What does a hundred and four years old struggle mean to you?
The word ‘104 years old’ in case of we mortals would mean dying or declining. But in the case of Gorkha’s struggle for Gorkhaland and an identity of their own, ‘104 years old’ means a struggle that is rooted into five generations. While there are not many struggles in the world which have survived for more a than hundred years, in case of Gorkhaland, it has not only survived but remains dynamically young. Meet any Gorkha from Darjeeling and they have a story that has descended from their parents and grandparents; a real story of survival, of perseverance, of struggle for identity, of being ignored and at times persecuted.
It’s not spontaneous or reactionary like in Egypt, Libya or Tunisia. It’s a sustained struggle done by people who are as faithful to the idea of India as any other Indian and want recognition for themselves democratically. One of the hundreds who has actively participated in the ongoing 45 days dharna at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, 63 years old Vinod Prasad Sharma from Karseong told iSikkim.com on Sunday, “The demand for other states like Telangana, Bundelkhand or Vidarbha is for socio-economic reasons but we want Gorkhaland to have a national identity of our own.”
Mr. Sharma quotes a letter written by Subhash Chandra Bose to Gorkha leader Dambar Singh Gurung in which he supported the demand for Gorkhaland. In the letter written on August 8, 1938, Bose writes to Gurung, “I was very glad to have a discussion with you regarding the grievance of the hill people of Darjeeling. The grievances as mentioned by you are legitimate and it is time for the government to remedy them. As far as Congress party is concerned, we will do our best to remove your grievances. Congress is party of masses and it is our duty to address the grievances of the masses.” Mr. Sharma says, “Our demand was supported by Bose and many other national leaders. This was because of the sacrifice we made for the cause of our nation. Niranjan Chhetri became a martyr for the national cause in 1897. Durga Malla and Dal Bahadur Thapa are some of the famous names among hundreds of others who fought and died in India’s struggle for independence. Almost forty percent of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s INA was made up of Gorkhas.” He adds, “We have a history of having fought for the national cause but when India became independent and the issue of resolving Gorkhaland issues came, we were termed anti-national and foreigners.”
Mr. Sharma, a veteran of Gorkhaland struggle was in Congress for 17 years until 1986. He decided to quite Congress thereafter since the Congress was considered the demand for Gorkhaland anti-national and was insensitive to the idea of Gorkha identity. Currently, he is a member of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
Ask the 63 year old Mr. Sharma how long he has been associated with the struggle for Gorkhaland and he says, “It’s has been an issue synonymous with our existence. My father and maternal uncle were freedom fighters. My father was a supporter of Mahatma Gandhi. His father was so active in anti British struggle that he was ousted from home. He was called ‘Harka Bahadur’ (Harka in Nepali means someone who has been chased away). Gorkhaland is part of the consciousness of Gorkhas.”
Mr. Sharma’s generation is still active even as the new generation has stepped in, in their own possible ways. Dimple Kamal is working with ICICI bank in Noida for the last four years. Despite her busy schedule she has been able to make it to the venue more often than not. Talking about her own difficulties in adjusting in Delhi Dimple says, “May be I would have come to Delhi even if we had a state of our own but the feeling that there is no opportunity back home makes survival here more difficult. In any case it would definitely have been much easier to live alone in Darjeeling than here in Delhi.”
As Dimple tries to click another photo of the Gorkha women shouting at the top of their voice, I asked her how does she manage to come to Jantar Mantar while working with a private bank. An emotional Dimple says, “My parents have actively participated in the struggle for Gorkhaland for as long as I can remember. My maternal uncle Saran Dawal continues to be in jail for last ten years for being associated with this. This struggle is to me what I am.”
These columns won’t be able to tell the tale of the hundreds of Gorkha supporters who come to participate in the dharna at Jantar Mantar every day but that doesn’t belittle the need for the government to get up from its slumber and put its act together.
GJM chief pays courtesy visit to Sikkim CM
We are not safe in Bengal: Gorkha leader
Gorkhas call for sacrifice
Is Delhi Police friendly towards the people of North East states?