by Abhishek Singh
The Gorkhas Regiment constitutes the largest regiment in the Indian Army; yet the Gorkhas are treated as 2nd Class Citizens in their own country. This is the plight of the Gorkha community living in the picturesque region of Darjeeling & Doors in India. This place and its people have been ruled by the State of West Bengal; which is a state for the Bengalis.
The problem is: We are not Bengalis; we are Gorkhas and we differ from the Bengalis in every way imaginable. Our features, language, culture, way of life, the geography & climate of our land; everything differs from those of the Bengalis and having been forced to live under the state of the Bengalis has obliterated our identity.
Our demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland has been the oldest statehood demand in the country which started way back in 1907 while the nation was still under the British rule. Several new States and Union Territories have been formed since then; but ours remains to be fulfilled.
Two mass movements for Gorkhaland have taken place under the Gorkha National Liberation Front (1986-1988) and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (2007-present) but all voices have been silenced and we have only been shown the door, everytime.
India is a country where every community is identified by the state they live in, but we have been denied this identity by the state—as well as the central—government for over a century now.
People from mainland India question us, “Who we are and where we come from?” and when we tell them we are Gorkhas from West Bengal–they are left with a constipated expression on their faces and quite rightly so. Personally, we do not have anything against the Bengalis; we just don’t want to live under a “Proxy Identity.”
So this has always been a struggle for our “Identity” and never for development as the State of West Bengal so cunningly puts it. And even if it had been a matter of development, here’s the state of affairs:
69 years of living under the State of West Bengal and a population of roughly one million (unofficial figures): There is no arrangement for drinking water; there is no proper hospitals; there is no University or proper infrastructure. You can well imagine the quandary of someone falling sick in Darjeeling.
We—along with all other citizens of North–East India—have been victims of widespread racism. Given the lack of infrastructure, our children are required to migrate to other parts of India for higher studies and job opportunities and when they do; they are harassed and beaten and raped and killed; merely because they have a different skin color or a different physical feature (Mongoloid) or they speak a different language. And India is supposedly “The World’s Largest Democracy.” The ugly truth is that my country, India, is the most racist country in the world under the guise of being a democracy.
We have; however, been able to maintain a decent lifestyle despite all these and we have a lot to thank the British for. They have set up some of the best English Schools in Darjeeling, up until high school, so our children gets a good education.
They have even given us the world famous Toy Train. We are lucky that the climate and topography of Darjeeling favors Tea Plantation; Darjeeling Tea is arguably the best tea in the world and at the same time Darjeeling happens to be one of the most famous tourist destination in and out of the country. Had all these responsibilities been left for the State of West Bengal to fulfil; our lives would have been a misery.
Our region has a self-sufficient economy but the State of West Bengal simply won’t let go of their grip over us and our land because of the revenue our region adds to their economy: Theirs is an economy in tatters. So we keep striving with a hope that at the end of this tunnel—that the State of West Bengal is—there is light awaiting us…!!