The Never-Ending Wait for a Homeland

~ Dr. Sonam B. Wangyal

The following is a chronicle of the long and enduring struggle of a peoples’ movement for a separate homeland for over a hundred years. It is not a testament to ridicule or chastise our Bengali counterparts but simply to let them understand the sense of helpless predicament that a minority community suffers under the weight of an overwhelming majority population, the helplessness under the dark cloud of political chauvinism, and the helplessness in suffering financial nepotism. This is also a testament to illustrate many states in India have had the good sense to agree to a partition(s) without feeling a loss of prestige even when there was a possibility of another bifurcation. Assam has been split more times than Bengal can even dread of, and it is still alive and kicking, despite the threat of even more partitions. Consider the strong and proud martial state of Punjab which was partitioned into Punjab and Haryana, it was further partitioned with the formation of Himachal Pradesh and a third partition created Chhandigarh. Punjab still survives not humiliated, not politically weakened and not financially at any great loss. The partitioning of Madhya Pradesh created Chhattisgarh; Andhra Pradesh was a result of the partition of Madras (Tamil Nadu), and Jharkhand was a result of partition of Bihar. New states have been created but the partition or the process and the subsequent evolvements have never reduced the prestige and the standing of the ‘mother’ states. Examples abound and my prayer is that Bengal politicians should draw lessons form history. I am absolutely confident that a Bengali will be at home in Gorkhaland as a Gorkha will be in Bengal as has been for a Sardar in Haryana or a Jat in Punjab. The exercise is basically to give an identity to a community, race or language, in the form of a separate homeland. I seriously empathized with one of my good friend, a Bengali from Cachar in Assam, who used to feel isolated, violated and insulted, for his community was an absolute minority with Cachar and its Bengali population like an island surrounded by non-Bengalis. I would request my Bengali friends to co-relate the plight of the Cachar Bengalis in Assam to the dilemma of the Gorkhas and tribal people in West Bengal and then fashion one’s opinion. One is naturally inclined to believe, and even entirely agree, that Bengal has always been above fair and square with the hills but the present Chief Minister himself is on record commenting that enough had not been done, a statement that comes after 61 years of independence of India and 73 years after the creation of Bengal Legislative Assembly. It is therefore not surprising that numerous Bengali intellectuals are openly espousing Gorkhaland and that is so because history is their testimony, not misplaced sentiment, undue pride or jingoistic political fuss. Of course some confrontational groups of Bengalis and a few politicians do share a different opinion, and the former has over-reacted occasionally and the latter harps on non-acceptance of another partition, but in the end history and reality have to be respected, agreed upon and accepted. No where in India has a community ever had such a profound and protracted struggle like the toil, effort and endeavour for a homeland and I for one believe that an amicable separation is any day better than a rancorous and a bitter divorce. The story of a struggle for a creation of a separate homeland unfolds in 1907, in the last century, and even continues to the present one. As a non-political observer I find it amazing that despite the Bengali politicians generally being highly cultured, refined, well-educated and staunch believers in human dignity and rights to self determination feels no embarrassment in retaining Darjeeling and the Dooars as parts of West Bengal.  

1907: The FIRST DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
Following the division of Bengal the Darjeeling district was put under Bhagalpur Division in Bihar. This did not solve the problem for us because even in Bihar we were still a wretched minority. The very act of shunting the district from one division to another became a proof that the British did not quite know where to place the district. This must have stirred into an awakening amongst the educated people in the district on the feeling that their hills were doomed to exist as a minority through attachment to a bigger state in the plains. Whether Darjeeling was thrown into Bihar or Bengal the hillmen would be an ineffective minority amongst the teeming millions of plainsmen. Furthermore, educationally or financially the hillmen were no match against the plainsmen who had established colleges, universities and commercial industries. Then came the news of the Morley-Minto Reforms (1909)[1] which promised constitutional changes and some voice to the Indians in deciding public matters. This must have appeared like a small light at the end of the tunnel and so two years before (1907) the actual reforms came into practice the “leaders of the Hill people” submitted to the government a joint petition on behalf of the Bhutias, Lepchas, and Nepalis demanding a “separate administrative set-up” outside the influence of Bengal. At that period of time, most of the new states that have come up in the past decade or two, had not even been conceptualized, let alone demanded or struggled for.

Nothing materialized out of the 1907 petition and it could be called a failure except for the fact that it was for the first time the three major communities had come under one umbrella, united for a common cause, to seek a homeland of their own. Despite the government’s indifference the year in history did not draw a total blank for Kurseong and Siliguri obtained municipality status in that year.

1917: The SECOND DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
After a gap of ten years on 5th December, 1917, The Hillmen’s Association petitioned Edwin Montague, the Secretary of State for India that “Darjeeling’s inclusion in Bengal was comparatively recent and only because the British were rulers common to both places. …Historically, culturally, ethnically, socially, religiously, linguistically there was no affinity whatsoever between Bengal and Darjeeling.” The petition further stated that, “In laying down the plans for the future, the Government should aim at the creation of a separate unit comprising of the present Darjeeling District with the portion of Jalpaiguri District which was annexed from Bhutan in 1865.”[2] This would translate as Darjeeling and the Dooars and it was the first demarcation of the homeland in the minds of our forefathers as far back as 1917. It is of no surprise that the Prant Parishad, Gorkha National Liberation Front and the Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha sought or seek nothing more than that. The petition also proposed the formation of North East Frontier Province (cf. North West Frontier Province) which would include Darjeeling District, Dooars, Assam and NEFA (Arunachal Pradesh). Signatories were S.W. Laden La, Dr. Yensingh Sitling, Khardgabahadur Gurung, Meghbir Singh, Lachman Singh, Narprasad Kumai, and Deonidhi Upadhaya.  

1920: The THIRD DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
The Hillmen’s Association once again appealed to Edwin Montague on 11 February 1920. The Ninth Dispatch on Indian Constitutional Reforms had placed the district as a “Backward Tract” but the Association rejected this label as derogatory and also as a camouflage to keep the Hills under Bengal. The Memorial stated, “It appears to us that our case has been somewhat obscured  by including the dispatch under “Backward Tracts” and our prayer for separation from Bengal has been misunderstood…We respectfully ask that at the present time, when the question of our political future is being determined, we should be granted the recognized rights of self-determination. We do not wish to be dominated by the people of the plains. We are sure that if we were, we would be swamped by the millions of Bengal and our own people would not get their rightful place in the Government of their own country. …Moreover, if our original proposal be adopted, viz., that the portion of the Jalpaiguri District which (along with the Kalimpong Sub-Division) was annexed from Bhutan in 1865, should be excluded from Jalpaiguri and included in our unit, then, we should have a population about as large as that of New Zealand.

1920: The FOURTH DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
In 1920 something strange and unexpected occurred. The Darjeeling Planters’ Association and the European Association of Darjeeling along with the Hillmen’s Association petitioned the government to create an “Excluded Area” comprising of Darjeeling District and the Dooars. Of interest here is that the first two associations’ memberships consisted entirely of Europeans and it becomes apparent that even they felt their interests threatened under the increasing power of native Bengali administrators. The Europeans had huge investments in tea, real estate and hotels and they calculated they would be better protected if the area was administratively detached from Bengal. It is not any great task to imagine the fear and insecurity the hillmen must have endured considering that even the members of the ruling race were worried scared of a continued existence under Bengal. Because of this one joint petition with the British subjects very occasionally some mischievous people try to subject all other later petitions as being influenced by the Darjeeling resident British people. The British were never admitted to any of the hill organizations and they were never taken into confidence nor sought out for guidance or advice, never.  N.B. Statehood for Chattishgarh was first mooted in this year by Rangpur Congress Unit, Thirteen years junior to our demand. The agitation for a state commenced only in the mid-1960s and the first united all party movement came about only in 1990 under Chattishgarh Raj Nirman Manch. In 2000 a new state was born. They were chronologically years behind us but they passed us by because in 1990 All Parties came together including the Congress and the BJP in a bid to create a new state. Maybe there is an important lesson here for our leaders: Chhutay-ra chhuttai rajya paonu garo chha, ektamai hamro jeet chha. A year later in 1921 Thakur Chandansingh (Dehra Doon) formed the Gorkha League,[3] predominantly consisting of retired Gorkha soldiers. In 1921 Mahatma Gandhi launched the Non-cooperation Movement in which Dalbahadur Giri from Darjeeling and Chhabilal Upadhaya from Assam contributed appreciatively.

1929: The FIFTH DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
The Hillmen’s Association’s demand of 1917 was reiterated once more when Simon Commission visited India in 1929.[4] This was the year that the First memorandum for a Jharkhand state was placed, junior to our demand by 22 years. In 1947 the All India Jharkhand Party was formed followed by Sonat Santhal Samaj under Shibu Soren in 1969, both junior to out All India Gorkha League by 4 and 26 years respectively. Nothing much happened till when the Maoist Communist Centre once more reiterated the demand in 1971. By this time we had already petitioned the government 18 times. In 1972 Soren formed the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and coincidentally we too have a Mukti Morcha. Jharkhand Area Autonomous Council was conceded to in 1995 but even this was junior to our autonomous Hill Council by 7 years. AND yet Jharkhand became a state in 2000 and we are still languishing even today. If Jharkhand’s famous wicket-keeping son M.S. Dhoni had been born in our hills he would have surely questioned “How’s that?” Yes, how is that possible?

1930: The SIXTH DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
On 25th October 1930 the “Gorkhas settled and domiciled in India” placed before the government a demand for homeland stating, “Darjeeling, where the Gorkha population predominate, should be excluded from Bengal and treated as an independent administrative unit, with the Deputy Commissioner as the Administrator, vested with much more powers than that of a District Magistrate, and assisted by a small Executive Council, representative of all the interests in the administration of the area.”[5] Signatories: Rai Saheb H.P. Pradhan (President, Hillmen’s Association, Kalimpong), Lt. Gobardhan Gurung (President, Gorkha Army Officers’ Association), P.M. Sundas (Secretary, Gorkha Library, Kurseong), N.B. Gurung (Secretary, Hillmen’s Association, Kalimpong) and P.P. Pradhan (Secretary, Hillmens Association, Darjeeling).

1934: The SEVENTH DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
The Hillmen’s Association had pleaded for a separate homeland five times and each time the government had failed to respond positively. So on 6th August 1934 the Hillmen’s Association once more submitted a memorial to Sir Samuel Hoare, Secretary of State for India which stated: “No consideration had been given to the hill peoples” (this is in reference to the previous appeals) “…whereas all minority communities in India had received due consideration of their claims …your memorialists emphatically urge that the District of Darjeeling should be totally excluded from Bengal by the creation of an Independent Administrative Unit with an Administrator the Head of the Area assisted by an Executive Council … the area should be placed directly under the Central Government, the Governor of Bengal acting as the Agent to the Governor-General.”[6] The signatories to the memorial were S.W. Laden La, Lt. Gobardhan Gurung, and Madan Thapa.

1935: The EIGHTH DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
Rupnarayan Sinha appealed to The Bengal Government in 1935, on behalf of the Hillmen’s Association, and opposed the 1915 Act, as did almost every responsible Indian. But Sinha went a step further and he even added a demand for the creation of to a Separate Homeland.

1937: The NINTH DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
Rai Saheb Hari Prasad Pradhan, the former President of the Hillmens Association (Kalimpong Unit), indirectly appealed to the government that the hills should be separated from Bengal.[7] “The Hill people as a minority in the Province under the new Constitution have not failed to realize the drawbacks and disadvantages of the present arrangement and they are now apprehensive that their social solidarity and their existence as a community is being threatened with serious disruption owing to various factors coming into play chiefly by the realization by many of them that the hill people’s welfare is now dependent on the exigencies to party politics in the Bengal Assembly and their utter helplessness to make their voice heard.” How very prophetic!

1941: The TENTH DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
There are some people who claim that up till now the hill people had only resorted to petitioning, or paper pushing, and the absence of any aggressive move had stalled the creation of a homeland. The opposite opinion is that there were no political parties till then and in the absence of any political organization the best that could be done was to place repeated petitions before the government. When the 1940s came the emergence of political parties also became a reality and the disintegration of the Hillmen’s Association became imminent. The Association made its last appeal in 1941 with a petition to Lord Pethik Lawrence, Secretary of State for India, for a creation of a separate Chief Commissioner’s Province.
Two years later, 1943, the All India Gorkha League was formed by Dambarsingh Gurung. The Darjeeling unit of the Communist Party of India was also formed in the same year and surprisingly these communists also became members of the AIGL.

1944: The ELEVENTH DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
There is a little known story of the next plea for a homeland and this was not addressed to the British government, despite India not having attained independence then. In Bhagirath Rawat’s Matoko Maya, 1982, page 32, we learn that when Mahatma Gandhi and M.M. Jinah came to Darjeeling, a deputation had met them and had demanded that the hills be separately treated else the hillmen would suffer in the fields of security and development. It appears that our forefathers had the common sense to realize who the next masters were going to be. The approach was correct but as in the previous cases the response was nothing short of indifference. In the following year (1945) the communists dissociated themselves from the AIGL. In this year the AIGL mouthpiece, a periodical called Gorkha mooted the idea of ‘Gorkhastan’ (Year 1, issue 12).

1947: The TWELFTH DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
In 1947 India was to become an independent nation but the hill people were far from being locally independent. In this year of our national independence the Communist Party of India (Darjeeling District Committee) made one of the most preposterous demands ever made by Communists. The Communist Party of India (Darjeeling District Committee) tendered a Memorandum to the Constituent Assembly (6 April 1947), addressed to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (Vice-President of the Interim Government of India) and Liaquat Ali Khan (Finance Minister of the Interim Government of India and leader of Muslim League). The memorandum stated: “The Communist Party of India…demand, after making necessary revisions of the existing boundaries, the three contiguous areas of Darjeeling District, Southern Sikkim, and Nepal be formed into one single zone to be called ‘GORKHASTAN’.” Since Gorkhastan is not designated as a country it would technically fall under India. It sounds all very well but not when it comes out of the mouths of die-hard communists. The thought of robbing Sikkim of all its fertile lands and fleecing Nepal of its sovereignty is quite incomprehensible. The whole idea reeks of colonialism. Had the brainstorm come from capitalists, imperialists, and the bourgeois beasts it would have been understandable but what is even more surprising is that not a single enlightened communist criticized the memorandum. Whatever be the merit or demerit of the demand one can safely say that this was another demand for a separate homelamd. This was a period when the All India Gorkha League could have also voiced a demand for a separate homeland and with its huge following, possibly also uniting with the Communists, a strong point could have been made. It is unfortunate that the AIGL leadership was too busy with lesser causes to have a vision of the greater goal.
Even in those days the politicians had their own axe to grind but our litterateurs also proved to be no less and they commenced the verbal war of Gorkha versus Nepali. After decades it has settled to the language being designated Nepali and the community as Gorkha.

1948: The THIRTEENTH DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
After the death of Dambar Singh Gurung a shift in the thinking of the AIGL could be noticed. The new President of the All India Gorkha League, Nar Bahadur Gurung, wrote to the Prime Minister Pandit Nehru proposing three alternatives in regard to a separate homeland:

1. A Separate Administrative Unit under the Central Government.
2. A Separate Province comprising of Darjeeling district and neighbouring areas.
3. The district of Darjeeling with the Dooars be included in Assam

In this year the Territory of North East Frontier Agency (later Arunachal Pradesh) was formed and was placed under the administration of the Union Government. In 1972 it was declared a Union Territory and on February 20, 1987, it became a full-fledged state. It did not require dozens of petitions, years of peaceful struggle, violent agitation or a no non-cooperation movement for this to materialize. In this same year (15 April) Himachal Pradesh was declared a Centrally Administered territory and despite the State Reorganization Committee’s strong recommendation that Himachal Pradesh be merged with Punjab it still became a new state on 25 January 1971.

1949: The FOURTEENTH DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
The Deputy Foreign Minister while on a visit to Sikkim was met by a delegation of the All India Gorkha League and a demand replacing the above one was made where a state consisting of the district of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Sikkim and Cooch Behar was suggested.

Post our independence the creation of a separate homeland became virtually impossible for amongst the policy makers was the tough man Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the first Deputy Prime Minister, who held very strong and racial views against us and our likes. His letter to Pandit Nehru, dated 7th July 1950 is quite unbelievable and racially slurred:

“All along the Himalayas in the north and northeast, we have on our side of the frontier, a population ethnologically and culturally different from Tibetans or Mongoloids. The undefined state of the frontier and existence on our side of a population with its affinities to Tibetans or Chinese have all the elements of potential trouble between China and ourselves…Let us consider the political conditions on this potential troublesome frontier. Our northern or northeastern approaches consists of Nepal, Sikkim, Darjeeling and the Tribal areas of Assam. …The contact of these areas with us, is by no means, close and intimate. The people inhabiting these portions have no established loyalty or devotion to India. Even Darjeeling and Kalimpong areas are not free from pro-Mongoloid prejudices.” (Emphasis added)

Can any leader say the same today?

1949: The FIFTEENTH DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
With the misguided and prejudiced opinion of the second most powerful man in the nation what hopes could be entertained for a separate homeland! It is reasonable to presume a bit of that evil legacy still lingers on in Kolkata and New Delhi. Anyway, unknown of the above letter and the distrust nursed in the highest quarters of the country our ancestors kept on appealing and a fresh petition was submitted to the one person who would have never agreed to the demand, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

On 30th October 1949 various leaders of Darjeeling, Sikkim, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar met in Darjeeling and formed a bloc known as Uttar Khand Pradesh Sangh. This Sangh submitted a petition to Sardar Vallabhai Patel, pleading for the creation of a new state comprising of Darjeeling district, Sikkim, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and Goalpara of Assam. With Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel firmly entrenched in Delhi what could be a better example of barking up the wrong tree. As expected, Sardar Patel opposed this demand tooth and nail and the movement lost its wind un the face of such a strong opposition.

1949: The SIXTEENTH DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
Towards the end of the October of 1949 Dr. B.V. Keskar, the Deputy Foreign Minister, was in Sikkim, and the All India Gorkha League suggested that in an laternative to an earlier proposal to join Darjeeling to Assam a separate Province could be created with the District of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Sikkim and Cooch Behar.

1952: The SEVENTEENTH DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
Prime Minister Pandit Nehru came to Darjeeling in 1952 and when he was in Kalimpong to visit the famous Dr. Graham’s Homes he was presented with an appeal by the All India Gorkha League seeking the formation of a North East Frontier Province.  Note: 1952 was the year when the FIRST demand for a statehood came up for Uttaranchal, a late starter by 45 years, we were already on our sixteenth demand for our own state. The first practical political party in the proposed Uttarkhand (Uttaranchal) came up only in 1979 (Uttarkhand Kranti Dal), 36 years younger to AIGL, and yet it was awarded statehood in 2000. In less than 50 years it became a state (the Congress and BJP gave support with the latter asking a name change to Uttaranchal) and Gorkhaland with a history of over a hundred years is yet to see the end of the tunnel.  Sardar Patel was no more around to scuttle the proposal, so where did we go wrong?

1955: The EIGHTEENTH DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
In 1953, 11 districts of Madras State were joined to form Andhra Pradesh. Two years later in 1955 the hills were fortunate to have the Chairman of the State Reorganization Committee on a visit to Darjeeling.  The District Shramik Sangh submitted to him a memorandum where the President of the Sangh, Shri Daulatdas Bokhim stated that, “The Kochayas, Meches, Lepchas, Bhutias, Nepalis and Rajbanshis are the original inhabitants of this district whose customs,systems and traditions fundamentally differ from that of the rest of West Bengal. …I put forward this profound demand of the creation of a part ‘C’ State of North Bengal inclusive of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar districts…” The final outcome, a year later, was negative for the hills but for Andhra Pradesh the SRC recommended the addition of 9 districts of the former Nizam’s dominions and it was made a full-fledged state with Hyderbad as the capital. Madhya Pradesh also came into existence in the same year.

1955: The NINETEENTH DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
It might be added here that up till now petitions/demands were put up by single organization or a single political party. In 1855 a more united forum placed an appeal before the State Reorganization Committee on behalf of the All Committee District Organization. The Secretary, Shri S.B. Ghosh, defined the areas of the new state to include Darjeeling district, Sikkim, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar.

1980: The TWENTIETH DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
There is a period of relative inactivity as far as the demand for a state is concerned. It was a period when the All India Gorkha League dominated hill politics and the party was virtually an instrument of Deo Prakash Rai’s calls. Furthermore, the agitation for the recognition of the Nepali language seems to have sapped some of the energy and interest. There were also attention-diverting offers or suggestions like Autonomous Area, Regional Autonomy, Autonomous Administrative Set-Up etc.   But while all these were going on Nagaland became a state in 1961 and Meghalaya in 1972. In the background there were regrouping of forces and about the most active was the Prant Morcha (previously Prantiya Sanstha and in future Prant Parishad). Having garnered good support amongst the people it telegrammed the Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi: “Our long felt demand for a separate State Gorkhaland be carved out as soon as possible. Separate State only solution. We welcome our people from Assam to our own State Gorkhaland but not to be deported in other States. Gorkhaland always salutes to the national and your leadership.” Dated 23 April 1980.

1981: The TWENTY-FIRST DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
Now not to be outdone, the AIGL suddenly revived its old demand after a hibernation of 29 long years. The All India Gorkha League stated to Shri Zail Singh, Home Minister, during his visit to Darjeeling, that it “is very much relevant in our demand to get a Separate Statehood outside West Bengal to ensure administrative efficiency and convenience and coordination of economic development and welfare activities for this region.” This memorandum also included the causes leading to the increasing law and order problems, deforestation, neglected development and the need to include Nepali language in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution.

1982: The TWENTY-SECOND DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
By the time the 1980s were ushered in Prant Parishad was losing its appeal to the Gorkha National Liberation Front and eventually when the latter got the upper hand the Prant Parishad leaders were slighted, abused and threatened. Despite winds of popular support blowing in GNLF’s direction the President of the Prant Parishad, Shri Indrabahadur Rai, wrote to the Home Minister Shri Zail Singh, demanding a full fledged state: “We demand the formation of the State of Darjeeling comprising of the Nepali speaking regions North Bengal i.e., the Nepali speaking areas of the Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri other administrative scheme will ultimately found to be workable.” Dated 4the January 1982. Thus the 21st demand came to a close and soon Prant Parishad too was to become a closed chapter in the history of a search for a eparate homeland.

1986: The TWENTY-THIRD DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
A widespread allegation was circulating in West Bengal, and not without truth, that the movement led by the GNLF had only hearts but no brains, since Subhash Ghising refused to take assistance of intellectuals and professionals. At this juncture, the more cerebral gentry of Darjeeling, calling themselves “educated and the professional hill people” petitioned the Prime Minister, Shri Rajiv Gandhi.  These concerned people had come together as “Study Forum” and had such eminent people like Advocate B.K. Pradhan, Advocate Bal Dewan, Advocate Uttam Pradhan, Advocate D.K. Pradhan, Publisher-Printer Uday Mani Pradhan, MBA, Dr. Pinto C. Lama, Prof. Amar Rai, Prof. L.B. Rai, Prof. T.B. Chhetri, Sanitation expert Shri Gagan Gurung, internationally acclaimed bakery owner Shri J.B. Edwards, including social workers and luminaries like Shri Enos Das Pradhan, Shri Lee Pradhan, Shri L.B. Rai, Shri Ratan Mothey,  and Shri Deep Waiba. Their petition of 31st August 1986 is a long document but just one paragraph will be quoted which more or less sums up the whole: “The demand is an expression of the belief in the best democratic tradition that the right to a state within the Indian Union is an inalienable right. It is therefore not a matter of acceding to the demand condescendingly but giving what is rightfully ours.” This petition slightly blunted the allegations mentioned above but I have a strong feeling that the intelligentsia was doing this more for the love of the land than any respect or affection for the leader, Subhash Ghising. By now the hills were gripped with violence. For 85 years the hillmen had tolerantly accepted one rejection after another. The highlanders had endured police firing at Rohini Tea Garden (1949), another firing at Magaret’s Hope Tea Estate (1955), evictions at Rangli-Rangliot Tea Estate, and even the uncalled for killing of 6 people at Kurseong on 25th May 1986. Patience and tolerance was stretched taut and it just needed one more needless provocation and matters would come to a head. On 27 July 1986 the whole district took part in burning the Indo-Nepal Treaty of 1950. No one quite sees anything illegal in a simple act as burning of a Treaty but the administration responded by meeting the demonstrators with a hail of bullets in Kalimpong leaving behind 13 dead and about 50 injured. The hills erupted.  

1986: The TWENTY-FOURTH DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
I would like to include the entire movement, but more specifically the record-shattering 40 days continuous strike as well as the huge list of martyrs, under the GNLF, as the TWENTY-FOURTH demand for a separate homeland. The importance of the whole exercise is that it now became violence for violence and most of the time it was difficult to point out who initiated the carnage. It proved to West Bengal and to the Centre that the highlanders were capable of extreme violence too. The hillmen claim 1200 of them were martyred and what can be a stronger, a more emphatic demand than hundreds of people sacrificing their lives for a separate homeland.  This demand and movement eventually fell victim to an agreement that resulted in Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council. Subhas Ghising agreed to ‘drop’ the demand for a homeland. The clarion call from Subhas Ghising had bee “Do or Die” and the final outcome was Ghising dod not ‘do’ and many people did ‘die’. All these years the Central Government and the State Government had disappointed the hills and there was now someone within to disappoint the highlanders. No wonder the West Bengal government always treated Subhas Ghising with velvet gloves.

1986: The TWENTY-FIFTH DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
West Bengal Assembly elections had just been completed on 23rd March 1987 and the hills had unanimously registered support for Gorkhaland by sending back empty ballot boxes: 129 empty boxes out of 154 in Darjeeling constituency, 147 empty out of 156 in Kalimpong, 151 empty out of 170 in Kurseong, 151 empty out of 170 in Mirik and even Dooars sent 10 empty ballot boxes. On 13th March 1987 the GNLF wrote to the Home Minister, Shri Buta Singh, that this was as good as a referendum in favour of a state outside West Bengal and demanded “a separate State of Gorkhaland within the framework of the Indian Constitution.” A copy of the demand was also dispatched to the Prime Minister, Shri Rajiv Gandhi. What could have been a more emphatic non-violent protest and demand than this! Nevertheless, the state and the Centre remained unmoved. The question on everyone’s mind was when will a full-scale and no-holds-barred agitation commence since sporadic acts of violence were being reported from different parts of the district.

2007: The TWENTY-SIXTH DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
The ongoing demand for a separate homeland under the banner of Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha and the leadership of Shri Bimal Gurung has now become the TWENTY-SIXTH DEMAND for a Separate Homeland. So far it has ducked off any major violent move, despite the occasional provocations, and if this brings about the desired results all the better for us and for West Bengal.

The TWENTY-SEVENTH DEMAND for a Separate Homeland
We hope it will not come to this but…


[1] The Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909: The most important change in the Morley-Minto Reforms was the provision that qualified Indians would have a greater voice in deciding public questions. Thus one seat in the Governor-General’s Executive Council was reserved for an Indian member (Satyendra Prasanna Sinha, later Lord Sinha of Raipur, was appointed Law Member of the Governor-General’s Council, the first Indian to be so honoured.) The number of members in the Central Legislature was raised from sixteen to sixty and in the Provincial Legislative Councils the number of members was raised to fifty in the major provinces. The non-nominated members were to be elected by groups of local bodies, landholders, trade associations and universities. Darjeeling district and Dooars did not fit into any of these categories.
[2] Before coming to India Edwin Montague had on 20th August 1917 announced in the House of Commons that “…the policy of His Majesty’s Government… is that of the increasing association of Indians in every branch of the administration and the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in India…”  The Hillmen’s Association therefore wanted the “self-governing institution”.
[3] Not to be confused with All India Gorkha League formed by Dambarsingh Gurung in Darjeeling.
[4] It was felt that the Reforms of 1919 did not fulfill the aspiration of the Indian nationalists and the demand for legislative began to grow stronger and so under the chairmanship of Sir John Simon was to make a report. His Commission had seven members who were all British and though Indians by and large boycotted the Commission it filed a report announcing “that the natural issue of India’s Constitutional progress…is the attainment of Dominion Status.”
[5] The Report of the Simon Commission was published in May, 1930.
[6] This memorial was presented keeping in mind the Government was to present a White Paper regarding modifications to the Indian Constitution. (The Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament approved the White Paper and presented its report in October 1934.)
[7] The Act of 1935 proposed Provincial Autonomy. It also created Sind, separating it from Bombay and Orissa Presidencies, Burma was separated from British India and Aden also ceased to be a part of India.