In 1980, a leader and a visionary named, Mr. Subhash Ghising, of the political party Gokha National Liberation Front (GNLF), pined on the opinion that all Gorkhas living in India must be given equality and a right to statehood. Therefore, he carried on the same movement by a massive agitation, popularly remembered as 1986’s agitation which lasted for two years.
Plenty of lives were lost and the demand raged fumes within the state and the country.
In August 1988 Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council was established under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution [Article 244(2) and 275(1)]. The Sixth Schedule grants regional autonomy with regional council. It also states that the a certain place that falls under the sixth schedule is a tribal place and has to be listed as one for elections to take place. Mr. Ghising passed away in January 2015, he was exiled from Darjeeling. He breathed his last in Delhi.
The Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council lasted fervently until 2007 where Mr. Bimal Gurung, once an aide of Mr. Ghising, realized that Gorkhaland movement could again be ignited by seeing the unity the people of the hills had during Indian Idol season 3. Prashant Tamang, hailed from Darjeeling and his participation in the singing realtity show acted as a catalyst to bring about unity in all the Nepalese speaking people in India. That year, Prashant Tamang won the title of Indian Idol.
The demand for Gorkhaland then took another turn. Mr. Gurung’s farsightedness brought about big changes in the Hills and the baby steps that were initially taken are now reaching some solid foundation. He founded the party Gokha Janmukti Morcha in October 2007.
There was a time when Darjeeling was more silent during the day than at night. The barking of the dogs at night with all their might, was the only din. The busy streets that used to be filled with people, the incessant honking of vehicles, heavy exchange of trade and commerce, the transportation and commutation had all come to a standstill.
For more than a week, the Darjeeling Hills called for a ‘Bandh’ (lockout). The schools, colleges, shops, market place, everything remained shut.
A strong protest was carried out where believers of the movement hiked 30 kilometers to the main town in heavy rainfall and bad weather conditions. Some people rolled themselves on the wet asphalt and begged for Gorkhaland. Some tattooed themselves also.
The women shaved their heads and went bald. Men etched their heart’s desire on their chests and bled and the bravest self-immolated themselves and lost lives while many others attempted it. Sworn enemies joined hands and come together. Festivals were not celebrated. The youth campaigned and it was not for votes. They wailed for what is theirs.
Ages back, the British came to India with an untold intention, more a lie. They were so good that they maintained control and power over a country which was not even theirs. India was a scattered country. No one even knew what India was actually made of. Formation of India was an idea hard to conceive. It was attained, none the less. Likewise, the British maintained their supremacy over India in the same way Bengal is maintaining over Darjeeling. Darjeeling does not belong to West Bengal. But there has been a controversy over the inhabitants of the Darjeeling Hills.
Three things are most important here. One, what is Darjeeling? Two, who are the people of Darjeeling? Three, why a demand for a separate state, Gorkhaland?
For that we will have to go back to history.
HISTORY OF DARJEELING:
The history of Darjeeling is intertwined with that of Sikkim, Nepal, British India and Bengal. Until the early 19th century, the hilly area around Darjeeling was controlled by the kingdom of Sikkim, while the plains around Siliguri were intermittently occupied by the kingdom of Nepal, with settlement consisting of a few villages of Lepcha and Kirati people and Kiratdesh. The Kiratdesh is said to have covered the mountainous regions from present-day Himachal Pradesh to Chittagong. They were said to be mountain dwellers. The human form that Lord Shiva took on to test Arjun, was a Kirata. The fact that the Kiratas find a place in these ancient works of literature proves beyond doubt that our forefathers were here way before the British wrote Indian history.
The Chogyal of Sikkim had been engaged in unsuccessful warfare against the Gorkhas of Nepal. From 1780, the Gorkhas of Nepal made several attempts to capture the entire region of Darjeeling. By the beginning of 19th century, they had overrun Sikkim as far eastward as the Teesta River and had conquered and annexed the Terai.
In the meantime, the British were engaged in preventing the Gorkhas of Nepal from overrunning the whole of the northern frontier. The Anglo-Gorkha war broke out in 1814, which resulted in the defeat of the Gorkhas of Nepal and subsequently led to the signing of the ‘Sugauli’ Treaty in 1815.
According to the treaty, Nepal had to cede all those territories which the Gorkhas of Nepal had annexed from the Chogyal of Sikkim to the British East India Company (i.e. the area between Mechi River and Teesta River). Later in 1817, through the Treaty of Titalia, the British East India Company reinstated the Chogyal of Sikkim, restored all the tracts of land between the Mechi River and the Teesta river to the Chogyal of Sikkim and guaranteed his sovereignty.
During the British Raj, Darjeeling’s temperate climate led to its development as a hill station for British residents seeking to escape the summer heat of the plains. The development of Darjeeling as a sanatorium and health resort proceeded briskly. Arthur Campbell, a surgeon with the Company, and Lieutenant Robert Napier were responsible for establishing a hill station there.
Campbell’s efforts to develop the station, attract immigrants to cultivate the slopes and stimulate trade resulted in a hundredfold increase in the population of Darjeeling between 1835 and 1849. The first road connecting the town with the plains was constructed between 1839 and 1842.
In 1848, a military depot was set up for British soldiers, and the town became a municipality in 1850.
Commercial cultivation of tea in the district began in 1856, and induced a number of British planters to settle there. Darjeeling became the formal summer capital of the Bengal Presidency after 1864. Scottish missionaries undertook the construction of schools and welfare centres for the British residents, laying the foundation for Darjeeling’s notability as a centre of education.
The opening of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in 1881 further hastened the development of the region. In 1899, Darjeeling was rocked by major landslides that caused severe damage to the town and the native population.
Under British rule, the Darjeeling area was initially a “Non-Regulation District”, a scheme of administration applicable to economically less advanced districts in the British Raj; acts and regulations of the British Raj did not automatically apply to the district in line with rest of the country. In 1919, the area was declared a “backward tract”.
During the Indian independence movement, the Non-cooperation Movement spread through the tea estates of Darjeeling. There was also a failed assassination attempt by revolutionaries on Sir John Anderson, the Governor of Bengal in 1934. Subsequently, during the 1940s, Communist activists continued the nationalist movement against the British by mobilising the plantation workers and the peasants of the district.
HISTORY OF GORKHAS:
During the Gorkha War (1814–1816) between the Gorkha Kingdom in Nepal and the East India Company the British were impressed by the Gorkhali soldiers which they called Gorkhas. Their war cry was and is to this very day: Jaya Mahakali, Ayo Gorkhali (Glory to Great Kali, Gorkhas approach)! In the Peace Treaty it was agreed that Gorkhalis could be recruited to serve under contract in the East India Company’s army.
Till recently recruitment had been mainly from the Nepali hill tribes such as the Magar, Gurung, Tamang, Sherpa, Chhetri, Thakuris, Rai and Limbu, although original Gorkhali soldiers were mainly of Chhetri, Thakuri, Gurung, and Magar ethnics. Gurkhas were thought to be a martial race because they were considered to be naturally warlike and aggressive in battle; to possess qualities of courage, loyalty, self-sufficiency, physical strength, resilience, orderliness; to be able to work hard for long periods of time and; to fight with tenacity and military strength.
The Anglo–Nepalese War was fought between the Gurkha Kingdom of Nepal and the British East India Company as a result of border disputes and ambitious expansionism of both the belligerent parties. The war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Sugauli in 1815.
Between 1901 and 1906, the Gorkha regiments were renumbered from the 1st to the 10th and re-designated as the Gurkha Rifles. In this time, the Brigade of Gorkhas, as the regiments came to be collectively known, was expanded to twenty battalions within the ten regiments.
Before Independence, the Gorkhas were serving under the British Indian Army. Post- Independence, India, Nepal and Britain signed a tripartite agreement. A total of 10 regiments, out of which six regiments joined the Indian Army (1 GR, 3GR, 4 GR, 5 GR, 8 GR, 9 GR). Four of which joined the British Army ( 2 GR, 6 GR, 7 GR, 10 GR).
All together there are 39 batallions and 7 Gorkha Rifles. Six were transferred from the British Indian Army and One was created after Independence.
It was in 1861, Gorkha Regiment formed their own line of Rifle Regiment called the Gorkha Rifles.
During World War I (1914–18), more than 200,000 Gorkhas served in the British Army, suffering approximately 20,000 casualties, and receiving almost 2,000 gallantry awards.
Gorkhas served in the battlefields of France in the Loos, Givenchy, Neuve Chapelle and Ypres; in Mesopotamia, Persia, Suez Canal and Palestine against Turkish advance, Gallipoli and Salonika. One detachment served with Lawrence of Arabia, while during the Battle of Loos (June–December 1915) a battalion of the 8th Gurkhas fought to the last man, hurling themselves time after time against the weight of the German defences, and in the words of the Indian Corps commander, Lieutenant-General Sir James Willcocks, “… found its Valhalla”.
In addition to keeping peace in India, Gorkhas fought in Syria, North Africa, Italy, Greece and against the Japanese in the jungles of Burma, northeast India and also Singapore. They did so with considerable distinction, earning 2,734 bravery awards in the process and suffering around 32,000 casualties in all theatres.
In 2009, Indian Army had fourty two thousand Gorkhas in 46 batallions.
It became very evident after Indian Independence that the Gorkhas of India were called the Gorkha Brigade and belonged to India and not Nepal.
The demand for the separate state withtin the Constitutional framework and the Indian Union consisting of Darjeeling District and the Dooars region of West Bengal is arguably the oldest and most outstanding demand in the country today.
This demand is founded on the bed rock of a historical, economic and political rationale.
The term Gorkha is used here synonymously to mean the nationality of those who are Indian citizens whose lingua franca is Nepali. Their politics of identity is characterised by a strong sense of insecurity and is not antithetical to the existence of pan-Indian nationalism and national integration.
The genesis of the demand goes back to 1907. In 1907, the leaders of the Hillmen Association of Darjeeling, submitted a memorandum before the Morley-Minto Reforms Committee of the British India Government demanding a separate administrative set up for the District of Darjeeling.
In 1917, A deputation of the District met Mr. Montague, the then Secretary of State of India and Lord Chelmsford, the then Viceroy and pressed demand that, “[i]n laying down the plans for the future, the Government should aim at the creation of a separate unit comprising the present Darjeeling District with the portion of Jalpaiguri district which was annexed from Bhutan in 1865.” In 1929, This demand was reiterated when the Simon Commission visited India.
In 1930, The Hillmen’s Association Memorandum to Sir Samuel Hoare, Secretary of State of India on 25th October, 1930 gave another detailed account of why they wanted to remain out of Bengal.
Again in 1934, 1935, 1945,1947, 1948, 1949, 1952, 1955,1957,1980-81, 1986-88, 2005-07, under various leaders and thinkers, the demand was kept on being pressed only to be ignored earlier by the British then by the Central and the State government.
Today, Gorkha Regiment completes its 200 years of service in the Army. Gorkhas are known across the globe for their valor, their strength, determination and loyalty. If England bestows citizenship to the Gorkhas from their regiment then why does India deter from giving this group of such rich history and culture, a small state of Gorkhaland.
But as Robert Frost put it ages back, “the woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep, Miles to go before I sleep.”