Rise of the Gorkhas

History:

Gorkhaland is the name of the never proposed state in India that the Nepali-speaking Gorkha ethnic group in Darjeeling Kalimpong band the Dooars in the north of West Bengal have expressed a desire to create. A demand for a separate administrative unit in Darjeeling has existed since 1990 when the Hillmen’s Association of Darjeeling submitted a memorandum to Minto-Morley Reforms demanding for a separate state.

Subhash Ghisingh, the leader of the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) coined the term Gorkhaland. He led a violent agitation for its formation in its 1980s. This movement culminated with the formation of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC). The DGHC did not fulfill its goal of forming a new state, which led to the downfall of Subhash Ghisingh and the rise of another party Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) headed by Bimal Gurung in 2007, which launched a second agitation for a Gorkhaland state.

Formation of GTA:

After three years of agitation for a state of Gorkhaland led by GJM, the GJM reached an agreement with the state government to form a semi-autonomous body to administer the Darjeeling hills. A  bill for the creation of GTA was passed in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly on 2 September 2011.

The GTA aimed to have administrative, executive and financial powers but no legislative powers. A 10-member joint verification committee headed by a retired High Court judge examined the demand to bring the Gorkha inhabited pockets of the Dooars and the Terai under the GTA.

Memorandum of Agreement:

The Memorandum of Agreement for GTA was signed on 18 July 2011 at Pintail Village near Siliguri in the presence of Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leaders.

West Bengal Home Secretary G.D. Gautama, Union Home Ministry Joint Secretary K.K. Pathak and GJM general secretary Roshan Giri signed the agreement.

President’s assent and high power committee report:

The Pratibha Devi Singh Patel gave her assent to the GTA Bill of West Bengal on 7 March 2012. And the West Bengal government issued a gazette notification for the GTA Act on 14 March 2012 signaling preparations for elections for the GTA. In a meeting held on 24 March 2012 between the GJM leaders and the West Bengal government, it was decided that the election for the GTA would be held at the end of June or in July 2012.

The Justice Sen Committee would be requested to submit its report on the inclusion of additional areas of Terai and Dooars in the GTA on 26 May 2012 to which elections are to be held in July 2012.

Committee:

The high powered committee headed by retired judge Shyamal Kumar Sen that was set up by the West Bengal government recommended the inclusion of just five Mouzas under the proposed GTA although the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha had demanded a 398 Mouzas from the Dooars and Terai regions.

The West Bengal government announced that it will set up a three-member “Fact Verification Committee” to go into the recommendations of Justice Sen Committee after the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha rejected its report.

The Calcutta High Court admitted on 19 June 2012 the case moved by Gorkha National Liberation Front leader Subash Ghisingh challenging the legality of the GTA agreement- the central government, the state government, and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha- to file affidavits stating their stand on Ghisingh’s contention.

GTA election 2012:

The West Bengal government announced that the election for the GTA would be held on 29 July 2012.  And the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha announced that it would contest the GTA polls, which it had earlier threatened to boycott over the Justice Sen-headed committee recommendations on the territorial inclusion of the Dooars and Terai that it had rejected.

After a period of silence, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha announced the names of its GTA election nominees. Parties that formed the Gorkhaland Task Force decided not to contest the GTA election.  The GNLF decided to boycott the elections and its chairman filed a case in the Kolkata High Court challenging the GTA.

Rebellion:

Moreover, the CPI withdrew the nominations of its 13 candidates from the GTA elections, alleging threats and intimidation by the GJM and the GJM received 28 seats of the GTA held on 29 July 2012, GJM candidates won from all the constituencies.

Sanchabir Subba, the rebel GJM candidates from Gitdabling-Nimbong, narrowly lost to the party’s official contestant Kalyan Dewan by 677 votes. The newly elected members of the GTA were sworn in on 4 August 2012 at Darjeeling in the presence of home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

 What is Gorkhaland Issue?

  • The crisis in Gorkhaland has been brewing for many decades and stems from language-Nepali speaking people vs. Bengali speaking people.
  • Gorkhaland consists of Nepali-speaking people of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and other hilly districts of West Bengal. The people belonging to these areas have ethical, cultural and language differences with the Bengali community of West Bengal.
  • The demand for Darjeeling as a separate administrative region dates back to 1907. But the term Gorkhaland was coined recently in the 1980s, by Subash Ghisingh, the founder of the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF).
  • The Gorkhaland Movement is a movement mainly focussed on the Darjeeling Hills of West Bengal, which demands the creation of a separate state of Gorkhaland.
  • The area covers the Duars and Terai region of West Bengal. And it is famous for its tea and beauty, which are the main sources of its income.

Why is there a demand for separate statehood for Gorkhaland?

So, as mentioned the main reason for a separate Gorkhaland Movement is due to the differences in ethnicity, culture, and language.

The people of Nepali-Indian Gorkha ethnic origin on the Northern part of West Bengal demands a state on the basis of their cultural identity, which is very different from Bengali culture.

In addition to an identity crisis, there is also an issue of Poverty, underdevelopment, and politicization of the issue. According to Rajat Ganguli, it was a failure of governance combined with politicization combined that bred the Gorkhaland issue. He cites the historical trend, especially post-independence, where the issue erupts only when it’s pampered by political aspirations.

How Darjeeling came into existence?

  • Chogyal of Sikkim ruled the area of in the 1780s.
  • Around the 1780s the Gorkhas had captured Sikkim and most parts of the North East including Darjeeling
  • In 1814, the Anglo-Gorkha war broke out, which ended in the Treaty of Segoulee in 1815.
  • As per the treaty, British East India Company took all the territory that Gorkha annexed from Chogyal of Sikkim
  • In 1817, through the Treaty of Titalia, the British reinstated Chogyal of Sikkim and gave back all the territory annexed by Gorkhas back to Chogyals
  • British added Kalimpong to Darjeeling hills in 1864 via Treaty of Sinchula, signed between the British and Bhutan
  • Thus the present district of Darjeeling came into existence in 1866.

Why Gorkhaland Movement Matters?

It is one of the oldest movement in India (began in 1907) What happens in Gorkhaland will affect India-Nepal relations too. How India treats the problems of the Nepali people of hill origin in Darjeeling will affect how Nepal deals with the people of Indian origin in Nepal, i.e. Madhesi in Terai. Gorkhaland has a strategic location, it’s the vicinity to the chicken neck that connects the rest of India with North East. Its stability is a must for India’s strategic and economic interests of the nation. Darjeeling is a tea and tourist hot-spot with a high level of poverty. It needs and has the potential to become the economic engine of the East with a sustainable economic model. But such things will be possible only if there is stability in the region.

It is one of the oldest movements in India that began in 1907. What happens in Gorkhaland will affect India-Nepal relations too. How India treats the problems of the Nepali people of hill origin in Darjeeling will affect how Nepal deals with the people of India origin in Nepal, i.e. Madhesi in Terai

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