Most of what I am going to say is what I heard from my husband because he spent most of his childhood in
and produced ample quantities of good quality tea to supply to the whole world. The workers were happy with their work and their wages. They would come to the market place every Sunday to buy their requirements and spend their wages. There would be two tourist seasons. One, in the beginning of March to the end of June and other was the short Puja season, September-October, after the rains. All said and done, it was a fairy tale like place where people lived happily. But without these simple folks suspecting anything, they were ominous dark clouds gathering in the horizon.
The tea gardens began to shut down one after the other because of management and union problems. Without the wages coming in, the labour force could not support their families. Consequently they moved to the town in search of work. Without education and a lack skilled knowledge about anything worthwhile, except plucking tea leaves, most of them found themselves out of place and jobless. In the beginning, the migration was a trickle. Then people began to come in droves, as more and more tea gardens shut down their shutters.
Matters were going out of hand. The leaders of the party and central government decided to solve the issue through dialogue. After much haggling, a separate autonomous state was not given to the Gorkhas but an autonomous council with sufficient powers was handed over to these simple people who had never tasted any kind of executive power before but had obeyed their superiors either white or brown for many generations.
The happiness of the people knew no bounds. People accepted this council with much dancing and singing in the streets and bursting of fire crackers. The leader of the movement, who was the mastermind in designing the intricacies of the council, was treated no less than god. Gradually he began to take his new status very seriously so much so that he would dictate the people which god to worship and which not to. Even the rituals had to be according to his dictates. Idol worship was out and stone worship was in. He brainwashed the whole community that they were nature worshippers and all sorts of unheard of items began to be worshipped, including monkeys.
In the meantime people flourished, at least those who could extract favors from him. His councilors who in themselves were crooks of the worst kind, and some of his party workers who had been formally unemployed and with a penchant for rowdiness, began to get small contracts for buildings, roads and resorts in the hills. Their quality of work was most shoddy and
Multistoried buildings began to mushroom everywhere obstructing the view of the Kunchanjunga. People would rush home before sundown for fear of being mugged. This kind of situation went on for 21 years.
By a stroke of fortune or just co-incidence, the two decade long situation in
This answer from the leadership did not satisfy many- especially the educated class. Isn’t the leadership accountable for what the rank and file does in any organization? They asked. Enmity is with the living. The dead are honored in any given society; even enemy soldiers’ bodies are returned honorably for their last rites.
Festival season arrived, the time to celebrate goodness and freedom. The hill people were asked to wear costumes identifying their ethnic identities. The hill people, by nature are simple folk. They seldom ask why? Most of them wore their ethnic dresses.
Another of their agenda required all vehicles to have the number plates changed from W.B. to G.L. Those vehicles plying in the hills did so happily without any desired consequences. Those who brought the vehicles in the plains with G.L. number had to bear the wrath of the Gorkhaland opposing public as well as the police. Similar incidences occurred in the hills with the vehicles bearing W.B. numbers. A few vehicles with S.K. numbers even had their number plates defaced.
As things were not getting anywhere, at the request of Gandhi – this time the grandson of the original Gandhi and the governor of
With all the antics going on in the hills the government of
A PEEK INTO HISTORY
It may not be out of place to mention Gandhiji’s Dandi march here. One frail man needing a support of a walking stick broke the Empires law by making salt at Dandi. The British government with all its might was shaken to its hilt by this frail man’s simple act of disobedience.
Another instance which really brought the British government to its knees was through boycott of the British textiles and the use of khadi . The cotton mills in
You cannot talk of the future without talking of the past. Someone has likened the plight of the Indian Gorkhas to that of the Israelites of biblical times and the modern Israelis of today. In any comparison, there is bound to be similarities and dissimilarities. The situation is no different here. The Israelites were a people bound by the common thread of religion, viz. Judaism. They have been persecuted throughout history. They were exiled from their homeland in
The Jews have been persecuted all over the world for more than a millennium. There have been ethnic cleansing of the Jews all over
Now to answer the question who the Gorkhas are and is their plight similar to that of the Jews, we must go back in history a little and trace their origin in
Prithvi Narayan Shah after defeating the Newar kings made
Time and again, even certain ignorant politicians in power have had the cheek to say that the Gorkhas are foreigners and finally must return to their homeland. But whenever a war breaks out or there is a war like situation along the boarder these young brave Gurkha soldiers have made the final sacrifice so many times that we have lost count. Are these soldiers Indians or are they of another nationality? There are more young widows and bereaving mothers from this community than any other in
As a result of this and other discrimination, the Gorkhas have been asking for a place which they can call home, from where they may not be chased away. Is this asking for too much? Now, comparing the Gorkha’s plight with the Israeli situation, I must admit glaring differences arise between the two. The Israelis are fighting external forces to survive while the Gorkhas have to deal with the forces from within. Israelis have been bound by the common thread of religion while the Gorkhas are divided by religion, language, culture etc. The Israelis speak Hebrew today though just a half a century ago Hebrew was a biblical language something like Sanskrit here. Refugees from all over
The Gorkhas, I must confess have a few characteristics of the Israelis lacking. They are not united to say the least. There is always infighting as to who will take the mantel of leadership. To some of these so called leaders the offer for separate homeland, it appears is much less attractive than the royal incentives which come with it. The action of the past 21 years is an undeniable evidence of this mindset.
No one can look into the seeds of time and say which grain will grow and which will not. The same holds true of the future of the Indian Gorkhas. Will they finally get a homeland within