Gorkhaland issue: Root cause and way ahead

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Gorkhland protest

Introduction

  • Gorkhaland is a region of Nepali speaking people. It consists of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong, Siliguri and other hilly regions of West Bengal.
  • The term “Gorkhaland” was first coined by Subhash Ghising, founder of Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF).
  • Recently Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has started a violent movement especially in Darjeeling region of West Bengal. They are demanding a separate state named Gorkhaland. Though this demand is not new, its roots lies back in history. But recent breakdown of normal lives at hilly region have made both central and West Bengal government to think on their policy and opinion.

Reason behind demand of separate state

  • There are around 22 Lakhs of Nepali gorkhas living in West Bengal. Their lifestyle, language, cuisine are completely different from rest of India. Recently ruling government of West Bengal headed by Mamata Banerjee has made decision to make Bengali language as a compulsory language from class 1 to 9th. This decision was seen as a direct attack on their cultural identity.
  • Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) was setup in 2011 for development of hilly region. But GTA failed to satisfy the demands of separate state. Hence CEO of GTA resigned from his office by citing reasons for excess interference of state government in the administration of GTA.
  • Poverty, lack of connectivity infrastructure, rampant corruption in government plantations and lack of basic services such as drinking water and education infrastructure have become major reasons behind demand of Gorkhaland.
  • In 2014 parliament crafted a new state by the name Telangana from Andhra Pradesh. This added extra fuel to the fire of already agitation for a separate state of Gorkhaland.

Reason behind ongoing agitation in Darjeeling

  • Recent decision of West Bengal government to impose Bengali language as a separate compulsory language from class 1 to 9th has directly attacked on the sentiment of gorkhas. This was seen as direct attack on their cultural identity.
  • In 2017 municipal election, TMC has won 1 seat whereas GJM won 31 seats. This was as considered as an attempt of TMC to gain foot in Darjeeling.
  • Recently government has responded angrily on protestors which led to death of protestors.

Why Gorkhaland movement matters

  • It is one of the oldest movements which began in 1907.
  • What happens in Gorkhaland will affect India – Nepal relation too. How India treats the problem of the Nepali origin people in hilly region will affect how Nepal deals with the Indian origin people in Nepal i.e Madhesi in Terai.
  • Gorkhaland has strategic importance. Its location plays an important role in connecting North – eastern state to the rest of India. So, its stability is must for India’s strategic and economic interests.
  • Darjeeling has small geographical area of around 3000 sq. kms and has 3 assembly seats and 1 Loksabha seat.
  • Darjeeling is a tea and tourist hot – spot with high level of poverty. It has potential to become economic engine of the east with sustainable economic model. But such thing will possible only if there is stability in the region.

Possible solutions of Gorkhaland issue

  • If government will decide to create a separate state, then it will end one of the longest movements. It may create a stable and responsible government in Darjeeling.
  • But this step led to Balkanization of India which will again become problem for India. However division of state should be done on the criteria set by State Recoganisation Commission. Any diversion would only create a more dissension than solution.
  • This problem can be solved by giving more powers to Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), creating open and transparent election process.
  • The parliament can also amend the constitution of India and insert autonomous district within West Bengal by adding a provision like 244A, which provides such method for Assam.

Conclusion   

The center and state government must look into the matter very carefully. They should must deal the situation very tactically and ensure stability in the region of Siliguri and Darjeeling. These areas are strategically important for India because it maintains a close contact with north – eastern states and any prolonged instability in the region may cut the connectivity of north – eastern state to the rest of India.

Image Source : Indianexpress

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