Wednesday, 18 June 2008

What is the Gorkhaland Movement?

Gorkaland is the name given to the area around Darjeeling and the Duars in north West Bengal in India. Residents of the area, mostly Gorkhas have long demanded a separate state for themselves to preserve their Nepali identity and to improve their socio-economic conditions.
History of Gorkhaland movement in India:
Historically, Darjeeling and its surrounding terai areas formed a part of the then Kirat kingdom called Bijaypur. After the disintegration of the Bijaypur kingdom, it fell to Sikkim and Bhutan. From 1790-1816, Darjeeling and its immediate contiguous area were overrun by the Gorkhas of Nepal. After the Anglo Nepalese War (1814-1815), the Treaty of Sigauli was signed between the Gorkhas and the East India Company. Darjeeling was taken from the Gorkhas of Nepal by the British and returned to the Sikkimese after the Treaty of Titaliya. In 1835, Col Lloyd became the representative of East India Company for Darjeeling. During his tenure Darjeeling was annexed into the British Indian Empire. However the original map of Darjeeling came into existence only after the induction of Kalimpong and Duars area after the Anlgo-Bhutanese war of 1864 (Treaty of Sinchula). Darjeeling as we know of today was organised in 1866. The ethnic identity "Gorkha" comes from the district of Gorkha within Nepal which was the kingdom of the Prithvi Narayan Shah. In 1835 there were 10,000 Gorhkas in the Darjeeling Hills. By the start of the twentieth century, Gorkhas made a modest socio-economic advance through government service, and a small anglicized elite developed among them. Following this in 1907, the first ever demand for “a separate administrative setup” for the District of Darjeeling was placed before the British government by the “leaders of the hill people”. The “Hill people” here referred to the Lepchas, Bhutias and the Gorkhas. Their main reason for doing so was their growing sense of insecurity against the educated hordes of the plain. The demand was ignored. In 1917 the Hillmen's Association came into being and petitioned for the administrative separation of Darjeeling in 1917 and again in 1930 and 1934. In 1923 the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (All India Gorkha League) was formed at Dehradun.It soon spread to Darjeeling. On 15 May 1943, All India Gorkha League came into existence in Darjeeling. It gained additional support after World War II with the influx of ex-soldiers from the Gurkha regiments who had been exposed to nationalist movements in Southeast Asia during service there. On 19 December 1946, the party's heart and soul, D.S. Gurung even made a plea in the Constitution Hall before the Constituent Assembly for recognition of Gorkhas as a minority community "Sir, the demand of the Gurkhas is that they must be recognized as a minority community and that they must have adequate representation in the Advisory Committee that is going to be formed. When the Anglo-Indians with only 1 lakh 42 thousand population have been recognized as a minority community, and Scheduled Castes among the Hindus have been recognized as a separate community, I do not see any reason why Gurkhas with 30 lakhs population should not be recognized as such." But leaders within its own ranks such as Randhir Subba, were not satisfied with this meagre demand. Soon after the death of D.S. Gurung, Randhir Subba raised the demand for a separate state within the framework of the Indian Constitution called Uttarakhand. Uttarakhand could be composed one of the following ways.
Darjeeling district only or
Darjeeling district and Sikkim only or
Darjeeling district, Sikkim, Jalpaiguri, Dooars and Coochbehar or
Darjeeling district, Jalpaiguri and Coochbehar
This movement was discussed even by the masses. Initially Randhir Subba was in favor of a militant movement but was dissuaded by other leaders. The movement never gained momentum as its leaders were moblised to other purposes. On April 6, 1947, two Gorkhas Ganeshlal Subba and Ratanlal Brahmin members of the undivided CPI (Communist Party of India) submitted a Quixotic memorandum to Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Vice President of the Interim Government for the creation of Gorkhasthan – an independent country comprising of the present day Nepal, Darjeeling District and Sikkim (excluding its present North District). The demand was more of an attention seeker. It never was genuine. During the 1940s, the Communist Party of India (CPI) organized Gorkha tea workers. In presentations to the States Reorganisation Commission in 1954, the CPI favored regional autonomy for Darjeeling within West Bengal, with recognition of Nepali as a Scheduled Language. The All India Gorkha League preferred making the area a union territory under the Central government. In all from the 1950's to the 1985, first the CPI (1954), then the Congress (1955), then the triumvirate of Congress, CPI and AIGL (1957), then the United front (1967 & 1981), then again Congress (1968) and finally CPI(M) 1985 dangled along with the carrot of Regional Autonomy for Darjeeling.
(We extend our supports to their rights and demands).