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Darjeeling Issue
 

Gorkhaland, the separate statehood is only the solution for hill people and not DGHC or the Sixth Schedule, A fresh agitation for  separate statehood Gorkhaland  being launched by Gorkha Janamukti Morkha led by Bimal Gurung, the former Councilor of DGHC

 

 

After running Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) for over 18 years, the Chief Executive, Mr. Subash Ghisingh realized that DGHC could no longer fulfill the hopes and aspiration of the people of Darjeeling and Indian Gorkha. He declared that until and unless there would be no fresh talks and review of accord and transfer of power, there would be no more DGHC election. For him, DGHC was a closed chapter since the State Government failed on several accounts to fulfill its promises and to live up to the expectation of the hill people as per the accord. There were series of dialogue in the last several occasions with the representatives of state Government on the issue of power about DGHC but the dialogue could not bring any fruitful result and ended in fiasco. Confrontation over the power and function of DGHC continued for a long period between DGHC and West Bengal. Sensing no outcome to such dialogue, Mr. Ghisingh again expressed deep anguish over the alleged delaying tactics on bureaucratic level and he sought direct intervention of Government of India on the issue and asked for political solution for good. Ultimately, sensing the serious deadlock over the issue and the threatening from DGHC Supremo Ghisingh, the home ministry called a tripartite meeting last year in New Delhi in which Home Minister Mr. Shivaraj Patel and Mr. Buddhadev Bhattacharya, the Chief Minister of West Bengal were present along with Mr. Subhas Ghisingh. That time, Ghisingh was optimistic over the outcome and said that even if his main demand was the creation of Gorkhaland, the separate statehood, he would be agreed if the Centre would consider the status of DGHC and extends the provision under 6th schedule of the constitution and gives constitutional guarantee by extending such provision in the hill at the moment. Even after a lapse of so many months, things have not been moved an inch and the serious deadlock is being continued while scolding game in not over.

Following the previous dialogue, it was understood that the center, state and Ghisingh were agreed on one issue that the solution must be found out immediately to remove the stalemate. However, the main confrontation is still being hooked in tantrum regarding the jurisdiction of Darjeeling hill and accord of Six Schedule status. The DGHC Chief (Now acting chief Executive) further wants the expansion of the region including part of Siliguri and Dooars. It appears that the center government is finding out the possible solution on the confronted issue and the procedure of the provision of 6th schedule that could be extended. While the debate is going on and the ball is rolling on center’s court, it is noteworthy that how the Gorkhaland movement started and what progress made by Gorkha National Democratic Front (GNLF) party led by its leader Mr. Subash Ghisingh during two decade of its struggle.

It is to be noted here that the Indian Gorkhas have contributed significantly during and post independence period for the liberation of the country from foreign domination. There were many martyr and unsung heroes who had sacrificed their lives for their motherland. Among them, the then British Government at Red fort, Delhi hanged martyr Durga Malla to death for taking part in independence struggle under the banner of Aajad Hind Fauj. Many other unknown Gorkha heroes followed his suit and sacrificed for the sake of the motherland. Due to the effort and continuous struggle by all other freedom fighters, India became independent from the British regime ultimately in 1947. All the states, small and big came into existence but the Indian Gorkhas were left unheeded. They felt that they were still under the clutches and domination of landlord and colonial power of Bengal. This is because of their lack of leadership in the national level. Although Mr. Ari Bahadur Gurung was one of the signatory in the draft committee of the Constitution of India and Mr. Theodore Manen from Darjeeling was the first General Secretary of All India Congress (I) Committee during Nehru’s regime from Gorkha community, no national political leadership thought for the future of Indian Gorkhas. As a result, there was no proper representation of Indian Gorkha in any state assembly and parliament. Although, there are an estimated number of 20 millions Indian Gorkhas living and settling since a long time, they are not in a geographically contagious area and hence scattered all over India. It was a main factor for them not to be remaining in politically integrated force and fight for their cause. However, they are densely populated and inhabited in Darjeeling, Sikkim, Assam and Dehardun (Uttarkhand) and they are actively involved now in national building process in their respective places.

Great fallout about their identity and existence in India was due to the presence of citizens from Nepal under an agreement of 1957. Mr. Subash Ghisingh therefore advocated the abrogation or the amendment of treaty in his political campaign that drew large audience in the agitation of 1986 and ultimately, he was succeeded to garner the support from the people in this political movement under the banner of Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) which he founded on April 5, 1980.

Some of the leader like Damber Singh Gurung, Ratan Lall Brahman and others raised the voice in the assembly and parliament and other leaders also spoke from their different political platform in the last several decades, but there voices did not reach in national level due to many shortcomings. Even the political bigwigs put their demands in cold storage for many years. As a result, the minority Gorkha community in India particularly the working class in various tea gardens of Darjeeling hill and Dooars regions remained suppressed, neglected and their demands were crushed and trampled down by the successive Government and authority of West Bengal. The horrible scene of the brutal killings of many innocent tea workers at Margaret Hope tea estate by police firing in 1955 is the glaring example of the suppression of the voice of the people by powerful leader of Bengal in a democratic country like India. There are many other innumerable incidents that took place in many tea gardens and other parts of the country in which the Indian Gorkhas were behaved inhumanely and tortured mentally and physically by their fellow citizens on the allegation that they are from foreign soil. Even if they are from Nepal and citizen of Nepal, Indo-Nepal Treaty of 1950 allows them to come in India and Indian citizen can go Nepal and vice-versa on reciprocal basis but the so called protectors and anti-national element grossly violated the provision too and Gorkhas, whether they are Indian or Nepalese national, were thrown out from Meghalaya, Assam and other part of the country. All these incidents and inhumane behavior led to volcanic eruption in 1980, when Mr. Subhas Ghisingh formed his GNLF party and launched agitation for the demand of separate statehood that gained momentum slowly. The people watched and observed his commitment and sincerity towards the movement from the very out set.

He talked to this media person in 1982 in Darjeeling and his statement was published in Sikkim Express under the headline of "No Sikkim-Darjeeling merger" where he declined the issue of merging Darjeeling into Sikkim state as an option for Gorkhaland. He made it clear that Sikkim cannot safeguard the interest of Indian Gorkhas since there are ethnic problems of Bhutia, Lepcha and Nepali community in that state. He even emphasized that Sikkim rather could be merged into Darjeeling but Darjeeling could not be merged into Sikkim.

Mr. Ghisingh further had declared in the speech, "Anybody couldn’t suppress the movement of Gorkhaland nowhere, because it became the issue of all Indian Gorkhas. We are demanding the separate statehood within the framework and under the provision of Article 3 A of Indian constitution, but Bengal government is trying to put hurdle by declaring the movement as a movement of secessionist at par with Sikh’s Khalistani movement, but we want separate state and we want to be separated from Bengal domination and live in India as a true patriotic citizen of India. Bengali people have their Bengal state, Bihari people have their Bihar and similarly, Naga people have their Nagaland as their home state, but when we raise our demand for Gorkhaland, how we became secessionist and communal?" He raised the issue of Sugauli treaty and said that the Indian Gorkha has come to India with their land under the treaty and therefore they are totally Indian. "It is better to die than to live in Bengal, because Bengal is our graveyard." He remarked it and the slogan were painted all over the walls of Darjeeling in late 1980. He even criticized the provision of Indo- Nepal treaty referring Article 7 which says: The Government of India and Nepal agree to grant, on RECIPROCAL basis to the National of one country in the territories of the other the same privileges in the matter of residence, ownership of the property, participation in trade and commerce, movement and other privilege of similar nature. According to Ghisingh, this provision has adversely affected the political right and prospects of Indian Gorkha and therefore, the government of India and government of Nepal must abrogate or amend the treaty. Day by day, the GNLF movement gained ground by the mass support of the hill people, but the State and center Government failed to realize the ground reality and started to suppress the popular voice of the people.

The West Bengal police in connivance with central reserved police force (CRPF) indulged in gross human right violation in the hill, the first incident being the cold-blooded murder of many innocent persons in Kalimpong on July 27, 1986. Following the successive failure by the Bengal government to tackle with the law and order situation in the hill, the center government ultimately was forced to intervene on the issue. The 40 days long strike was observed in the hill in 1987 and people totally supported the movement. National media was more or less biased in all these incidents. Those were the days when there was no more effectiveness of electronic media and channel as we witness today. Hired goons in the regions threatened the local journalists to death who were in print media in a few numbers.

It was in the early year of 1987 that Mr. Subash Ghisingh visited the capital of Sikkim and hold press conference. While talking to media person, he stressed that as the patient admitted in the hospital needs medicine and not Horlicks to be fully cured, so we want Gorkhaland, a separate statehood since a council does not solve the problem of the hill people. Gorkhaland is only the Hobson’s choice, he had asserted. It was in the early agitation period that the former Prime Minister late Rajiv Gandhi also paid visit to Darjeeling and praised the contribution of the Gorkhas for making the country free from foreign domination. (His version of speech is also appended here). However, he did not utter a single word about the issue of Gorkhaland and about the hill people. Following pressure of agitation, the Former Home Minister Mr. Buta Singh sent communiqué to Mr. Subash Ghisingh for tripartite meeting and invited him for dialogue in New Delhi. After much debate and speculation, the Darjeeling accord was signed in which Mr. Subash Ghisingh was compelled to drop the demand of Gorkhaland, a separate statehood. Now his opponents are criticizing him to do so a historic blunder. Ghisingh’s compulsion to drop the demand was questioned by his opponents several occasion but at that time he hold the view that after granting the citizenship right to Indian Gorkhas and the status of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, they would be given justice as per the letter and spirit of the accord. His political opponents alleged him that it was his political immaturity to believe the leaders of the country. After running DGHC for three consecutive terms and more, Mr. Ghisingh felt betrayed, as it could not function properly because of paucity of fund and power and alleged non-co-operation and apathy from West Bengal Government. The people of the hill also realized that DGHC was not the substitute of a separate statehood. Mr. Ghisingh urged the center to review the accord for many a times. It was during the regime of Bharatiya Janata Party led coalition government at Center that he was invited by the then Home Minister, Mr. Lall Krishna Advani. After the dialogue, he returned from Delhi via Pankhabari Road to Darjeeling where he was attacked by unidentified gunmen at Satghumti, Pankhabari Road and critically wounded. Later the prime suspect Mr. Chatrey Subba who was allegedly masterminded the attack on the life of Mr. Ghisingh and others were arrested for the attack. This incident created a setback for the possible review of the accord, since it was again thrown in cold storage by the center and West Bengal.

Soon after completing the third term, Mr. Ghisingh raised issue of the constitutional status of DGHC and maintained that there will be no more DGHC election until and unless constitutional safeguard is provided for it. Mr. Ghisingh even said that he would revive the Gorkhaland agitation if the center turned its ear deaf on this grave issue and continuously ignore the genuine demands of Indian Gorkhas.

Last year, the dialogue and tripartite meeting started at the center, however, the question of solving the problem still remains at large. The possible option seeking at the moment is accord of the 6th schedule status to the people of Darjeeling, but the people are still craving for the creation of a separate statehood as they think that it will solve their problem for good. The champion of the cause of the separate statehood in the hill is making the point to the center that when Government can consider the case of Jharkhand, Uttaranchal and Chatisgarh without any much hurdle, why the case of Darjeeling hill was sidelined? Is this a conspiracy to Indian Gorkha? Is this the price given to the freedom fighter of India? Why the Indian Gorkhas are left unheeded? They have their reasons to ask the demands that the Indian Gorkhas have participated in freedom struggle and contributed a lot, but even after the 59th year of country’s independence, they are still neglected at large.

Whether the center will concede their demand or make any alternative arrangement or opt for wait and watch policy about the whole affairs of Darjeeling, only time will tell. At the moment, the center leadership needs to tackle the issue sincerely since the insurgency of North East and the moist rebels of neighboring country Nepal can haunt and spread their activities in this strategic location of Darjeeling hill in the future taking the advantage of the situation prevailing there. For the interest of the country, sooner the issue solved the better. If the deadlock continues and opt the policy to throw it at cold storage, there is every possibility of spreading it as an incurable chronic disease forever for the country. The successive failure to hold DGHC election can jeopardize the interest of the people of Darjeeling and ultimately the democratic system of the country as a whole. As a spark if neglected burns the houses of all, so the problem of the boarder region if left unheeded can be a great problem for the nation. It must be therefore, nipped in the bud before it will be too late to tackle with. An ant if unheeded can be a cause for the death of an elephant.

Darjeeling Issue-II
What late Rajiv Gandhi had said about Gorkhas when he visited Darjeeling in 1986, in his second visit as PM?

                

(As published in Himgiri, news weekly, Vol. No. 2, issue: 26 dated December 21, 1986)

Darjeeling: 19 December: It was his second visit to Darjeeling after Rajiv Gandhi came in power. He reached Bagdogra from New Delhi by flight and reached Lebong helipad by helicopter service. There was snowfall in Darjeeling since last three days continuously and there was severe cold wave, Despite the cold climate the people gave him rousing reception. He wore a Nepali cap on his head. The Nepali girls put tilak on his forehead and put the Nepali cap according to tradition.

Gorkha People have shed their blood for the country: Rajiv Gandhi

While addressing the people gathered at the North Point ground, (the then) Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi said, "Gorkhas are intermingled with the Indian culture. The Gorkha brothers have shed their blood for the sake of the country before and during the freedom struggle."(There was emotional outburst from the hill people to his remark  for it was the first time by any Prime Minister of India who praised the glory of Gorkhas)

Referring to the Gorkhaland agitation and its implication in the country, PM Gandhi said, "today Gorkhas in India are facing two different problems, one is the Gorkha who are settling in India during Indo-Nepal treaty of 1950 or prior to the independence of the country and another is the Gorkha after the treaty. He clarified that no Indian citizenship would be granted to those people who entered into India from Nepal after the treaty of 1950. However he said that the right of life and property would be protected for theirs too. He said that it would help to foster the relationship between India and Nepal.

Prime Minister disclosed that on next January 8, 1987, a meeting between the Chief Minister Mr. Jyoti Basu and himself would be held in New Delhi regarding the present situation of Darjeeling and the agitation launched by GNLF.

He said that Gorkhas have played crucial role to make the country strong and further urged to continue the effort to maintain peace in the prevailing situation.

He also accepted the mistake of the past that many smaller states came into existence on the line of linguistic division. He said that it was not a good trend for the unity of the country. Bengal is not for Bengali people alone, it is for the people of Gorkhas too. Gorkhas must not be treated second class citizen here. He iterated however that there would be no division of Bengal.

GNLF is not anti-national: Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi

Prime Minister said that GNLF agitation is not anti-national. Even if West Bengal alleged that GNLF is anti-national, we have not found anti-national activities. Clarifying the so called letter written by Subhas Ghisingh to UNO and king of Nepal, PM further said, "Ghisingh has made apology to Home Minister Buta Singh that such action would not be repeated in future." He asked the media persons that if they had such evidence, they could procure, and further added but after elapsing three months, no such proof had been produced.

PM further alleged that the Government of Jyoti Basu could not maintain law and order situation in Darjeeling. PM further said that after all party meeting, Mr. Jyoti Basu had assured to look into the problem of Darjeeling hill but after passing three months, he has not made any such effort. PM Gandhi urged the Chief Minister Jyoti Basu to visit Darjeeling and understand their problems.

Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had urged Jyoti Basu to accompany him in his visit to Darjeeling but he denied doing to do so, PM added.