By Prof Mahendra P Lama
After Telangana - It is our turn now
The UPA partners and Congress Working Committee’s decision to carve out a new state of Telangana is a welcome move for the people of Darjeeling district and Dooars. The UPA Government deserves our warmest congratulations for setting new trends and norms in the formation of the state. Firstly, this is for the first time in the recent constitutional history of India that a new constituent state is being created without the effective resolution by the concerned State Assembly. This augurs very well for a separate state in Darjeeling and Dooars.
Secondly, the Congress Party has now started rethinking about restructuring the federal structure of the country and looked into the larger aspirations of the people who were left out in the reorganization of states in the 1950s. This means it is also adhering to the path set by the NDA government when it created Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh in 2000.
And thirdly, the Congress Party is now willing to consider similar other demands on “merit basis”.
The demand for a separate statehood comprising of Darjeeling district and Dooars is perhaps the oldest non-fulfilled demand and movement in the 20th – 21st century political history of India. Two rounds of protracted and violent movements took place starting 1985 and ending 2012, yet this issue has not figured in the political spectrums and corridor of power in New Delhi.
Interestingly during this period of 27 years four new states have already been created and not in Darjeeling and Dooars.
Demand for separate statehood in Darjeeling District and Dooars are a much more comprehensive demand and historically rather powerful. This has three key elements in the core of the demand.
Firstly, it is the imminent need to consolidate the national security as this geo-politically sensitive region has four international borders viz with Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Nepal and a key corridor known as ‘chicken neck’ that links North East region with the rest of India. A separate state here will take care of so many national security concerns that exist in this region.
Secondly, the prime need to conserve and promote the identity of the communities including the Gorkhas, Bhutias, Lepchas, Adivasis, Rajbonshis and several other religious and linguistic minorities.
Thirdly, the extreme deprivations and backwardness of this region despite being one of the most resourceful geographies which need to be instantly corrected. Look at the conditions of our natural resources today. How do we account for so many hunger deaths in the tea gardens of Dooars, where are the traditional and modern institutions gone ? Why the people of Siliguri, Dooars and Darjeeling be subjected to such poor work cultures and why we should remain alienated from the national and global mainstream ? In fact in the new state we shall be one of the most developed states in the country.
And finally, the traditional harmony, peace and collective survival that prevail among the people in the hills and plains including among the Gorkhas, Bengalis, Biharis, Marwaris, Adivasis and Kamtapuris and various religions and communities need to be further consolidated.
The separate state with Darjeeling district and Dooars could benefit the nation, West Bengal and Sikkim, Bihar and all the neighbouring states in the North East region in many very many ways. The sub-division like Siliguri and the people therein will flourish as this will become the entrepot for the entire trading and commercial activities of a scale that is unbelievable. The regulated land border trading in the four international borders itself will bring fortunes to thousands of our children.
The younger generation will benefit from the large scale generation of new varieties of employment including in government, private and non-governmental sectors. For instance, how many IAS, IPS and IFS officers have we produced from Darjeeling district and Dooars in the 66 years of post independence India ? Given the fact that we have the best educational institutions in the country which once catered to the building of Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sikkim, north east regions and many other parts of the country, the question remains as why we could not produce these officers, technocrats, professionals, businessmen, industrialists, academics and even politicians like what other states have done?
The separate state will bring handsome benefits to all its residents and people and communities regardless of language, castes, creed, religion and locations which the present state of West Bengal cannot even think of providing. Our children have higher aspirations, they need much more space and institutions for their intellectual, physical and material growth which the present Government cannot provide at all.
A Bengali will be the Chief Minister of this new state, an Adivasi will be the Home Minister, a Rajbongshi will be the Education Minister, a Gorkha will be the Finance Minister, a Marwari will be the Commerce Minister and a Bihari will be the Energy Minister. Our children will get into central civil services, they will teach in our central university and Indian Institute of Technology and Indian Institute of Management in our new state. Our women folks will have huge playing fields where they could be members in the state assembly, parliament and also in several institutions.
We shall have another All India Institute of Medical Sciences and several other technical and professional institutions that will take care of our health problems, education, cultural-social needs, farmers and agriculture, music, fine art and literary activities, and tea gardens and cinchona plantations, climate change and natural disasters, traditional medicinal system and natural resources.
We shall have the best of investors from both India and abroad coming to this region for investment. If the British companies came to the hills of Darjeeling and Dooars in the 19th century why not American, Korean, Japanese and German companies today to invest in tourism projects, water resources, horticulture and floriculture and software development. Our children from Chopra, Phansidewa, Siliguri, Panightta, Bagrakot, Kalchini, Jaigaon, Sonada, Pedong, Mirik and Rimbik will be civil servants, engineers, doctors, chartered accountants, architects, teachers and environmentalists. There will be no dearth of employment and the future will be alive and bright.
Our NGOs will get connected with various Ministries and funding agencies in the country and also with major development agencies including with the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, United Nations agencies and other philanthropic institutions like Ford, Bill Gates, Aga Khan and Macarthur Foundations. All the central government projects, some of which we have not heard the names also, will smoothly and automatically flow to us. Our three-tier Panchayats with the at least Seven Zilla Parishads will actually govern the entire rural areas of our State.
Any political parties including Congress, BJP, CPM, RSP, GJMM, CPRM and Trinamool Congress could form the Government in this new and flourishing state. Any political ideology and all the communities will collectively flourish and bloom in this new State. There will be several languages as official and semi-official languages including the Bhutia, Lepcha, Nepali, Bengali and Hindi.
We must appreciate the huge sacrifice made by Shri Bimal Gurung from resigning the post of Chairman of the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA). He has been leading the movement for the separate state for last six years and knows the complexities in the negotiation process. We should also fondly recall the protracted movement made by the GNLF led by Shri Subash Ghising in 1980s and contributions made by several leaders in the past like Dambar Singh Gurung, Madan Tamang, Ananda Pathak, RB Rai, Biren Bose, Theodre Manen, Mayadevi Chettri, Kanu Sanyal, Charu Majumdar, Birsa Tirkee, Gopal Maitra, Khudiram Pahan, Dawa Norbula, Maitryi Bose, PP Rai, Ratanlal Brahmin, KB Chhetri, SP Lepcha, LM Prodhan and several other leaders from Siliguri and Dooars in highlighting our plights and alienations.
We should pay our tribute to the hundreds of people who sacrificed their lives for a separate state and thousands of people who lost their home and hearth in the search for a separate state. Media played a very critical role and must thank persons like Subhas Talukdar, Shiva Kumar Rai, Sunanda Datta Ray, Tushar Kanti Ghosh, BD Basnet, Kumar Pradhan, MB Rai, DP Sharma, Dilip Bose and the present set of eminent newspapers like Himalaya Darpan, Dainik Jagran, Uttarbanga Sambad, Hamro Prajashakti, Telegraph, Statesman, Janpath and many others both in Bengal and at the national level.
Given that a separate state in this region is going to be a reality and GJMM is the party with a strong support base, Shri Bimal Gurung and his party; other national and regional political parties and all the people of the Siliguri, Dooars, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong together have to now make four critical interventions.
Firstly, we should bring all the political parties and socio-cultural organizations from the hills and the plains to a common platform to provide more effective direction and more powerful voice to the demand for this new state. The brain and muscle power must work together.
Secondly, we should build a strong team in Calcutta and Delhi that will intellectually and politically influence the Parliament, Assembly, media, political parties, bureaucracy and civil society. The other political parties that are working for separate states like Harit Pradesh, Vidharva and Bodoland must be brought under the fold. The Telangana experience shows that ultimately it is Delhi which really matters in deciding the creation of a new state.
Thirdly, we should provide a clear road map to the formation of this new State and also lay out a comprehensive structure of the state, its likely programme and planning that would mention how people, communities and various locations in the hills and plains will be benefitted by this separate state.
And fourthly, we should also very clearly provide a long term vision of how our nation and other states in the country including West Bengal will benefit from a separate state like ours.
After the formation of Telangana, it is our turn to have our own separate state. The nation and the people feel like this. And this is the aspiration of our people in the hills and plains of Darjeeling district and Dooars.