DARJEELING: A JOURNEY THROUGH BRITISH SIKKIM, SCHEDULED DISTRICT AND SEPARATE ADMINISTRATIVE SET UP.
Post 1986 agitation: whenever, the issue of “Gorkhaland” is raised - peeved by the demand, Calcutta’s immediate and assertive retort is, “Bengal shall not be divided” of late, joining the fray are a group of tinny – whimsy, riff-raff organizations. Allegedly, these groups had emanated under the tutelage of Bengals, most endearing government of the Left Front. Devoid of the regions history, and soaked in the world of delusion, the motley group’s one and only agenda is to direct tantrum against the demand for Gorkhaland. Invariably, failing to asses the ground reality, while articulating the demand for a separate state, the advocates for Gorkhaland, have not ventured beyond the prescribed year of 1907- to enlighten and impress those that matter most. Significantly, 1907 was the year, when the hill leaders had expressed their aspiration to secede from Bengal Province. In the over, all estimation, as the matter stands, is the often-repeated rhetoric; ‘Bengal shall not be divided’ is in the right tune? Or is it just an impetuous utterance to serve as a political gimmick? If not, does Bengal have the credibility or moral authority to rein in Darjeeling, for eternity? Is Darjeeling really an inalienable part of Bengal?
In the wider spectrum of understanding the pertinent issue, and to ascertain facts from fiction; let history unravel the truth.
When the hills of Darjeeling was acquired by British East India Company through; ‘Deed of Darjeeling Grant 01/02/1835’, until 1861, the area was described as a ‘Non Regulated Area’. However, British India was under absolute command of the Governor General, Darjeeling as leasehold territory was granted a separate status. As a separate entity, it was known as “British Sikkim”. Under, a common colonial master; Bengal Province was a healthy neighbor of British Sikkim.
“It would be quite in order to describe the Darjeeling District as ‘British Sikkim’. Before the flag of British victory was raised here, the district as at present – including portions of the present District of Jalpaiguri as Titalia, the villages on the Western bank of river Koratoya; and the prosperous station Siliguri – belonged to the king of Sikkim…...’
Furthermore, the two separate states had been categorically defined as ‘The ancient borders of Sikkim were defined long ago and the land was divided into ‘Independent’ and ‘British’ Sikkim. These are the present borders of this British Sikkim or Darjeeling: its northern boundary is Independent Sikkim’
‘A HISTORY OF DARJEELING’
HURRY MOHUN SANNIAL.
Under, Non- Regulated Area, the major player in Darjeeling was the incumbent British Surgeon, Dr. A. Campbell. The former British resident in Kathmandu, was transferred to Darjeeling, as Lt. Col. A Lloyd’s successor. In many ways, Dr Campbell, the Scotsman is hailed as the architect of modern Darjeeling. In amongst the many contributions, two of his monumental gifts to the people of Darjeeling were the Darjeeling Police and Darjeeling Municipality.
The, once famous British perception of converting Darjeeling, into a Sanitarium for the company servants, had grown beyond the proposition. As the town of Darjeeling began to expand with new buildings, roads and lanes, so did the need for the population to confront the rising problem. As elsewhere in the world, not all its inhabitants were God fearing and law abiding. In the mixed package of human behavior, some were bound to be unruly and public nuisance. On being granted the powers of Magistrate, Campbell needed the device to man and control these anti-social elements. Therefore, his immediate need was the establishment of a credible police unit. To establish the same, Campbell had to cross many hurdles. Some of the important documents narrated here under exhibits his endeavor to bring about the birth of Darjeeling Police.
“The institution of the police establishment has been rendered essential indeed, since the encouragement of the Lepchas in the settlements, as they are both ingenious and daring in their theft………….
Dr Campbell whose every wish was fulfilled with great promptitude had to point out to the council that if he was to carry out the duties of a magistrate he really did require a police contingent to enforce the law………
This time the point was taken and the request complied with and authorized. Darjeeling’s first police force had been established.”
“The Road of Destiny
Darjeeling letters 1839”
Effectively, at the order from Fort William, Calcutta, the Darjeeling Police was established on 27th November 1839.
The first police staff consisted of one writer and four chuprasies. While the former was paid Rs.20 a month, the latter drew a sum of Rs5 each. In course of time, the police force was raised as per the rising need. The emblem of Darjeeling Police has a pair of crossed Khukuri. It thus substantiates the credence, that the Gurkhas were the first contingent of recruits for Darjeeling Police. A clear presentation of dominant Gurkha population, ages before the Tea Industry was established.
No sooner was the department of police established; in 1841 after a hard persuasion and bargain between Sikkim and British India, Darjeeling’s lease annuity was determined at Rs. 3000/-With Darjeeling developing into a secured hill station, the place gained prominence. Soon, there arose the need of local self Government. When, rest of the Sub-Continent was struggling with the similar need, in 1850, the Darjeeling Municipality was established. Undoubtedly, it is the country’s, one of the oldest local self Government. Significantly, on the 150 anniversary of the Municipality, on September 2000; in a message sent to the chairman, D.K. Pradhan, the then West Bengal Chief Secretary, Manish Gupta had remarked.
‘I am indeed very happy to learn that Darjeeling Municipality is celebrating this year the completion of 150 years. The municipality was established as far back as 1850 and is one of the oldest municipalities in the country’
1850 – 2000
As confirmed evidence, the front wall of Darjeeling Municipality Office bears the emblem of a pair of Khukuri. Underneath the emblem is the figure 1850. The symbol of Khukuri subsists another tangible evidence that prior to the establishment of the tea industry, there was the dominant presence of Gorkha population in Darjeeling District.
In between the formation of Darjeeling Police and Darjeeling Municipality, the inadequate annual lease of Darjeeling in 1846, was doubled to Rs. 6000/-
If Campbell was the sole authority to administer Darjeeling District, in the rest of India, other British representatives functioned in similar manner. For effective administration, India was divided into different Provinces. All such Provinces were directly under the charge of the Governor-General. The Governor General enjoyed absolute power, over matters pertaining to civil, legislative, executive and military order.
In the meanwhile, the Bengal Province, consisting of Assam, Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, proved too vast for effective governance. In order to streamline the administrative mechanism, in 1854 the Province was brought under the charge of the Lieutenant Governor. This office was in immediate subordination to that of the Governor General.
However, following the Sepoy Mutiny 1857, there was an overhaul in the administrative function of British India. To effect such changes, the Indian Council Act of 1858 was enacted. With the introduction of the new Act, all such prerogatives and power of the Governor General was repealed. Under the new Act, India was governed ‘directly by and in the name of the crown, acting through a Secretary of Sate.’ The secretary was to be assisted by a council. Subsequently, the council was composed of fifteen members. Of the fifteen members, eight were to be appointed by the crown, while the remaining seven members were to be elected from amongst the company’s court of directors.
“This council of India consisted of fifteen members, of whom eight were to be appointed by the crown and seven were to be elected by the court of Directors from among themselves.”
‘HISTORY OF MODERN INDIA
1765 – 1950
2nd revised edition”
In accordance to the Act, the British parliament had considered to invest real powers with the council. The executive council was composed of the Governor General, the four ordinary members and the commander – in –chief. In the new development, the real executive and legislative power was once again, vested on the Governor – General. Therefore, to bring about a close contact between the government and the governed, the Indian council’s Act of 1861 had once again enlarged the power of the Governor-General. To make general administration more effective, the system of portfolio was introduced. In the new system of administration, each member of the council could hold one or two portfolios. Effectively, the council presided over matters on general policy. As such, the Governor-General-in-council was the supreme authority.
Following the new development, for nine long years 1861-1870, Darjeeling’s status had remained undefined. With no written intimation or directives from the central or provincial powers, Darjeeling remained on its own. Darjeeling’s status may not have been defined, but that did not take away independent Sikkim’s prerogative, to raise the rent of the leasehold territory of British Sikkim or Darjeeling. A year before the promulgation of the Indian councils Act of 1861with effect from 1860, Darjeeling’s annual rent from Rs. 6000/- was raised to Rs. 9000/-.
Perhaps, as a lease hold entity; it may not have been mandatory for Darjeeling District to be notified either under the provincial or central authority. The Deputy Commissioner and Assistant Commissioners administered the District of Darjeeling, in perpetuity.
‘As mentioned, this being a non-regulation district, all responsibility rests with the Deputy Commissioner and the Assistant Commissioners’
A HISTORY OF DARJEELING
HURRY MOHAN SANNIAL
Moreover, assisted by the efficient Police establishment and credible Municipal Self-Government, Darjeeling was self sufficient to manage its own welfare.
In the meanwhile, relation between British India and the kingdom of Sikkim had soured. In 1860, the court in Sikkim passed a new order, under which Europeans, were barred from entering Sikkim. Simultaneously, the British subjects in Terai were harassed by the Bhutias. In retaliation, Dr. Campbell enforced a condition; until the offending Bhutias were handed over to the British, they would occupy the area North of the River Ramam. Following the decision, he authorized Col. Bishop, the Executive Engineer, to cross over the Ramam, with single cannon and few soldiers. However, the Bhutias, under the leadership of Namgay Dewan or Pagla Dewan had a contingent of 300 force in the front and around 500 at the rear. They were armed with bows and arrows. The hundred or so British force was no match, before the Sikkimese army. Campbell was left with no option, but to counter-attack the enemy’s position with the strong force of 3000 men.
‘The leader of the army then was Namgay Diwan-----------------. Later a force of 3000 marched to Sikkim and occupied it. His audacity crushed, the king signed a peace treaty. The ‘mad’ Dewan left and freeing the prisoners, the British officers returned safely to Darjeeling’.
A HISTORY OF DARJEELING
HURRY MOHUN SANNIAL
On 28/03/1861, the treaty of Tumloong was signed. The signing of the Tumloong Treaty had virtually reduced Sikkim’s status to that of a British Protectorate. Yet, in another hallmark of suave British diplomacy, the Sikkimese monarch, who until the Treaty of Titalia 10/02/1817, was ‘RAJAH OF SIKKIMPUTTEE’ was after the ‘Treaty of Tumloong’ 1861, arbitrarily elevated as ‘MAHARAJAH OF SIKKIM’. Furthermore, the Treaty had ensured the protection of its Northern Frontier from external aggression. Some of the clauses like 13,14,18,19 and 20, as defined under the said Treaty, at once attracts curiosity. For instance;
13) In the event of the British Government desiring to open out a road through Sikkim, with the view to encouraging trade, the Sikkim Government will raise no objection thereto, and will afford every protection and aid to the party engaged in the work……………………. .
14) If the British Government desires to make either a topographical or geological survey of Sikkim, the Sikkim Government will raise no objection to this being done, and will afford protection and assistance to the officers employed in this duty.
18) The whole military forces of Sikkim shall join and afford every aid and facility to British troops when employed in the hills.
19) The Government Sikkim will not cede or lease any portion of its territory to another state without the permission of the British Government.
20) The Government of Sikkim engages that no armed forces belonging to any other country shall pass through Sikkim without the sanction of the British Government.
Of the five clauses, it’s only clause 13 that vaguely determines the establishment of future trade route, possibly with Tibet. In dissonance:
Clause 14, 18, 19 and 20, distinctly exhibits the formation of multi-prong strategy, to safeguard its territory against any form of invasion from its porous Northern border. For that matter, was British India anticipating an invasion from Tibet? On the other hand, could she have perceived the threat from China? As for the former, it is highly inconceivable. A country lulled by theocratic institution, that constantly preached the path of non-violence, could mount an unprovoked military offensive against the might of the British Empire. To do so, Tibet had neither the will nor the means. The country was under the regent. This was in retrospect to the premature death of the Dalai Lamas
‘……….. between 1804 and 1876, four of them (the ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth) died at the ages of nine, twenty-one, eighteen and nineteen respectively.’
For reasons to control the regent’s authority, the Chinese ambans (Manchu Political Commissioner) were held as prime suspect over these deaths.
As for the latter, China was severely jolted by the opium war (1839-42). In-fact, following the opium war, China had ceded the island of Hong-Kong, to the British, through the Treaty of Nanjing (1842). China of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), was an era engaged in extreme addiction to opium smoking. Even as otherwise, the nation suffered grievous famine at regular intervals. For weak Empress Tongzhi (1862 -74) her writ over the fragmented regional warlords were virtually ceased. Under such harsh circumstances, China’s territorial ambition against the British supremacy was a far cry. In all respect, British India’s much perceived threat was non other than Czarist Russia, the other Imperial Power in the planet.
Once the Northern border was insured, the radar of surveillance was focused over the Eastern flanks. For British India, over the years, the kingdom of Bhutan had proven to be a troublesome neighbor. As predatory, the Bhutanese subjects had unleashed a reign of terror over the British territory of Sikkim and Cooch Behar. As victims, its subjects were frequently vandalized and plundered. So much so, that these Bhutanese bandits had the audacity to hijack some of these subjects as slaves. True that these brigands were not acting at the order of the Bhutanese Government. Nonetheless, the gruesome crime was originated and operated from the soil of Bhutan. In-fact, as far back as 1841, to curb the Bhutanese predatory, British India had annexed the seven Assam Dooars and the Ambaree Fallacottah region of Western Dooars. To keep alive the congenial relation between the Kingdom of Bhutan and British India, of the revenue collected from the annexed territory, Bhutan received an annual payment of Rs. 10,000/- for Assam Dooars and Rs. 2,000/- for Ambaree Fallacottah region of Western Dooars.
Within the norms of civilized existence, when the British territory of Sikkim and Cooch Behar, were constantly pounded with orgy of violence – it had endangered the basic concept of cordial relation between the Government of British India and Bhutan.
'The Bhutias had been harassing and harming the people of British territories, especially in Jalpaiguri, and the areas on the other side of the river Brahmaputra’.
A HISTORY OF DARJEELING
HURRY MOHUN SANNIAL
In order to avert the escalating border tension, Ashley Eden in the company of Tseepa Lama, the Prime Minister of Sikkim, had approached the Bhutanese chiefs with a draft proposal. Far from receiving the draft proposal with honor and dignity, the British delegates were harassed, humiliated and physically assaulted. In total disagreement to the British proposal, the delegates through coercive measures were made to restore Assam Dooars in favor of Bhutan.
‘Thereafter, when he entered the capital of Bhutan, Tashitudo also known as Tashitudon, the king and his courtiers humiliated Sir Ashley grievously. Therefore, non of Sir Ashley’s objectives were fulfilled.’
A HISTORY OF DARJEELING
HURRY MOHUN SANNIAL
In order to resolve the matter, for once and for all, British action was forthwith and decisive. The District of Ambaree Fallacottah was, permanently annexed into its dominion. The payment of rent, which was collected as revenue from Assam Dooars, was permanently ceased. Together with it, all the British subjects, numbering around three hundred and who all were taken away as hostages and held captives in different Bhutanese prison were to be immediately released and set free. All the loot and plunder carried over the territory of Sikkim and Cooch Behar, for the last five years, were to be returned without hindrance. Further, Bhutan was forewarned, that if she failed to comply the order within a period of three months, appropriate measures would be adopted to realize the same.
‘The Bhutias had forced around 300 British subjects to go to their land. War was declared on 7th December 1864. Thereafter the king realized his folly and signed a treaty with the British on 11th November 1865 and also returned the two cannons that had been captured in Divangiri’
A HISTORY OF DARJEELING
HURRY MOHUN SANNIAL.
The kingdom of Bhutan, was left with no other remedy, other than to toe the British line. In the follow up, the ‘Treaty of Sinchula’ was signed on 11/11/1865. Article II of the said Treaty thus read
‘…….. And whereas the Bhootan Government has now expressed it’s regret for past misconduct and desire for the establishment of friendly relations with the British Government, it is hereby agreed that the whole of the tract known as the Eighteen Dooars, bordering on the district of Rungpoor Cooch Behar and Assam, together with the Talook of Ambaree Fallacottah and the Hill territory on the left bank of the Teesta up to such points as may be laid down by the British Commissioner appointed for the purpose is ceded by the Bhootan Government to the British Government forever.
Under the Treaty of Sinchula 11/11/1865, Kalimpong was made a Sub-Division of Darjeeling District in 1867, while Ambaree Fallacotah of the Western Dooars region was merged with Jalpaiguri Sub-Division, to be a part of Jalpaiguri district.
Without doubt, the crisis over Bhutan was over. Nonetheless, in the inter-related subject, whenever the history of Sikkim and Bhutan crops up Chibu Lama, the then Prime Minister of Sikkim, is often dragged into the center of controversy. Dutta-Ray in ‘Smash and Grab’ describes him as ‘Another notorious collaborator was Tseepa Lama, who had interpreted for Hooker and Campbell accompanied Ashley Eden to Bhutan in 1864 and was a protégé of Sir Richard Temple. He was rewarded with a tract of 75000 acres near Darjeeling.’ Echoing a similar view Dr. Sonam B. Wangyal, thus states ‘the patriot Tokhang Namgyal was banished from Sikkim while the turncoat, Cheebu Lama, who betrayed his people and his country was rewarded with 49 square miles (31,360 acres) of land as a grant by the British’. Incidentally, of the two, which land schedule are we to rely upon? Comparatively, Hurry Mohun Sannial opines a diametrically opposite view as to those of the other two ‘The land given by him (Sikkim king) to Chibu Lama was occupied by the British in 1835 and re-settled upon him with title deeds (patta). In 1860, Chibu Lama was the Prime Minister of the King of Sikkim. He was the mediator of all conflicts: the architect of the peace treaty; and the British had great faith in his loyalty.’
As things stood by, British India was hell-bent on setting up a defensive barrier on the soil of Sikkim, to thwart a much anticipated Russian onslaught. In terms of strategy; as against the well-maneuvered, superior military force and astute British manipulation; the puny kingdom of Sikkim and Prime Minister Chibu Lama, were hopelessly inadequate, to go toe –to-toe, in opposing the British mission. As Prime Minister, the only alternative left for him was to maintain equanimity through the policy of diplomatic appeasement.
Within Darjeeling, the inconclusive stalemate was finally over on 1870, when the District of Darjeeling was brought directly under the rule of the Governor General. In the present context of the description, Darjeeling’s over all status was transformed to that of a ‘Union Territory”. Though the new status was to last only till 1874, even as otherwise, the District of Darjeeling was conferred the appropriate status.
‘From 1870 onwards Darjeeling District was put directly under the charge of the Governor General of India till 1874, somewhat like the present day “Union Territories”.
‘The story of Darjeeling’
Basant B. Lama.
If Calcutta had all along been the Capital of British India, Darjeeling or “British Sikkim” was the summer capital. However, in 1874, another change in policy had affected the region. It was purely for administrative convenience, as well as to lighten the burden of Bengal Province; Assam was declared a separate Chief Commissioner’s Province. While the District of Darjeeling as “Schedule District” was put under the Rajshahi ( now in Bangladesh) Division of Bengal Province. Effectively, bringing the District of Darjeeling under Rajshahi Division was surely not a central benevolence to the Province of Bengal. In-fact, as “Schedule District’ the laws enacted for Bengal Province, were not applicable in Darjeeling District. Most appropriately, as a strong reminder to maintain the statuesque, post 1874, the lease annuity of Darjeeling from Rs. 9000/- was again raised to Rs. 12000/-
During the contemporary period of history, the Indian sub-continent was under going a hectic political evolution. Lord Dufferin (1884-88) had triggered controversy with his scathing remark, over the growth of Indian middle class population.
‘In number, as Lord Duffrin remarked a few years later, it was still a microscopic minority’
A HISTORY OF INDIA
For certain, the remark was an understatement. In diametrically opposite to the views, as expressed by Lord Dufferin; over the years India’s middle class population had grown by leaps and bounds. To sustain the growth, it had the language as medium of communication. With language as its tool, it could formulate ideas to influence and stimulate the thinking capacity. Such positive development would in the course of future, determine measures to build the nation. In-fact, in course of time that was what had exactly happened. In 1876 Surrendranath Banerjea, a member of the middle class family, had formed the ‘Indian Association’. Following the development; in a span of another nine years, in December 1885, Bombay witnessed the birth of Indian National Congress. Initially, it was the Bombay based businessmen and Bengal landlords, that had played the pivotal role to keep the congress flag fluttering. In course of time, it was through sheer brilliance of the two Marathi intellectuals: Gopal Krishna Gokhle and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, that helped pave the way for the congress to spread its culture.
Nonetheless, the Indian community, as disgruntled lots had rumbled, even under Viceroy Lord Ripon (1880-84). Their grievances were many. The more significant ones were; Indians resented the idea of their exclusion from all high office. To the Indians, the holding of civil service examination in London, was in it self an impediment. When some Indians made the effort to sit for the same, the age limit of the candidates appearing for such examination, was lowered to nineteen. In the process, the system made matters, increasingly difficult for the candidates to compete for the same. Similarly, they were equally averse, against the use of Indian troops to promote Imperial ambition. In equal measure, they abhorred the manipulation of tariff and the enforcement of strictures on the vernacular press. By and large, these negative developments against Indian interest were taken to be a move to undermine the very concept of mother India.
On a positive note Lord Ripon had repealed the Lytton introduced draconian press bill. As a change of heart;
‘His liquidation of the Afghan adventure was welcomed as a renunciation of imperialism,’
A HISTORY OF INDIA
However, with the introduction of Ilbert Bill, Ripon’s sympathy towards the Indian demand was received as ‘White Blacklash’. For Ripon, if the Ilbert Bill was innocuous, within the circle of European community the infamous bill was outrageous. Under the bill, the few Indian barristers, promoted as district magistrates and session Judges, could hold trial against British and Indian subjects. The bulk of the European community found the bill as unacceptable and created furor over the same.
‘Ripon was threatened; and mindful of the ‘indigo’ or ‘blue mutiny’ of 1860, irate loyalists now promised a ‘white mutiny’ which would seal the fate of such a treacherous government. Their campaign ‘gave Indians an abject lesson in the arts of unprincipled, but highly organized agitation’
India a History
In consonance to the noteworthy political development within the Sub- Continent- by 1900, the province of Bengal had bloated with massive population of 78 million. The excessive growth of population had made governance difficult and unmanageable. When compared with the prosperous West Bengal, the moribund East Bengal was proven unsafe. Moreover, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, Andrew Fraser was firmly convinced that, certain districts in Bengal had become political hot beds, with a potential for seditious movement. At the ongoing development, British India had taken a strong perception: a united Bengal would pose a cumbersome, administrative headache. Whereas, a Bengal divided would open up many smooth avenues. On 7th December 1903, the proposal to partition the Bengal Province was published. For a thinking Bengali, it was a preposterous colonial design, and under no circumstances, would they take the matter lying down.
‘A storm of protest swept all over Bengal. ‘We object’ wrote Surendra Nath Banerjee in the ‘Bengali’ to the proposed dismemberment of Bengal and we are sure the whole country will rise as one man to protest against it’
HISTORY OF MODERN
2ND revised edition
Paying little heed to the large scale Bengali Protest, in early February 1904 Lord Curzon, the architect of Bengal’s partition had taken a hectic tour of the proposed East Bengal. In his effort to cajole and convince the Muslims; Curzon had thus stated: by creating the province of East Bengal, he was making an effort to foster the Muslim glory, such of which had only existed under Muslim kings and Viceroys. Moreover, to win over Nawab Salimullah Khan of Dacca, Curzon had offered him a soft loan of Sterling £1000 at a nominal interest. Lured by the monetary benefit and brighter prospect for a Muslim Province, the Nawab gladly accepted the Viceroy’s proposal.
Yet, in the campaign for Bengal’s partition, the Nawab of Dacca was not the lone voice. Abul Kasem Fazlul Huq, a contemporary and a prominent political voice of Bengal, echoed a view identical to that of the Nawab.
‘Huq was made for politics and oratory. Possessing a rich voice, fluent in Bengali, English and Urdu and cultivating a rhythmic delivery, he backed the call for Bengal;s partition, a Muslim demand for which Sir Salimullah, the Nawab of Dacca, was the chief spokesman’
On February 1905, the government of India had sent its final partition proposal, to the Secretary of State. Despite the vehement opposition to the partition plan, Curzon was equally determined to implement the same. In his observation, he had firmly drawn, that Calcutta was the hub of congress culture. It was from Calcutta, that the congress directives were routed to the other centers. Therefore, the partition scheme would blow away the future prospect and aspiration of the Congress.
In-order, to put the partition plan into effect, the official resolution was published on 19th July 1905. Under the resolution, a new Province of East Bengal – consisting of Chittagong Division, Dacca, Mymensingh and Tripura hills as well as the Chief Commissioners Province of Assam, were clubbed together. In the new format, Assam tea would receive a cheaper outlet at the Chittagong port. The new Province, with its Capital at Dacca had a population of thirty – one million. Nonetheless, in ratio of population East Bengal was a Muslim dominated Province. Comparatively, although West Bengal’s population figured forty seven millions – before the dominant Biharis and Oriyas, the Bengalis stood to be the minority.
‘In “East Bengal and Assam” they would be a religious minority in a predominantly Muslim Province; in West Bengal with Orissa and Bihar they would be a linguistic minority amongst a non-Bengali speaking majority. Wherever they lived they stood to loose by partition.’
‘India a History’
Moreover, to frustrate the growing Hindu influence – Muslims were allotted separate or communal representation within the provincial council. This led to the formation of Muslim League in 1906.
Following, Lord Curzon engineered partition of Bengal in 1905, the big wigs within the British think tank felt; it would be unrealistic for the “Schedule District” of Darjeeling, to make a common bond with the Muslim dominated East Bengal. For better compatibility, they transferred the “Scheduled District” of Darjeeling into the Bhagalpore Division of Bihar. The wisdom behind such a move was, unlike the Bangali language, the dominant language of Darjeeling District which was Nepali and the one spoken in Bhihar used the familiar Devanagari script. The close affinity in language would bring about administrative harmony.
In the meanwhile, within Darjeeling, education was beginning to percolate. With the spread of education; the thinking capacity amongst the local elites were raised. The obnoxious policy, as adapted by the ruling British, had pricked their conscience. They were confirmed with the belief, that as the District of Darjeeling or “British Sikkim” they were altogether a separate entity. With such enduring history and resilient culture, they had a unique identity. In-fact, based on such reality; when, Bengal was on the throes of partition, the District of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri were totally insulated and aloof. So much so, that they were never drawn by the mass movement around Bengal. This was largely, owing to the unnoticeable presence of Bengali speaking population in the region; together with the Provincial Congress’s failure to pullout the regions inhabitants from confined insularity. Despite the situation proving so, they were rendered the status of ineffective minority; to be shuttled in between the Divisions of Rajshahi and Bhagalpore. Out of this resentment was floated the immediate urge to separate the District of Darjeeling form the province of Bengal. Soon, the idea to secede from Bengal was translated into reality. In 1907, for the first time, the Hill leaders comprising of the indigenous Nepali, Bhutia and Lepcha community, got together and demanded that the District of Darjeeling, be converted into a “Separate Administrative Set up”, totally outside the jurisdiction of Bengal Province.
Before pushing their pens, or being vocally loud, with the pursuit to turn the genuine demand of the Gorkhas into shambles, the likes of Dr. Dipak Basu and his cohorts should gracefully acknowledge, that the demand for Gorkhaland, as constantly repeated in the various regional daily, is least emotive. As heinously projected in ‘The Telegraph’s’ editorial dated 30th June 2011, it is not a scoop to carve out a sectarian state, under the pretext of identity crisis. Nor is it a Sub-regional jingoism or in any way a ploy to divide the State of West Bengal. Historical evidence dose not support Bengal’s claim of ownership over the District of Darjeeling and Dooars. On the right note, Darjeeling’s political crisis has not received the seriousness it deserves. It is inadvisable to draw a faulty line between the hills and plains of Darjeeling District. Based on the well-installed foundation of over a century, Gorkhaland is a right full and realistic demand. It is as clear as the day that the indigenous Gorkha habitat has been arbitrarily amalgamated with the state of West Bengal. The parliament – country’s highest law making body must intervene and bring about a constitutional amendment to readdress the lingering crisis. Unless so done, the festering wound will continue to haunt the restive region.
to be concluded...