History of Land

Before the 1780s, the area of Darjeeling hills formed a part of dominions of the Chogyal of Sikkim, who had been engaged in an unsuccessful warfare against the Gorkhas of Nepal. From 1780, the Gorkhas made several attempts to capture the entire region of Darjeeling. By the beginning of 19th century, they had overrun Sikkim as far eastward as the Teesta River and had conquered and annexed the Terai.

In the meantime, the British were also engaged in preventing the Gorkhas from overrunning the whole of the northern frontier. The Anglo-Gorkha War broke out in 1814, which resulted in the defeat of the Gorkhas and subsequently led to the signing of the Sugauli Treaty in 1815. According to the treaty, Nepal had to cede all those territories which the Gorkhas had annexed from the Chogyal of Sikkim to the British East India Company (i.e. the area between Mechi River and Teesta River). 

Later in 1817, through the Treaty of Titalia, the British East India Company reinstated the Chogyal of Sikkim, restored all the tracts of land between the Mechi River and the Teesta river to the Chogyal of Sikkim and guaranteed his sovereignty. 

In 1835, the hill of Darjeeling, including an enclave of 138 square miles (360 sq km), was given to the British East India Company by Sikkim, executed with a controversial Deed of Grant. In 1864, the Treaty of Sinchula was executed, in which the Bhutan Dooars with the passes leading into the hills and Kalimpong were ceded to the British by Bhutan. The earlier Darjeeling district can be said to have assumed its shape and size in 1866 with an area of 1234 sq miles.

Prior to 1861 and from 1870–1874, Darjeeling District was a Non-Regulated Area (where acts and regulations of the British Raj did not automatically apply in the district in line with rest of the country, unless specifically extended). From 1862 to 1870, it was considered a Regulated Area. The term Non-Regulated Area was changed to Scheduled District in 1874 and to Backward Tracts in 1919. The status was known as Partially Excluded Area from 1935 until the independence of India. 

In the 1980s, Subhash Ghisingh, leader of Gorkha National Liberation Front, raised the demand for the creation of a state called Gorkhaland within India. The demand took a violent turn, which led to the death of over 1200 people. This movement culminated with the formation of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) in 1988. The DGHC administered the Darjeeling hills for 23 years with some degree of autonomy. 

In 2007, Bimal Gurung, once the trusted aide of Ghisingh, decided to break away from the GNLF. Riding on a mass support for Prashant Tamang, an Indian Idol contestant from Darjeeling in 2007, Bimal was able to overthrow Ghisingh from the seat of power. He went on to found the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) renewing the demand for a state of Gorkhaland. After three years of agitation for a state of Gorkhaland, the GJM reached an agreement with the state and central governments to form a semi-autonomous body called Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) to administer the Darjeeling hills.

On 14 February 2017, Darjeeling district was bifurcated into two districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong.


For a detailed history of Darjeeling, click here.