- The aspiration for self-rule of the hill people in Darjeeling is more than a century old. To be precise, such aspiration for autonomous rule can be traced back to 1907.
- The Gorkhaland movement is a long-standing quest for a separate State of Gorkhaland within India for Nepali-speaking Indian citizens (often known as ‘Gorkhas’).
- Gorkhaland is a classic sub-nationalist movement, similar to those that have produced other States like Telangana, Uttarakhand etc.
- Gorkhaland is a desire for the recognition, respect, and integration of Gorkha peoples in the Indian nation-state.
- The movement is neither separatist nor anti-nationalist; it is about inclusion and belonging in India.
- It stands as a key means to redress the Gorkhas’ enduring history of discrimination, misconception, and marginalisation in India.
- By demanding Gorkhaland, the people of Darjeeling-Kalimpong are opting out of West Bengal’s domination, and opting in to the democratic frameworks of India.
- Since 1947, the Darjeeling-Kalimpong region has remained under West Bengal, despite no substantive pre-Partition evidence to support West Bengal’s territorial claims to this region.
- Conciliatory set-ups like the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (1988-2012) and the GTA (2012-present) have failed to provide meaningful autonomy.
THE NEGLECTED GORKHAS
- Gorkhas remain pegged to the lowest levels of employment.
- Outsiders own the tea industry, and profits flow out of the hills.
- Gorkhas face discrimination when they seek education and work in places like Kolkata, Bengaluru, and New Delhi. Called ‘foreigners’, ‘outsiders’ and ‘chinkys’, racial discrimination affects aspiring Gorkhas at every turn.
STEPS TAKEN IN THE PAST
- The institution of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council in 1988 ended the cycle of violence that engulfed the area between 1986-88. However, it failed to deliver any results.
- Following the unsuccessful experiment, yet another administrative body, the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), was instituted in 2011. This provided official recognition to ‘Gorkhaland’. But the GTA too, like its predecessor, lacked sufficient autonomy.
- It is worth noting that neither successive state governments nor the administrative set-ups in the hills ever felt the need to furnish accounts of public funds disbursed to them. This mutually acceptable lack of accountability was gainful for both the state government and the GTA, until they collided with each other.