Gorkhaland – A Historical Background

Demand for Gorkhaland is not new but dated back to 1907 that was initiated with an objective of giving identity to Gorkhas by the people belonging to Darjeeling Hills and Dooars in northern West Bengal. Later on, the matter of development was also added to the same. Many social as well as political organizations have participated in the mass movements in both pre as well as post independence era and recently the movement for Gorkhaland has intensified to a great extent. Apart from this, history has seen two more mass movements – the Gorkha National Liberation Front (1986–1988) and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (2007).

Where is Gorkhaland?
The proposed state of Gorkhaland in the Union of India will consist of Darjeeling District and the adjoining Dooars area of Jalpaiguri in West Bengal. As per 2001 census, the total population of the proposed state of Gorkhaland is about 30 lakhs.

Historical Background
Before British, these areas were parts of two kingdoms of Sikkim and Bhutan. Even in the pre-British history of Bengal, there is no mention whether these two areas were ever ruled by any King.

Then these areas came under British occupation in three phases – In 1835 by a Deed of Grant, in 1850 and in 1864. After complete annexation, these areas were tagged to the Bengal presidency of that time. But then also these areas were kept as Scheduled Districts or Non Regulation Districts.

According to the Government of India Act, 1935, the same area was again made Partially Excluded. Apart from this people living in these areas collectively demanded a separation from the Bengal Province.

From time to time, the Hillmen’s Association had submitted memorandums in this regard. In 1907 the Hillmen’s Association submitted a memorandum to Morley-Minto Reforms, in 1917 it submitted a memorandum to the Chief Secretary, Government of Bengal, the Secretary of State of India and the Viceroy, in 1930 it submitted a joint petition, in 1941 the Hillmen’s Association recommended the Secretary of State of India Lord Petrick Lawrence to exclude Darjeeling from the province of Bengal and create a Chief Commissioners Province.

At the time of Independence, Darjeeling and Dooars were made part of West Bengal. But now also people were demanding a separate land.

The All India Gorkha League in 1952 had submitted a memorandum to Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru demanding a separation from Bengal.

Again in 1955 a memorandum was submitted by Shri Daulat Das Bokhim, the President of District Shamik Sangh to the chairman, State Reorganization Committee demanding the creation of separate state consisting of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Coochbihar district.

In 1981, a memorandum was submitted by Pranta Parishad to Smt. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India requesting a separate state for Darjeeling and the related areas.

In 1977 and 1981, a unanimous resolution supporting the creation of an Autonomous District Council consisting Darjeeling and related areas was passed by the West Bengal Legislative Assembly and the same was forwarded to the Central Government for consideration.

There were many violent agitations as well supporting the same cause. In 1986 about 1,200 people were killed in the mass movement for Gorkhaland. In 2007, the second mass movement for Gorkhaland took place. So different social as well as political organizations, in both pre as well as post independent era made demands for the formation of separate Gorkhaland.

Need for Gorkhaland
The demand for Gorkhaland is to have an identity. The Indian Gorkhas are fighting for the creation of a separate state in order to defend and promote their distinctive identity. The problem that Gorkhas face is extreme scrutiny and interrogation of their Indian identity. With Gorkhaland, they are fighting to get their Indian identity.