Gorkhaland Saga: Agitation anew for much awaited demand of Statehood



When  I am writing this  article, a huge  mass, chanting  slogans amid   torrential downpour, is heading towards Gitange Danra  demanding the one point  demand of a separate  state Gorkhaland.  The scenario takes us  to the  agitation way back in late  80s. As many as  12 hundred people were  martyred during the  series of intense but  vibrant agitations. Back then some six years ago, following the  dissolution of the Darjeeling  Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), the    consensus had been built between  the West Bengal state  government   and erstwhile topnotch Gorkha leaders on the provision of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) along with the commitment  made  before the people by the GTA office  bearers that the  century old  demand of  a separate  state would  still remain  alive. Thus  the parties active in the hills  hit the streets and the Gorkhas  in India and abroad  have  vowed  to  give  decisive breakthrough to the agitation  with their  heart  and  soul. Of late, considering the fact  that the tenure for GTA  came to an end a few months ago, the  agitation has  automatically  gone to the hands of  people   of all walks of life  with a proclamation   of   the people’s movement with no single party in the lead. It is learnt  that  the  leaders  have been sternly warned  if they agreed upon  any unpopular  decision other  than the provision of  statehood.

Status Quo

At the outset, now that the unwavering agitation  is at its peak once again based on the backdrop of whatever triggered  it   to spread like  wildfire, all-party consensus has been subsequently built   for reviving the demand for  Gorkhaland without  compromising  on any of the  alternatives of GTA or any  commitment  expressed either by the  Bengal government and  Central government. The crucial  moment  now is  as to how to go with  mounting  pressure  on the   BJP government  to have the long pending  demand of Gorkhaland   meted out  by hook  or by crook. As of now,  no voice has been raised in the parliament except  for  a few rhetoric  commitment  expressed  as consolation from the side of the  ruling  BJP and its alliances. The  agitation led by  all party alliance  has  gained optimum height now. Having their faith  lost in the West  Government,  parties need to tactically  lobby  for the  intervention to be stepped up by the BJP government as the high national priority   at the  center. It may be noted that the  several rounds of  tripartite  talks  have  been literally futile  with the  provision of  consolation  in the  name of   powerless  DGHC  and GTA. So the bottom line being the  age-old demand of Gorkhaland, central government’s  dilly dallying  in  intervening the situation  by  letting the  issue  to be tabled in the parliament  has been further  worsening the  situation. People have lost faith in the West Bengal government’s commitment. At the same time, the rift being  emerged in  national level  politics between the  BJP led  central government and  state  government  is  something  that  has made  everything  concerning Gorkhaland   stagnant. More importantly, the  Gorkha leaders  must be cognizant of this  fact  and they  spearhead  their  lobbying   accordingly. Contrarily,  BJP in West Bengal  appeared  to have  toed the line carved  by their opposition as mute spectators for the fear of losing  their vote bank.


Awareness  for now or never

It is needless  to ponder on the  geo-political  rationale to  set forth a logical  conclusion  why  separate  state would  be  the only way out  for the welfare of  hill citizens and their  very identity. With the  sudden  recurrence of  protest with the  one-point  agenda  now,  all party  consensus  to  go with the one-point  demand  of Gorkhaland has gained its optimum height  with the  support  extended  from all over. The topnotch leaders must be able to capitalize this  before it is too late. As the People’s Movement taps impetus, the prolonged crisis is an opportunity in disguise for the hill politicians. However,  it is  very unfortunate  that  a handful of unscrupulous politicians as the “certified crooks” often mislead the general public.

Rights  violation, an unexpected  answer

Indeed, the general  citizens  are in state of  fury amid their  relentless  protest  being  organized on daily basis. 12 people have  lost their lives when the police indiscriminately opened  fire at the demonstrators. It is a gross  violation of  human rights. India together with any of twenty nine  federal states  ought to comply with  the International Convention on the Civil and Political  Rights – 1969 (ICCPR) and Articles  3  and 20 of the   Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (UDHR)  to which India  is a state party. The recent extra judicial killing  evidently shows the downright non- compliance of the  articles   under the  above  conventions on the part of the  security agencies. Rather, the  state mechanism  is learnt to have  exhibited  its autocratic  action by using the  security  force  on peaceful  demonstration in the name of  restoring , peace as if there was no Rule  of Law.  On the other hand, state mechanism  is learned to  have  overlooked  the   deteriorating  health situation of the  demonstrators  staging  sit in with fast unto death program  which is  tantamount to the  violation of  human rights  of  citizens whose  right to life  is  at  stake  before the very  eye  of the  district administration.

Deteriorating  Situation

The de facto dire  situation  amidst  ever stretching Banda has left the  general people high and dry.  They are suffering due to acute shortage of  food,  daily  essential  commodities and health services. While on the other hand, both anti social elements and black marketeering  are reportedly taking upper hand  under  the shadow of  movement. Undeclared  embargo imposed  on  food supply  and  frequent  hindrances  caused in  ferrying  the essential commodities  to the Hills by the state sponsored  hooligans has reportedly  incited anarchy  at the foothills.   People in general  specially the  elderly people , women and children are vulnerable  and victimized due to the lack of  food and health  services. Meanwhile,   the ongoing ban imposed on local media  and  internet has literally  violated the  citizens’  right to information. This  again   has irked the  people  because  they have been  isolated  from the rest of the  world. Students, specially the examinees   have been debarred  from sitting in the  ongoing competitive  examinations. This has  undeniably  jeopardized    their future.


Role of Media, Academia and Civil Society

The  role of media, academia and civil society   is pivotal and expected to play the role of an advisory   in  providing  the pathway  to the leaders.  Parties  concerned  must call  for  their opinion   through debate  in   different  forums so as to have the  voice  representation  with  rationale. It is high time that the parties   stepped up   for this  in their respective   circle. Sadly, on the other hand,   the  absence of national level media has failed to  serve the purpose  with their reporting as to why and how the fire erupted. Similarly, ban  being imposed  on local channels and  telephone, the right to information  of the  people  has been violated. It is high time that  the stakeholders including the  civil society knock the door of court  with the filing of  Public Interest  Litigation (PIL) against such action, but no one seems  to dare. As expected,  the  ad hoc  media  and communication  segment  of all party coordination  committee, if at all it exists, appeared to have  remained  dormant under such  circumstances.

All party coordination committee and people’s expectation

Adoption of inclusive principle  is commendable  while  forming  all party coordination committee. Similarly, the much needed modus operandi  together with all party consensus is inevitable  while dispensing  any   high level decision. At this point of time, the  theory ‘united we  stand, divided  we all’ will  undeniably yield the expected result provided the  coordination  meant for well tuned ‘way forward’ remains intact. Prognosis as such might  sound hypothetical  but this  is what  is the need of the hour.

Clear Roadmap: with Adequate Homework

Arguably, when a demand for separate  state  is placed forth,   the constitutional  and legitimate  ground  for the demand  must be  worth convincing. Given  the fact  that Chhattishgad, Uttarakhand and Telelngana achieved the statehood one after another,  formation  of separate state Gorkhaland  is not an   exception. As the  constitutional rights paves ways for the separate  state   in accordance with  federalism principle, the parties involved in agitation  ought to  do optimum homework to have the  issue of  separate  state  tabled in the parliament with adequate homework. Now that  entire  Gorkha people  are   demonstrating  in the  street with great deal of determination and persistence, they too must be well informed about the  rationale  and the satisfactorily sketched  roadmap for the demand  to be meted  out.  The need of the hour is  well intact  coordination  and  adequate homework  when the delegation makes any official visit to Delhi.

Nawin Chandra Gurung

Nawin Chandra Gurung is a Human Rights Activist based in Darjeeling.

One Comment

  • sanjay roy says:

    a very informative and well-written article which meticulosly gives historical evidence and present facts of the Darjeeling Gorkha crisis. As a veteran of human rights Mr. Gurung is optimistic of the scenario which will unfold in the near future with vigilance of common people in the hills. Bjp which is trying to snatch West Bengal from Begum Mamta Khatoon will certainly find it useful to turn a blind eye to the travails of Girkhaland. expecting subsequent articles from mr nawin chandra gurung.

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