Care to find out what fuels the Gorkhaland demand?

Darjeeling residents want to manage and use the revenue from three Ts – tea, tourism, timber – for their own well-being

Published: 23rd June 2017 12:49 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd June 2017 08:09 AM   |  A+A-

Members of the Gorkha community protest for a separate Gorkhaland state, in Mumbai on Thursday | PTI

Express News Service

DARJEELING: The Darjeeling hills are back on the boil, and the suave, English-speaking Gorkha youngsters, leading the movement for Statehood from the front, are in no mood to relent. They are fighting their identity and opportunity that they believe would come with Gorkhaland.
The word Gorkha was used dynamically to refer to natives or servicemen of Gorkha regiment among others. But now, it means anyone born in the Darjeeling hills. “In fact, now we have Gorkha Muslims, Gorkha Marwaris and Gorkha Bengalis,” says political analyst Upendra Pradhan.

“Mamata Banerjee tried to divide us with ethnic development boards. But, did she succeed?” asks local youngster Sagar Rai. “Now she thinks we will bow down if internet and television are cut off. Let’s see how far she can go. The fight for Gorkhaland statehood has been handed over by my grandfather to my father and then to me,” he adds. “We will not stop agitating for our right even if she terms us terrorists.”
The movement, however, is no stranger to influx of xenophobic thoughts and ideas, that too, worryingly among the youngsters. “I don’t see many Marwaris or Bengalis coming together for Gorkhaland.

If they don’t support us we would kick them out,” says a youngster Biren Gurung.  But, Jan Andolan Party chief Harka Bahadur Chhetri says the idea of migrants being shunted out is ‘plains-based fear mongering’. “Businessmen will flourish further in the new State when the revenue from the region is spent on itself.”
The agitation for Gorkhaland, in several ways, is similar to the one for Telangana -- specifically the agitators’ belief that it would help secure their identity and provide them opportunities. While the Telangana movement protestors demanded the implementation of ‘Mulki Act’ that gave preference to locals over ‘settlers’ from Andhra Pradesh who they thought dominated jobs and businesses, residents of Gorkhaland want to manage their own affairs and use the revenue from three Ts -- Tea, Tourism and Timber.

“Several government departments are severely short-staffed, some as much as 50 per cent. Besides the three-Ts, we could also develop sericulture, horticulture and agro-based industries. These have a huge potential in the hills,” says JAP chief Chhetri.

Gorkhaland Statehood does not mean the same thing for everyone, say experts. “ If you ask a tea garden worker, he would say it’s about having a good house, two meals a day, good education and roads. But for an educated urban youth, Statehood might mean job opportunites and identity as an Indian,” said Rinchu Dukpa, editor of a local news portal, Darjeeling Chronicle.

Several youth echoed her assertion. “We are not Nepalese. This is our land and this is where we belong and would stay forever. Denying Gorkhaland means denying our very existence in India,” said Darjeeling local Royal Limbu.

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