Right and Justice
I am a Bengali and not the self-hating kind. I love my country. I strongly believe that all the sections of our nation’s population should have the right to self-determination. One of the most well-known phrases of Indian freedom movement was,“Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it”. Our country was founded on the idea of Swaraj (self-rule) so I believe, when the Gorkhalis of Darjeeling demand a land of their own to rule and to prosper, it is in fact not only their right but it is the governments’ duty to ensure that their right is protected.
A tea garden worker in Darjeeling earns INR 65 per day, and there are thousands of them. Their pay has remained unchanged for almost a decade now where as the pay of everyone who works in The Tea Board of India, headquartered in Kolkata has seen a raise twice (fifth pay and sixth pay commission) and there is a talk of more increases soon. Even the peon there earns at least 10 times more than these workers. I ask my “so called” friends, how do you justify this? When people who do the actual production are starving to death in Dooars, Tea Consultants in Kolkata are earning millions of rupees and flying all over the world representing Darjeeling tea and Dooars tea. I pose this question, “Should we allow our ego to overrule logic and facts? Is it fair for these tea garden workers to starve here, while someone in Kolkata enjoys all the privileges? Un-surprisingly, my “so called” friends have no answer.
The district of Darjeeling has seen population growth of phenomenal proportions since 1965s. The decadal growth of population has been a steady 40% and is perhaps the highest in the country. Given the area that is, this kind of population growth is unnatural so I pose this question to my “so called” friends from the plains, “how did the population of our district raise so drastically”? They do not reply, for they know the answer but obligingly I help, “Remember the post-1965 illegal immigrants from erstwhile East Pakistan”, who came over with nothing more than just the clothes they were wearing?
These illegal immigrants, who liked to call themselves 'sarbaharas' (ones who've lost everything) have now settled in places in and around Siliguri. Those who are the original residents of West Bengal, widely known as the ‘Ghotis’ (which includes my family) resent the large-scale influx of these illegal immigrants (the ‘Bangals’). They have diluted the original population of the place and now these illegal immigrants have an upper hand. So every native, including the ‘Ghoti’ Bengalis, will support a separate state in Darjeeling and Dooars, in order to protect the original inhabitants of the land “What about you guys?” I ask friends and they stand mute.
CPI (M) and Trinmool Congress (TMC)
Everyone in Bengal knows that the CPI (M) rode to power in Bengal on the unflinching support of the 'sarbaharas', who came to regard the Marxists as their saviors. These illegal immigrants are still being brought over in hordes especially in North-Bengal earlier by the CPI (M) and now by the TMC. I find it amusing that, the Government of India has not bothered to check the legal status of these illegal immigrants. I am sure, none of these people applied for immigration legally. Has the government of India taken their assimilation for granted? Or does the government of India not care?
The Midas like touch which the CPI (M) had earlier exhibited and now TMC has continued, turned everything they touch into garbage, instead of gold. Look at all the industries that West Bengal had and compare it with the present day. Failure to deliver any developmental projects in Nandigram, Singur, Lalbagh, Dooars has now turned desperate TMC into a beast ready to do anything to retain its power. By now my audience tries to run away but I do not let them get away. I press further.
The Left, the right and the center in West Bengal is biased towards the development of South-Bengal. Of the 14 districts in the state, 6 are in North-Bengal and 8 in South-Bengal. The population ratio of South to North is approximately 3:1, which means for every person in North-Bengal there are three in South-Bengal. However, South Bengal has over 14 universities, whereas North-Bengal has but one. South Bengal has over 25 medical colleges, whereas North-Bengal has but one.
So finally I ask my “so called” friends, “Why should we want to remain with West Bengal, when they do not consider us equal?” Just because I am a Bengali does not mean I have been treated as equal or fair. Why should we want to remain in a state where we do not matter? All our decisions are taken by people from South. What has the CPI (M) government done in terms of development in its 33 years of rule?
At least, if Gorkhaland is formed Siliguri and Dooars is guaranteed and bound to develop whereas if we remain with West Bengal, we will never develop.
By now, most of my “so called” friends have already left, but with a thoughtful look in their eyes.
I support the notion of Gorkhaland and I am sure many others do… and if it could be explained to the people living in Siliguri and surrounding areas, that our economic well-being and prosperity is tied to us severing ties with West Bengal, I am sure many more would support the formation of a new state. Whether you call it Gorkhaland or simply the state of “Darjeeling and Doors” is a separate matter.