The “Gorkhaland” movement in the Darjeeling hills was always as much about identity as about territory. Subash Ghisingh once wanted parts of the Terai and the Dooars to be included in any administrative set-up for Darjeeling just as Bimal Gurung does now. Two factors have always been cited in support of this demand. First, the Terai and the Dooars are contiguous to Darjeeling and have sizeable Nepali-speaking populations. Second, any restructuring of Darjeeling’s territorial limits is supposed to be incomplete without an extension to the foothills. Mr Gurung has now come up with a rather specious argument in favour of the inclusion of the whole of the Terai-Dooars region in the proposed Gorkhaland Territorial Administration. He argues that the region, inhabited mostly by adivasi people, is as economically backward as the Darjeeling hills. This is a bogus argument because several other areas of North Bengal are equally backward. Mr Gurung’s concern for the economic status of the adivasi people may be genuine. But his demand for the inclusion of the Terai-Dooars area in the GTA is primarily inspired by his ambition to have a separate Gorkhaland state. He clearly wants to prove to his followers that the Gorkhaland of his dream is not to be confined to the Darjeeling hills.
A tripartite agreement was concluded on 18 July to set up an autonomous entity called the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA). It was an effort to find a way out of the Gorkhaland imbroglio that surfaced in the Eighties under the leadership of Subhas Ghisingh’s Gorkha National Liberation Front. The movement was halted only very temporarily following the tripartite accord of 25 July 1988, which led to the formation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC).
Last Saturday the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Bandopadhyay in her high strung, highly publicised meeting at Jhargram threatened the Maoists to lay down arms, stop their activities, and come to talk in seven days, or else, she declared, she would order counter insurgency operations thereafter. Her impatience was evident. From impatience comes error in judgment.
India is considered as the world’s largest democracy. With over a billion people, the system of allocating a separate state for different ethnic communities has made India a liberal country. However, The Gorkha community of India has been lagging behind in procuring a separate state. The West Bengal hegemony, the double standard diplomacy of the central government and the disharmony of the Gorkha leaders have contributed to the ordeal. If the Punjabis can have Punjab, The Nagas can have Nagaland, The Assamese can have Assam, Bengalis can have West Bengal why can’t the Gorkhas have Gorkhaland? Why is the Bengal government reluctant to confer an unconditional full-fledged state for the Gorkhas? Whenever the Gorkhaland agitation gains momentum, it gets aborted in the form of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) and now the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA). Why such subaltern forums hack the spirit of the uprising? In a well established democratic setup like India, West Bengal should refrain from juggling unfair politics in the hills. These forums that come as a compromise package at the climax of the revolution have procrastinated our demand for statehood.
The scale of devastation caused by the 6.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Sikkim, Bengal and parts of Nepal, Bangladesh as well as Tibet on Sunday evening has just shown how well prepared India as a nation is to tackle such an eventuality. The response was poor except for the Army which in its classical role continues to be the “Steel Frame of India”. The magnitude of disaster is mind bogging 62000 (sixty two thousand), buildings damaged, property worth one lahk crores lost and the news of the same on the fifth day of the disaster is barely audible, lost in the din of 2G scam and global economy. Is that so, or do we need to seriously introspect and see some more issues, and the first is that “Does the North East really matter””?