A teacher from Kalimpong, who wished to remain anonymous, raises a number of questions to the state government, who are hell bent on not dividing Bengal. The teacher said, “I did not know West Bengal loved the hills so much, that they could not part away with it. If they loved the Pahaar (hills) so much then, why has infrastructural, social in fact all forms of developments not been here so far? Why all youngsters have to go out of the hills for further education? Why can't they find ample opportunities in their own place? Why is there always a dark looming uncertainty over the future of every youth? Why do we have to depend on Siliguri and Kolkata for medication and health services? Why can't the state invest in setting up state of the art medical facility here in the hills, if they love us so much, or an exclusive university, which could cater to all the educational needs of our children? Or perhaps boost the economy trade commerce tourism transport sectors and improve roads, electricity and water supply.”
What makes the agitation more strong is the way it has been supported. Some ladies even shaved off their head as mark of protest. The demand for Gorkhaland is not only echoed by Gorkha people, but also Bengalis, Marwaris, Punjabis, Biharis from the region. Gorkhaland would benefit every citizen of the region, irrespective of caste, colour, creed etc.
Vikrant Yonzone, a youth from Darjeeling has been keeping track of the unfair treatment towards Darjeeling by the government. He said, “our demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland is more than 100 years old, genuine to the government of India. If the Indian government has the power to form states like Telangana, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, then why not Gorkhaland?”
The people of Darjeeling feel betrayed by the Indian government that their Gorkhaland demand, which dates back to 1907 has not been taken seriously. When the Gorkhaland demand was first made, Telangana was nowhere in the picture, but still, they have got their state only after four decades of struggle. Gorkhaland has still not been achieved after 11 decades of struggle. In fact, it is the demand of Gorkhaland that seems more just as compared to Telangana. As a result of which, the people of Darjeeling are more determined than ever to get their own state.
The fault also lies with the local political leaders as well, who have failed to stand up to the trust of the locals. In the name of Gorkhaland, leaders have accepted DGHC and GTA in the past, thus filling their pockets. Previously, people came out in the protests just to add up the numbers, but, one can confidently say that the residents have not been asked to come on the streets and protest. They have come on their, which shows the willingness and dedication towards the movement. If this time around the leaders let them down, it might not go down well with locals.
If Gorkhaland is to be realised, a single party would not be enough. There are a number of political parties in the region, which needs to be united for the cause of Gorkhaland. Sankalp, a resident of Darjeeling, said, “if there has to be a strong movement, why not get all the political parties of Darjeeling together? We have experienced leaders in the hills as well.”Recently, an all party meet is also said to have taken place in Darjeeling.
The statehood demand of Gorkhaland is based on ethnicity, cultural background etc. Though, there is nothing in common between Bengal and Darjeeling – both have a different life style, food eating habits, language, culture etc., still Darjeeling has been under the subjugation of the West Bengal government.
India achieved independence after British left India, but Darjeeling is still fighting its own independence from the Bengal government. Swaraj Pakhrin, another resident from Darjeeling said, “Bengal cannot just justify its occupation of Darjeeling just because it was under the Bengal presidency under the British. They must let go Darjeeling. We have for far too long been dominated by the Bengal government.”
On the same lines, another resident, Sarovar said “Darjeeling was not created by the Bengal govt. If Darjeeling has made any mark in the world map today, it is because of the ingenuity of the British and the hard work and grit of its hill folk. Bengal had no role to play in it. The West Bengal government should feel embarrassed to claim Darjeeling as its own. So many generations of Darjeeling youth have been displaced. Anybody from Darjeeling will tell you the sad story about the kind of “brain drain” the hills have seen since the 90’s till date.”
Many claim that Gorkhaland, as an independent state is not a viable option, as it would fail as a state, due to lack of resources. But, one has to remember, that two of the biggest revenue earning sectors for the Bengal government is Tea and Tourism industry. Neither of which is produced in Kolkata. Only recently, the price of Darjeeling tea has doubled up.
Karma Mingyur said, “Our tea industry, tourism, and Gorkha youths, who make up a large part of the Indian armed forces are all resources that are used by the government. We ask for that, which is missing - free and fair distribution of resources and an opportunity to govern ourselves. A separate state is a gateway to solving our problems on our terms and giving people what they deserve.”
The people of Darjeeling are ready to suffer at present for a brighter future. An indefinite bandh has been a common scenario in Darjeeling. Nyima Lama, another resident of Darjeeling said, “Gorkhaland is our birth right. We should fight back with the government for being unjust with us. We should continue strikes to show the government that we can go for the extreme as well, if our demands don't get fulfilled.”