Gorkhaland or the Sixth Schedule
By Sandip C Jain
Almost twenty long years have passed since that fateful day on 22nd August, 1988, when Mr. Subhas Ghising signed that tripartite agreement in Kolkata accepting the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC). In the period since then, the general public (would cattle be a better word?) has been witness to the charade of first the creation of the DGHC, then the running of the council as someone’s personal fiefdom and then the condemnation of the Council into the bottom of the nearest litter-bin available around Lal Khoti.
That the formation of the DGHC was a useless piece of legislature not even worth the paper it was signed upon was there to be seen from day one itself but what took Mr. Ghising so long to realize the uselessness of the same will remain the biggest mystery of the last two decades. Voices of protest were heard from the first day itself when the charismatic and popular Chatray Subba revolted against Ghising forming his own Gorkha Liberation Organization. C.K.Pradhan, Tsheten Sherpa, N.T.Moktan, R.P.Waiba, D.K.Pradhan and others from within the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) raised voices of dissent at different times against the DGHC and its functioning but their voices were silenced – some of them permanently. Madan Tamang, R.B.Rai, Dawa Norbula and others from the other side of the political spectrum tried constantly to mobilize the masses against the DGHC and the failed political process in the Hills, but to no avail. What all the politicians failed to do was ultimately done by a singer – Prashant Tamang. The mass frenzy that he managed to evoke became the wave atop which his unofficial campaign manager-in-chief, Mr. Bimal Gurung, rode to the top of the Hill popularity charts.
The hitherto seeming invincibility of the GNLF and its supremo suddenly seemed just a myth and today stands shaken to its very roots. And to add insult to injury – it has been beaten at its own game – violence, intimidation, bloodshed and brute muscle power being the name of the game. The anti-incumbency factor seems so strong that if this downhill slide in popularity continues for the GNLF, very soon its mention will only be made in the pages of the political history of Darjeeling. Though, at the moment, to advocate or assume that the GNLF is dead and buried would be a pretty naïve assessment of the situation. It definitely still does have support in several pockets and amongst many sections of the society – it definitely is down but very definitely not out. For the better of the future of the Hills, Subhas Ghising’s party has to survive and survive in strength, even if just so that the Bimal Gurung of today does not become the Subhas Ghising of tomorrow – after all Bimal Gurung has graduated from the same school in which Ghising was the Headmaster.
For the moment, the debate rages on – Gorkhaland or Sixth Schedule; whosoever wins is now actually immaterial because Darjeeling and its entire Gorkha population have already lost. The unity, the brotherhood, the camaraderie, solidarity and the cohesiveness that the Gorkha population exhibited during the Prashant episode now stands in tatters.
One thing is certain: with the division of the Hill population on political lines, the road towards the ultimate goal and aspirations of the Gorkhas – i.e. Gorkhaland – now has more pot-holes than ever before. Those opposing the creation of Gorkhaland, the State and the Central government, now have another stick to beat off our legitimate demand.
And before this column concludes, may I take the liberty of asking Mr. Ghising and Mr. Gurung one single question? If yes, then I would love to ask them why Gorkhaland or why the Sixth Schedule? “For the development of the Hill population” will definitely be their answer!! But, then, isn’t peace the single most important ingredient for development? If it really is development they are fighting for, then peace should be their mantra. They can do their politics, they have every right to, after all it is their bread and butter, but it would serve the Hills better if the politics they do is carried out through ideas in the head rather than with khukuris in the hand!!!
Sandip C Jain is a Kalimpong-based writer and is the Editor of the Himalayan Times. It is the only English language periodical published from the Hills of Darjeeling presently. His articles are published on a regular basis in several regional, national and international publications. He has written two tourism books on kalimpong and his third book on Kalimpong will be published shortly.
For more stories, read Café Dissensus Everyday, the blog of Café Dissensus Magazine.