Separation vs. Integration: The Gorkhaland Dispute

India is a land of diversified culture, language, tradition, race and ethnicity. We, as a nation, signify unity in diversity. Peace and harmony are our prized and acclaimed passions and we are happy to be garnered with these. Alas, these lines that we learn as children, is yet another glorious history of the Republic of India!
From Hindu-Muslim riots in Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Gujarat to the dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and the recent language fracas in Karnataka and Kerala,  we have witnessed several riots of varying magnitude but with one constant, and that being the death of the glory of the nation with the death of every innocent individual.

Much alike these riots, an another fierce conflict that has now been going on for the past 30 years approximately is the Gorkhaland riot between the Gorkhas and the West Bengal State Government.

The Gorkhas are Indian citizens of Nepali ethnicity.The Nepal Kingdom, earlier in the history was spread across the Himlayas. In 1777, when Nepal appropriated Sikkim in the east, it also conquered the Kingdoms of Kumaon, Garhwas and Kangra in the west. But, after the Anglo-Nepal war in 1814-1816, Nepal agreed to surrender the lands of Sikkim, Kumaon, Kangra and Garhwal. Thereafter in 1865, after the Anglo-Bhutan war, the Britishers appropriated the Kalimpong and Dooras. Therefore, all the people of Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan living in this area directly came under British Empire and after 1947 under India. Hence, we cannot treat these people as immigrants or refugees from Nepal, because they have their lands in the soils of India.

With the passage of time , the Gorkhas claim that they were started to be treated as a marginalized community who had occupied the Indian land and are under the obligation of the Government, who has allowed them to stay here and live a decent life. Lately the agitation among the Gorkhas has again escalated after the Mamata Banerjee lead Trinamool Congress, the ruling party in the state of West Bengal, announced that Bengali was to be taught compulsorily in all schools of West Bengal. This was perceived as an act of forced imposition of language and culture on the Gorkhas by the Gorkha community, which retaliated to the regulation and was victorious in making the Government change its decision in a second announcement that stated that it will be not be applicable in the hill districts of Darjeeling.

The demand of the Gorkhas have been constant and unanimous for a separate state under the name of Gorkhaland. While it is absolutely correct, legal and justified to demand for ones equality and identity, a separate state, however, might not be the perfect solution to it.

Firstly, segregating a state into two parts based on language and cultural differences, is in no manner a progressive step. Instead, it exhibits our inability to live as an integrated society bound in the fabrics of fraternity and communal harmony. It has even been enshrined in the United Nations Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination to monitor trends that gives rise to the segregation of descent based communities. Inter-culturalism is indeed the destination we all should be heading towards instead of getting deviated along the path.
Secondly, we live in the era where the greed for power and money often tend to blind the people on whom we bestow our absolute faith. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) seems to have a singular agenda of separating the Nepali majority regions and declaring it as a different state. They reason for this, as they assert, is to get the Gorkhas back all that has been due to them by the state government for long.

Now, an unbiased deduction of the same demand has two results:
1) It liberates the Gorkhas from the atrocities that they have been subjected to by the government, and
2) It wins these parties and groups political benefits that shall come along with unprecedented power and money.
Having considered both the consequences, a curious mind seeks to know why is it important to split apart and live, while we can reform and make the government do its duty that is our right and win our status back with the same effort that we are now employing into winning a status of separate statehood.

India, as we all know, has never been culturally monochrome in nature. In this state of canvas, if we divide a state based on ethnicity and cultural difference, not only do we practice racial discrimination and marginalization of minorities in its truest form, but also we embark a negative trend that will in the days to come, encourage thousands of other communities living across the lands of India to demand a separate state that will never be politically and economically feasible. It is also a matter of fact that once a separate state in the name of Gorkhaland is created, the Bengali, the Marwaris and the other communities living there can potentially be a subject to oppression due to their minority status in those lands. Considering the fact that ‘geographically’, Gorkhaland and West Bengal would still continue to be close, we cannot separate the states because that would just mean increasing the chances of inter-state communal conflict, bringing defamation to the glory of the nation.

What, however, appears to be the best solution to the conflict is that all of must unite for the restoration of integrity of the Gorkhas and monitor any seclusion within or outside West Bengal. The government should pace up their efforts to cater to the needs and demands of these people and must also keep these efforts constant and increasing. Darjeeling and the other hill districts account to as much as 40% of West Bengal’s revenue through tourism and yields from the serene tea gardens. We owe them a moral duty of fulfillment of their demands. The Gorkhas, for years have been the valiant keepers of our democracy and we will not render them justice by separating them from us. India is not and will never be ready to afford the loss that disjuncture of Gorkhaland and West Bengal will bring along with itself. We are accustomed to celebrate Dashian and Durga Puja on the same soil, we have celebrated April 14th as new year together for centuries, and we are not ready to bask in the light of the day that shall see us celebrate the same day in two different places. Each and every Gorkha will get their due respect, identity and integrity, but none will have to pay the price of separation for the same. India has seen enough partitions, it must see none!

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