1940’s: Scramble for Darjeeling
If perseverance, in the late 1930’s was the lone factor, that ensured Huq’s rein over the seat of Bengal’s premiership – the 1940’s would script a different episode.
In the eyes of the Muslim voters, those Congress ministers, who had resigned over the issue of war were not treated as trifle, to them, these ministries were nothing less than agencies of Hindu hegemony.
As a politician, engaged in a balancing act, Huq had accepted and adjusted to the reality of polarization. Hence, he was more than willing to endorse and sponsor the Muslim League convened Lahore meet of March 1940.
“Before moving the resolution he said ‘amidst thunderous applause’:
We assumed power on behalf of Muslims and other people in Bengal in 1937. We have been given an opportunity by the almighty to serve our people after a couple of centuries and we are not going to barter away the power and the opportunity to an imaginary and unknown Central authority…… I am a Muslim first and Bengalee afterwards…. It was in Bengal in the year 1906 that the flag of the Muslim League was unfurled and it is now my privilege as the leader of Bengal to move the resolution for the homeland of the Muslim from the self same platform of the Muslim League”
From Abedin’s speeches of Sher-e-Bangla quoted in Understanding the MUSLIM MIND Rajmohan Gandhi’
Though the two Muslim leaders had voiced unanimity, constitute independent Muslim States: comprising of North – Western and Eastern India; for all the apparent reason there appeared a thin line of discord between Huq and Jinnah. The former relied on self-confidence to believe in all firmness that he was the natural leader of his province. He therefore detested any form of dependence on Jinnah or the Leagues factions in Bengal, loyal to Jinnah. As for the latter, he did distinctly remember the unpleasant incident of 1937, relating to Huq’s refusal to fall in line. Therefore, he could never rid the suspicion that Huq could align with Hindu Bengalis’.
Notwithstanding, since Haq’s political fortune was Bengal based, he could least afford to ignore the interest of both the Muslims as well as Hindu voters. Although, Muslims formed the majority with 54 percentage – the Hindu voters with 43.8 percentage did command significant presence – to decide the political fortune of an aspiring candidate. As a prominent leader, Huq had the political foresight to asses that for a Muslim ruler, support of Hindu voters were of equal importance. In the words of Enayetur Rahim: ‘Fazlul Huq and his men were conscious of their Bengal identity and heritage and fondly shared the unique Bengali ethos’
Bengal Election, 1937; Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh (Dacca, August 1977)
Irrespective of an identical religious belief; within Bengal, Huq’s views were diametrically opposite to those of Jinnah. He was of the firm opinion, that Bengal on the whole shared a common culture, heritage and economy. Heart of heart; to iron-out the rising animosity – he favoured communal harmony between the Hindu and Muslim community. To achieve the goal – he was ready to go out of his way and talk to Abul kalam Azad – the congress president. For all the obvious reason Huq’s initiative only added to Jinnah’s annoyance; who had accused Huq of dividing the Muslim community.
Since, Huq was the last to tolerate dominance of any form; he had more or less decided to part ways with Jinnah. Adding fat to the fire; around July 1941, Huq at his personal discretion accepted the viceroy’s offer of a place on the National Defense Council .Jinnah had found this act of Huq, as odious and highly objectionable. Jinnah viewed; as a member of the league, Huq ought to have taken the party’s clearance, before taking up the ambiguous decision. Along with Huq, the Premiers of both Punjab and Assam, namely; Sikander Hyat and Sidullah, were found guilty for similar offence. Under the party directives, they were to resign from the national Defense Council. Though, the Premiers of Punjab and Assam had complied with the party directives ; Huq on his part had delayed the process. Ultimately, when he did comply with the party directives, he had done so – far once and for all. Soon, he resigned from the Muslim League. For all the valid reason – within his own right, Huq was assertive. He stood his ground to sound: within Bengal, he resented outside interference and domination of any kind.
‘At the heart of the conflict was Huq’s assertion of his, and Bengals autonomy visa-a-vis Jinnah and the central League. In his letter to Liaqat he said:
For my part, I will never allow the interests of 33 millions of the Muslims of Bengal to be put under the domination of any outside authority, however eminent it may be.’
Understanding the Muslim Mind – Rajmohan Gandhi
Truly, Huq bore the hallmark of a great leader. Without exaggeration; it was worthwhile for D.S Gurung to take a leaf out of Huq’s book. Unfortunately, Gurung was least receptive or politically matured to uphold such idea and was hell-bent to trot along the Bengal provincial Congress engineered path.
Similarly, Huq for all practical purpose was well aware that, without the support of the Muslim League, he could kiss good bye to the ministry. To avert such an eventuality, his political strategy was based on: to avoid an instant divorce with the Muslim League and alternatively look for probable alliance. To do so, he used all the means to buy time. In the meanwhile, he sent feelers to the leaders of the Hindu group.
‘He probed the minds of the Bengal’s Hindu politicians. They were willing to help him. In November Huq, Sarat Chandra Bose, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee and some other MLA’s, Hindu and Muslim, met at the home of J. C Gupta, the congress MLA who had hosted the abortive 1937 dinner. This time the parleys were fruitful’
As an alert and Willy politician, Huq played his cards judiciously. Depending upon the situation; he knew exactly when to reject the Muslim MLA’s and likewise, when to dabble with the Hindu MLA’s or visa-versa. However, within the new alignment of his thought process, he failed to fob off the Muslim League. Two days after Huq had convened a meeting with the Hindu MLA’s – the Muslim league; demanding to know the truth about such meeting, had raised furor on the floor of the Assembly. The debate was dominated by angry exchanges, punctuated with retorts and Counter – retorts. Arguments flew back and forth. Amidst such a fiasco; Huq outrightly denied of having convened a meeting with the Hindu MLAs, at any time. In the ongoing development, much as Huq had anticipated; some of the League members of Huq’s Cabinet, including Nazimuddin and Suhrawardy submitted their resignation. In their estimation, they had expected Sir John Herbert, the governor to call for Huq’s immediate resignation. To an extent their expectation was proved to be true. However, their aspiration that Nazimuddin would be asked to form the new Government was belied.
‘Huq resigned on 2nd December 1941 but was able to form a board based progressive coalition party which included the progressive secular elements of the Praja Party, most Hindu members, including the Bose group of congress and the rightist radicals of the HINDU MAHASABHA. The new ministry, was commissioned, on 12 December 1941, only after the governor’s personal initiative to install, a League dominated ministry had failed.’
Bibliography AK Fazlul Huq, Bengal Today, Culcutta, 1944; ASM Abdur Rab, AK Fazlul Huq
Further, to grasp a clear view of the overall political development within Bengal Provincial Assembly; we need to undergo another noteworthy analysis.
‘Huq was called upon to form his second ministry. This was on December 10. Sarat Bose, leader of the Congress (Subhas) group in the assembly, was to be the deputy Premier in the new Cabinet but the Raj asserted him under Defence of India rules on December 11. The next day Huq announced a Cabinet; himself, the nawab of Dacca and, to everyone’s astonishment, Shyama Prasad Mukerjee, whom he had denounced two years earlier as one of Bengals most communally minded men’
Understanding the MUSLIM MIND, Rajmohan Gandhi
Surely, even in the good old days, political equation was never to be determined by the principle of last – word.
On the sudden Hindu- Muslim cohesion in Bengal politics; Jinnah without a trace of hanker had opined that, the new ministry wouldn’t survive. Over the issue, his comments were: ‘Removing it, he said, would be ‘as simple as falling of a log.’
AK Fazlul Haq, ASM Abdur Rab, (Fero of sons, Lahore, 1967)
If Jinnah’s views were cynical, the optimist section of the community had observed the development as a reconciliatory measure, to bridge the widening Hindu – Muslim discord. In fact, there sparked a light at the end of the tunnel, when Haq made an announcement: ‘He would be the best defender of Hindu interests and Mookerjee would protect Muslim interest. On the same note he had renounced the Lahore resolution with a statement “The Pakistan Scheme could not be applied to Bengal’
Indeed, as far as Haq was concerned; it was a relief to be free from the clutches and obligation of the Muslim League. Haq for once felt that he would henceforth; without hindrance of any kind proceed with the agenda for socio-economic upliftment of the common people.
By comparison: within the contradictory variance of Bengal Provincial Assembly – D.S Gurung at best was a non-performing, inapplicable political face of Darjeeling. To gauge the harsh truth, one needn’t be exceptionally enlightened. Given the opportunity, even a common man would have fathomed the difference. For once, Darjeeling was beginning to enjoy a unique status. After persistent clamour to secede from Bengal for three decades: Under the’ Partially Excluded Area’ the district of Darjeeling; included the Hills and plains to form the contiguous area of its geographical boundary. In fact, Darjeeling was an Island by itself. Enforced after the Government of India Act 1935, the ‘Partially Excluded Area’ of Darjeeling District was put under the charge of a minister. However in effect, the Governor was empowered to over – rule the decision of the minister.
Subsequently, non of the Central or Provincial laws were applicable within the ‘Partially Excluded Area’ of Darjeeling district, unless, so approved by the Governor. To be precise, any other leader in Gurungs place, would have sensed the difference to categorically draw a line between the Province of Bengal and the ‘Partially Excluded Area’ of Darjeeling. Unfortunately, that sense of proportion eluded Gurung. As otherwise he would at once have sensed a growing chasm between the communally polarized Hindu – Muslim Bengal and the ‘Partially Excluded Area’ of Darjeeling district.
As the IInd World War generated momentum; beyond Europe it had extended to Africa, Asia and the Pacific. On 7th December 1941 Japan striked a surprise attack on the American Pacific fleet, stationed at Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii. Further, to reinforce her aggressive posture; by the spring of 1942 Malaya, Thailand, Burma, Hong kong, the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies (Indonasia) and Manchuria in China,had fallen under Japanese occupation.
In Africa, Field Marshal Rommel,led the combined German and Italian Troops, to advance across Egypt and the Sueg Canal. The British tropes were under the command of General Barnard Montgomery, who defeated Romel at the battle of El Alamein in Egypt. While bringing about the defeat of the Germans, the Gurkhas’ displayed outstanding valour.
‘Gurkhas fought at Tunisia, to deal with Germans in the Matmata hills. In silence, by night, they scaled the slopes, located the German the formal battle of Alamein and were called forward as the 8th Army crossed into position and were in with the Kukuri. For five minutes the knives flashed and fell, then the German garrison fled screaming across the plateau. “Our casualties were carried away and no trace was left of us except the bodies of German panzer grenadiers, many with their heads cut clean off by Kukuri slashes’.
THE STORY OF THE GURKHAS OF NEPAL
Sir Francis Tuker
Within Britain: after the fall of Singapore and Burma, Prime Minister Churchill’s image took a beating. Within British Parliament his position had weakened. Sir Stafford Cripps, a brilliant advocate was the new leader of the House of Commons. The radical minded British were beginning to look to him as an heir apparent. While representing the interest of His Majesty’s Government, on 11th march -1942 Sir Stafford Cripps announced a radical offer. With excitement running high – for a while it appeared that the stalemate was over. Thoug the proposals were to be implemented after the War – signs of seriousness and commitment featured within the proposal. Under the new order: India was to have a constituent Assembly. With exception to those members nominated by the Indian Princes, the members of the Constituent Assembly would be elected by the provincial legislature. After the War, the constituent Assembly would be empowered to frame up the dominion constitution for India. In effect, “The constitution would then be embodied in a treaty on the lines of those with Scotland in 1707 and the Irish Free State in 1922”.
‘Cripps offered India full dominion State after the War, with the right to leave the Common Wealth: a constituent Assembly, also post War, elected by provincial legislatures, except for a proportion nominated by India’s Princes: and immediately, a national government composed of representatives of the leading parties. These items, barring to power accorded to the Princes, appealed to Congress to obtain Jinnah’s acceptance of his package, Cripps gave every Province the right to secede from the dominion, once the latter had come into being ‘
In letter and spirit, the Cripps mission recognized the right to secession from the Common Wealth. Together with it; the Province too were granted the right to secession from the federal union. Till the moment, the Viceroys Council was to be treated as responsible cabinet. In order to translate the proposal into reality, the leaders were invited to join the Viceroys Council. A visionary Gandhi at once sensed Churchill’s hand to divide India. He was disturbed and offended by British action. Sir Stafford Cripps proposal was forstalled. The Congress leaders insisted that the new Council be immediately empowered to delegate the powers of the dominion Cabinet. Gandhi took a serious exception to the British attempt to divide India. Similarly, Nehru and Azad rejected the offer with the precaution that the national Government would fall at the Viceroys Veto. Jinnah, though welcomed the secession clause, keeping in mind the idea of Pakistan, had rejected the offer. His contention: while the Crrips proposal was clear on the idea of Provinces, it remained silent on the future of Muslim Nation. The larger impact of Cripps proposal was – while it tried pleasing all; it ended pleasing none.
‘For the Cripps offer, like all the other, betrayed a British Willingness to appease Muslim nationalism and princely autonomy by endorsing the possibility that some provinces and States might eventually secede. This was anathema to all shades of Congress opinion. It challenged the idea of a single and indivisible Indian nation on which claims of independence had always rested; it contradicted the idea of Congress as a secular party representing all of India’s communities and transcending all religious differences; and it denied the primacy of democratic representation on which both the national consensus and congress’s supremacy relied’.
India a History
Another confronting anxiety of the moment was; Japan had over ran Burma. Their next line of strategic operation was directly focused over India. After the monsoon, they would proceed with the West Ward march into India. To resist Japanese invasion, India’s North East Frontiers, bordering Burma were reinforced with more contingents of Indian troops. To defend India from naked Japanese aggression – the Gurkhas, once more displayed undaunted courage and tenacity, in the art of warfare.
‘During the period from the spring of 1942 until early 1943 the Gurkha, who is a born Jungle fighter was beginning to grasp what it was all about, and from that time onwards he asserted his absolute superiority over the Japanese soldier, man for man, patrol for patrol and ambush for ambush. As on this front, so also on the main Imphal front. Deploying from Kantha village in the Arkan a company went into the assault, the out flanking platoon fighting its way up the steep slope. Clambering on ahead Bhopal Ale, at first with a bren, and then hurling grenades and lastly, rocks, managed to keep the Japanese at bay until ammunition and help arrived to enable him to drive the enemy off and secure the position. Later, at the snowdon battle, a young rifleman distinguished himself, one Bhanbagta Gurung, when his section was stopped by heavy fire and a sniper took advantage of the situation to start picking the men off. Bhanbagta spotted him, jumped up in the open, took on the marksman, at short range and shot him dead’.
THE STORY OF THE GURKHAS OF NEPAL
Sir Francis Tuker
In the meanwhile Gandhi had denounced Stafford Cripps offer as: “The post – dated Cheque on a failing Bank”. When Japanese bombs began falling on Indian installations, Gandhi was dejected and lost his patience. He insisted: British presence in India meant Japanese provocation. In his estimation, if the Japanese invaded India, the British would leave the sub-continent – as they had done in the case of Singapore, Malaya and Burma. On the contrary, if they left before another conquest, it would automatically cease Japanese hostility towards India. Based on such hypothesis, Gandhi gave a Clarion call for “Quit India” movement.
Within Bengal, the new ministry – often called Shyama – Haq ministry hadn’t achieved much. Though the new ministry didn’t unite Hindus and Muslims; never the less, it did avert a likely communal clash.
As the tides of history changed its course, Huq ministry was likely to be overwhelmed by an escalating war with Japan, an all flaring “Quit India” movement, and an epidemic in the form of ‘Great Bengal Famine’. Of the three: the first two issues had placed Huq’s position in a state of quandary. For instance, to support the Congress led movement at the time of War, would subject to defying the imperial authority – which would inevitably lead to his Ministry’s dismissal. On the reverse, defending the Raj’s repressive measures would at once invite public ire. Effectively, Burma for long had served as the rice bowl of Bengal. Once Japan invaded Burma, it had a negative impact on the supply of rice to Bengal. To meet up the huge deficit, the government formulated methods to divert rice from surpluses to deficit areas. With the Raj appearing as the buyer, the price of rice inflated in no time. As a result of the Raj’s hastily promoted policy of reckless venture, the agents grabbing fat commissions from the rice sellers were the only ones to benefit. Despite the Raj adopting a defective rice procurement policy, there was little that Huq could do. Resentment of any kind would only risk to annoy the Raj. However, in Midnapore, when large Congress followers responded to the “Quit India” call – the officials dealt the situation with a heavy hand. Following the Midnapore repression, the situation escalated for the worse. Shyama Prasad Mukerjee refused to remain a mute spectator. In protest against the official high – handedness and expressing solidarity with the rebels – he resigned from the ministry. Following his resignation Congress MLA’s joined the chorus in demand of an enquiry into the Midnapore incident. Given the hyper sensitive issue, which had culminated into fluid political situation; Huq could least offered to walk a tight – rope. He had to take an immediate decision. Ultimately, when he did decide – he endorsed the Congress demand on the floor of the Assembly. As a defender of the Raj; Huq’s action infuriated Governor Sir John Herbet.
‘A Cencure motion against Huq, undoubtedly blessed by Herbert, was rejected by just 10 votes. The following day Herbert persuaded, or pressurized, Huq into signing a letter of resignation.
Why Huq signed is not clear. Perhaps he was told that he would be dismissed if he did not resign. All we know is that the following letter, typed bout and ready, was given by Herbert to Huq, who signed it:
Dear Sir John
Understanding that there is a probability of the formation of a Ministry representative of most of the parties in the event of my resignation, I hereby tender my resignation….. …. In the sincere hope that this will prove to be in the best interest of the people of Bengal.
A.K Fazlul Huq
Bengal Today, Abedin
As quoted in: Understanding the MUSLIM MIND, Rajmohan Gandhi
Following Huq’s resignation, Bengal was brought under the rule of the Governor, for a month or so. On 24th April 1943 Sir Khwaja Nazimuddin, the Home Minister of the first Provincial Ministry was sworn as the succeeding Premier.
Amidst the change of leadership within Bengal; the 1940’s witnessed the crucial movement to determine the political future of Darjeeling district. In many ways, politically motivated aspirations, hunger for power and clandestine designs, were hovering around to enshroud the tranquil atmosphere of Darjeeling.
In all, the political climate, for once favoured Darjeeling’s long drawn aspiration to secede from the Province of Bengal. To subsist such a possibility; enthusiasm and exhilaration amongst those who mattered had grown in unassuming proportion. The Hillmen’s Association with a dream to form a “Separate Administrative Setup’’ for Darjeeling and Dooars ,were live and active. It’s leaders like Rup Narayan Sinha and C. Tendupla, with the solid back up of Darjeeling’s elites, together with the Europeans and Tea Planters (Union), shared a common dream. In following the foot- steps of Sardar Bahadur S W Ladenla, both Sinha and Tendupla were vociferous over their demand for Darjeeling’s secession from Bengal.
The other leader of more significance was Damber Singh Gurung. In fact, Gurung was a leader, who had won mandates to represent Darjeeling in the Provincial Assembly of Bengal. However, within the Provincial Assembly, apart from voting in favour of the Congress sponsored no – confidence motion in August 1938; on Darjeeling’s behalf, he had contributed nothing worthwhile.Contrary to the impression of a dominant personality at Kalimpong, within the Assembly; he was as ignoramus, as little Alice in wonderland. In fact, as far as Darjeeling was concerned; from 1937 – 1943, its representative was in political hibernation. Following the dissolution of the Huq ministry, he was made to realize that the scope for his survival as an independent candidate was scant. To articulate his views and counter his foes criticism, he needed a firm political platform.
According to Baghirat Rawat: Shiv Kumar Rai and Dil Bahadur Chettri of Kurseong, were the first to visit D S Gurung. As more and more people thronged Gurungs abode, somewhere along the line of their interexchange; the idea of All India Gorkha League was floated.
In the “History of All India Gorkha League 1943 -1949”, which is more a compilation of documents, Bhai Nahar Singh and Bhai Kirpal Singh, in part II of its introduction thus writes :
“All India Gurkha League was formed in May, 1943 with the active assistance, advice and patronage of British administrators, British tea planters and some of the younger scions of the defacto ruling family of Nepal, the descendants of Jang Bahadur Rana and his brothers.
The convener, organizer and President of the League Mr D S Gurung B L was a shrewd agitator, politician as well as manipulator. He was already a MLA. After 1947 he was a member of the constituent cum – Legislative Assembly of FREE HINDUSTAN”.
The Singh duo’s contortion of All India Gurkha League’s history is most laughable. Fortunately, distortion of history can always be verified, condemned and challenged. Guided under the principle of corroborative facts, the scope is there to rewrite,as in his instance case. However, had the Singh duo opted for economics and speculated the share market with equal level of zeal and exuberance; in no time, they would have crashed to loose their shirts.
To go by the history, ‘Gorkha League’ a non political organization was formed way back in 1921, in Dehra Dun.
‘In 1926 Thakur Chandan Singh, a former Congress worker and Assistant Secretary to the Maharaja of Bikaner was elected the first president of the Gorkha League’.
‘The Story of Darjeeling’
Basant B Lama
In May 1943, D S Gurung and his cronies had redefined as ‘All India Gorkha League’. In fact, when its function was debated upon, suggestion had come forth that the ‘All India Gorkha League’ be made into a social organization.
‘There was a great debate as to whether this should be a social or political organization. Dil Bahadur was of the opinion that it should be a social organization as the Nepalese were too scattered and weak to fight as a political party in the mainstream’
Maya Devi Chhetry
There was much sense in the suggestion. For, D S Gurung,as Darjeeling’s representative in Bengal Provincial Assembly, was politically inapt. He was a political non-starter. Infact, he was an obstructionist to stall Darjeeling’s aspiration to secede from Bengal. Lured by the power of politics,D S Gurung was hell-bent upon to promote the pan Indian Gurkha concept.
Equally eager were his acolytes and sycophants in wanting to project D S Gurung, as the totemic figure of the Indian Gurkhas. Sadly the leaders lack of political acumen and intellectual prowess, was destined to flounder the issue and end up as an ambitious pipedream.
With the lack of education, information and political consciousness, people at large had failed to gauge the hollow dream of D S Gurung. Unable to asses the woes and agonies that,he was likely to drive them into; the innocent hill folks crowded before D S Gurung, in the hope that he was the last pillar of their aspiration. As an object of curiosity and admiration, he was elevated from ‘Bhot Babu’ to ‘Bhot ko Raja’. In the midst of such large scale fan following, there wasn’t another voice to alert that an incompetent leader with no serious commitment towards the real cause of Darjeeling, would lead them to nowhere. In fact by misleading the people into another direction; Darjeeling’s four decade old aspiration; to be liberated from Bengal was pushed down the barrel.
Apparently, on 10th May 1943 eight number of resolutions were passed in Kalimpong. This was followed by a mass meeting that was convened on 15th May 1943, in Darjeeling.
‘Proceeding of the mass meeting of the Gurkhas of the district of Darjeeling and from outside held on the 15th May 1943 at 2:30PM at Rink Cinema Hall, Darjeeling to inaugurate the ‘All India Gurkha League’.
History of All India Gurkha League 1943 – 1949
BHAI NAHAR SINGH
BHAI KIRPAL SINGH
From its very inception; far from being a political institution to secure the future of the Indian Gurkhas; in many ways the AIGL, under D S Gurung appeared to be a laboratory for experiment and adventurism. Even as otherwise; Gurung as a politician lacked the maturity and was not known to weigh and measure his words,before passing political statements. For instance, clause 7 of ‘AIMS and OBJECTS of the All India Gorkha League dt 10th May – 1943’, makes a wild suggestions;
‘To have connection with the Independent kingdom of Nepal the mother country of the Gurkhas with devotion and loyalty’
History of All India Gurkha League 1943 – 1949
To say the least: It was a comedy in error,that D S Gurung didn’t have the foggiest clue about Darjeeling’s history. He was equally ignorant about the inter related history of the Gurkhas spread across India. It is an undeniable fact; following the Treaty of Segowlee 02-12-1815, when the East India Company ceded almost 18000 square kilometer of land from Nepal – the Nepalese population inhabiting the area were automatically absorbed and integrated into British East India. Had Gurung been briefed over the inter – related history, he would have thought ten times before shooting off loose and daft comments. By the same token, when we evaluate the chequered history of Darjeeling; its even more fascinating and one would be compelled to denounce the gibberish rhetorics, so forwarded by D S Gurung.
History depicts: Limbuwan or Kirat Bhumi covered large areas of Easter Nepal, Western and parts of Northern Sikkim, Darjeeling, Kurseong, Siliguri and Jalpaiguri. As far back as the ‘Mahabharata’, the region featured dominant Kirat presence. ‘In the ‘Mahabharata’, the Kirats are dwellers in the Himalayan regions; and the Limbus are well known to be one of the principal Kiranti (or Kirata) tribes’.
Kirat – Jana – Kriti (1974)
S K Chatterji
According to I S Chemjong, the Kirat consists of the Rai, Limbu, Gurung, Magar, Tamang, Sunuwar tribes in the hills and Koch or Rajbansi, Mech and Tharu tribes in the plains.
‘A branch of Kirat people under the leadership of Kochu Hang had migrated to and had settled there in a place called Koch – Bihar’.
HISTORY AND CULTURE OF THE KIRATI PEOPLE
I S Chemjong
The region was merged into Sikkim, following the Tripartite Agreement: “LO-MEN-TSHONGSUM” 1641
….’We hereby pledge and put our seals to the agreement that people “LO-MEN-TSONG-SUM” will hereafter integrate our wishes and will not have separate self government of LO (Bhutia), MEN (Lepcha), and TSONG (Limboo) but will abide by one order only’.
Translated from original text by Prof. Ringa Tulku
Government Degree College
On 31st August, 1984
Under Prithvi Narayan Shah (1742 – 1775) following the unification of Nepal; Limbuwan or Kirat Bhumi was integrated into the Kingdom of Nepal. The policy was adopted through the ‘Lal Mohar’ or ‘order of the red seal’.
‘The Limbus of Pallo Kirat were offered the protection of the Gorkhah State in July, 1774:
We have conquered your country by dint of our valor…… The country now belongs to us. But you too belong to us. We undertake the protection of your Kinsmen. We pardon your crimes and confirm the customs and traditions, rights and privileges of your country. In case we confiscate your lands may our ancestral God destroy our Kingdom’.
An Account of Gorkha Rule
In Kumaun (1791-1815)
MAHESH C REGMI
With the demise of Prithvi Narayan Shah on 10th January – 1775, Pratap Sinha Shah (1775-77) succeeded the throne. Soon, dispute arose between Nepal and Sikkim over the formers claim to the contiguity of Kirat Bhumi,covering parts of Sikkim, Darjeeling, Siliguri and Jalpaiguri. The period followed skirmishes; minor invasion and counter invasion into each others territory; that finally culminated into major warfare in 1788. The aftermath of the war was: Nepal wrested western Sikkim, Darjeeling, Kurseong and Siliguri from Sikkim.
‘Tell the authority that the land situated between the Singilla range in the west and river Teesta in the east has already been ceded to the Gorkha Kingdom and even at present it has been given to them so kindly request the Gorkkha Raja Sri 5 to confer upon us with a Royal order or Lal Mohar for the same…………….
The above letter is an official letter sealed with the red seal of the Sikkim Raja and proves the fact that western Sikkim including Darjeeling, Kurseong and Siliguri were under the Gorkha Raja upto 1814 AD’.
HISTORY AND CULTURE OF THE
I S Chemjong
From 1788 – 1816, Nepal extended its writ over the region with a Kutchery (Collectors establishment) at Nagri.
‘There place was called Nagri on the western bank of the Balason, where there stood a Nepali fort. There is British police outpost there now……………
Nagri was also a Cutchery of the Nepalese’
The History of Sikkim
Maharajah Thutob Namgyal and Doma, Maharani Yeshay
After the Anglo – Gorkha war (1814 – 1816) a major portion of the disputed region was ceded into the British East India Company through the Treaty of Segowlee 01-12-1815.
The Rajah of Nepal hereby ceded to the Honourable East India Company in perpetuity all the under mentioned territories viz:-
Forthly – All the low lands between the rivers Mitchee and the Teestah.
Fifthly – All the territories within the hills eastward of the River Mitchee including the fort and lands of Nagri and the pass of Nagarcote leading from Morung into the hills, together with the territory lying between that pass and Nagri. The aforesaid territory shall be evacuated by the Gorkha troops within forty days from this date’.
On 10-02-1817, the region through the ‘Treaty of Titaliya’ was reverted to Sikkim.
‘The Honourable East India Company cedes, transfers and makes over in full sovereignty to the Sikkimputtee Rajah, his heirs or successors, all the hilly or mountainous country situated to the east ward of the Mechi river and to the west ward of the Teesta river, formally possessed by the Rajah of Nepal but ceded to the Hounourable East India Company by the Treaty of peace singed at Segoulee’.
Over the years, in 1835, the British East India Company took over Darjeeling, on annual lease through the controversial ‘Deed of Grant’.
‘The Governor General having expressed his desire for the possession of the Hill of Darjeeling on account of its cool climate, for the purpose of enabling the servants of his Government, suffering from sickness, to avail themselves of its advantages; I the Sikkimputtii Rajah, out of friendship to the said Governor General hereby present Darjeeling to the East Indai Company, that in all the land south of the Great Ranjeet river, east of the Balason Kahail and Little Runjeet rivers, and west of the Rungno and Mahanuddi rivers. (translated)
Seal of the Rajah prefixed to the document
Supdt, of Darjeeling and in-charge of Political relations with Sikkim.
This translation was given to the editor by the late Cosma de Koros.
THE DARJEELING GUIDE
On a sad note, what Gurung and his cohorts were not aware was: while the region oscilated from one Kingdom into another, to be finally a part of British India – all through the era; its dominant inhabitants were the Kirats; who were later integrated as Gorkhas. Under the Shah dynasty; though they shared a common cultural heritage with borderless Nepal; yet, as British subjects, Nepal to them meant another country, another nation, where they had no stake. Similarly, for the Nepalese of Nepal; Darjeeling in their notional belief was a part of ‘Munglan’, the land of the Moghuls; inhabited by the people of their origin. The Nepalese came over to the place, mainly to work as part timers in the Tea Gardens, earned quick money and returned home with necessities.
‘Every winter a great many coolies came in to work for a few months, but go away again in March. These people are very handy for opening out new land and doing any extra hoeing that may be wanted, but unless there is extra work to be done, they ought not to be allowed on the garden’.
NOTES ON TEA IN DARJEELING BY A PLANTER
From across Darjeeling; those that crossed over to Nepal on pilgrimage, one or two coincidental cases of marriages and those families that fled the Rana anarchy, could be easily counted upon. The Treaty of Segowlee was an expression of reciprocal consent between the Kingdom of Nepal and British India. Gurung represented Darjeeling and even by magical stretch of imagination, he was not the elected representative of Indian Gorkhas. While taking these facts into account – D S Gurung had no locus standi to pass an ambiguous statement concerning the India Gurkhas; Gurung’s illusive opinion were no parable and had an option been offered; on no account would the Indian Gurkhas have subscribed his view. Within the ambit of the illustrated facts, it would be absolute foolhardy to conceive Gurung’s loose comment as gospel truth.
While elaborating these facts; it is equally evident that Gurung’s knowledge of contemporary history was far from adequate and it ran out of depth. In the early 1920’s many Indian Gurkhas were seriously committed towards the cause of India’s freedom movement. Of them the two unsung heroes were Chabilal Upadhyaya of Assam and Bhagat Bir Tamang of Darjeeling;
‘Gandhiji was cordially received by the members of the reception committee and by the people of Tezpur at the Polo field in August, 1921. Chabilal Upadhyaya also attended the meeting immediately after adjourning the meeting the District Police superintendent took him to Hazarapar Park in his own car and made lucrative offers to him. The officer said: “Your country is Nepal. That country is independent. Don’t oppose the government. I will pay you Rs. 500/- per month. I will return your seized gun.” Upadhyaya a born patriot of Assam, boldly replied: “I am born in Assam and shall die in Assam. Nepal may be an independent country, but I have not seen Nepal. Assam is my motherland. I can’t leave the Congress.” At that juncture, Gandhiji was resting in Paramananda Agarwall’s house. When these words reached in the ears of Gandhiji he praised Chabilal in his two valuable words – ‘Achha kia’ (Well done).----------------------
In the Non-Co-operation movement Bhagat Bir Tamang took active part to spread the message of Gandiji fearlessly to the people. He walked from village to village and garden to garden and around Darjeeling district. He was the first Gurkhas martyr of the freedom movement in the country. Who’s who of Indian Martyr Vol. I mentioned about Bhagat Bir Tamang as follows:
“b. June 1 1859, at the Gayabari Tea Garden in Kurseong Dist. Darjeeling, West Bengal, son, of Shri Ashikdeo Tamang, took part in the Non-co-operation Movement (1921). Organised tea-garden workers. Participated in nationalist activities against British rule. Arrested several times and detained for short periods sentenced to imprisonment in August, 1923. Died in the Darjeeling District Jail in January, 1924.’
ROLE OF INDIAN NEPALSESE
By the same token, when we trace the memory of that era; politics in the hills by the 1940’s for sure was not a single party monopoly of the All India Gorkha League. Determined as ever; to preach the doctrine of Marxism and extend its ideology over the region; the undivided Communist Party of India was equally eager to enter the fray. The CPI with Puran Chand Joshi, as its General Secretary was a fierest competitor. Given its organizational skill; it was more experienced, pragmatic and a well coordinated unit. Above all, its think – tank was miles ahead of the AIGL. In order to establish and augment a firm foothold, Comrade Sushil Chatterjee of Nadia District was dispatched to Darjeeling. Sushil Chatterjee was a former radical activist of the freedom movement. It was while serving the sentence that he was attracted into the Marxist fold. Prior to his arrival in Darjeeling, he had had a stint with his former inmates at Kalimpong. Starting life afresh from a hovel; in Darjeeling, Chatterjee was determined to spread the message of Marx. In the contemporary period, Darjeeling too had been entangled in the web of Bengal famine. Its impact; though, was less severe than that of Culcutta. Neverthless, the communists were quick to extend their goodwill in the famine hit areas. Be it in Culcutta or Darjeeling, they were there. Condemning hoarders had stood the tall and Burly Ratna Lal Brahmin. The poor affectionately called him Maila Bajey. For all the good reason; he was dead against the scamps for exploiting the poor to pile – up illicit gains. Within the suppressed community; Ratna lal Brahmin was a voice of conscience. He had often executed heroic deeds. Besides, he was dynamic, forthwith and above all ,was blessed with raw courage to confront the adversaries. Impressed as he was; comrade Sushil Chatterjee developed an instant liking for Ratna Lal Brahmin. He discovered in him the prospective potential to hold together the Marxist fort. Soon, the two comrades got along in the form of the proverbial house on fire. Committed as they were; they worked out the strategy to form a base at the grass root. Guided by another author and brilliant theoretician – Satendra Narayan Mazumdar; the comrades penetrated deep into the fertile terrain of rural Darjeeling and the over receptive tea garden belts; inhabited by the struggling proletariats. The comrades foremost task was to inculcate the gospel of Marxism, within the impoverished community of rural Darjeeling and amongst the tea garden proletariats. In the probable reality, a simple proletariat may not have perceived the bulky dialectical materialism of Marx; but to him the belief: Marxism denounced exploitation and Marxism was the one and only answer to a yawning void between haves and haves not, was the most welcome reprieve.
For the share – holders and management of the tea gardens; the very concept of Marx was nauseating and strident. On the reverse, a large section of the proletariats were beginning to venerate Marx as their new found God. In Marxism, they discovered the new religion, a new path to liberation. In their heart of belief; they were convinced to the bones, that Marxism alone would emancipate them from the iron clamped grip of deep rooted suppression and over a century old inhuman exploitation.
The labour colony was a shabby ghetto. They had no legal right over the hovel or the plot of land. For minor offence, sometimes at the whim of the manager; who was the Judge, Jury and Prosecutor – families could be uprooted under the rigorous system of ‘Hatta Bhahar’. Truly, it was the reverse of ‘How green was my valley.’
“Labour in the tea gardens were ordered to sleep only on the floor – sleeping on elevated wooden beds was forbidden. When the Sahib on horse back rode through the garden, labour had to make way for his lordship to pass, jumping out of the way if he happened to be galloping past. The slightest sign of disrespect, which more often than not happened unintentionally, invited immediate retribution. The “lighter” punishment was the use of the horse whip, which was kept dangling on the wall of the verandah of the Burra Sahib’s mansion as a grim reminder to all who dared challenge the system”.
The Story of Darjeeling
The Land of Indian Gorkha
Basant B Lama
While going through the record; the communist party of India, which had set the motion within the hush!! hush!! environment on March 1943, did command a sizeable group by July 1943. Within a short span of four months, it had laid a firm foundation through the formation of; workers union, Drivers Union, Himalayan Railway Union and the Milkmen’s Union. What was more; in the words of R B Rai, a veteran Marxist and former Parliamentarian “ All the Unions were registered”. Another guiding force behind the formation of CPI in Darjeeling was Ganesh Lal Subba. Unlike Ratna Lal Brahmin; Subba was an intellectual. A Marxist Scholar, who was a voracious reader and a notable thinker of his time.
Even prior to joining the CPI, he had developed a firm inclination for politics.
“He joined the “Quit India” movement and was jailed. He worked as an army translator in British Gurkhas, in Nepali section and was suspected of inciting Gorkhas to join the “Quit India” movement in 1942. His detention and termination from the job ended his academic career………..
When late Sri Sushil Chaterjee of Nadia was organizing the Communist Party in the hills, Ganesh Lal Joined the party and became one of the founder member of CPI in the hills. Ganesh Lal, a visionary as he was always,was for political solution to the problems-economic,social and political backwardness of the hill people’.
Ganeshlal Subba: Vyaktittwa ra Kritittwa
A life – sketch of Ganeshlal Subba
Dr M P Dahal of North Bengal Umniversity
Comparatively, the AIGL ,despite commanding mass support, its infrastructure within was wobbly from the very beginning. Though some of Gurung’s associates and acolytes were educated; when it came to decision making, the inner coterie members were literally fence – sitters. The insipid character of these party faithfuls’ bred the culture of sycophancy, to virtually elevate D S Gurung to the stature of supreme commander – in – chief of the AIGL. In their preordained belief the ‘Bhot babu’ who was a lawyer could never do any wrong and would lead them in the right direction.
Unfortunately, the irony of the event was; indeed, the ‘Bhot Babu’ took off on a complete wrong note. English has often been described as one of the most beautiful language. Though, at times; the usage of words are perplexing. Perhaps, it was owing to such intricacy, that D S Gurung was unable to differentiate between ‘Domicile’ and ‘Subject’. For him ‘ Domicile’ and ‘Subject’ were one and the same.
In para I of the letter addressed to His Excellancy the Most Hon’ble, The Marquis of Linlithgow, Viceroy and Governor Genral of India dated 12th August 1943, Kalimpong, Gurung thus states: “of these the majority of Gurkhas domiciled in British India…….” Fortunately the same has been rectified in the Home Departments noting of E.A.D HD. U/O NOF, 16/1/43 – PUB dated 4-10-43, From P. I ante.
“The Gurkhas who have formed themselves into a League are no doubt British Subjects and as such there would appear to be no objection to the League being treated like other similar bodies in India”.
History of All India Gorkha League 1943 – 1949
The Oxford English Dictionary describes “Domicile” as: dwelling place, a place of permanent residence. By contrast meaning of ‘Subject’ has been described as: any person, except a monarch, living under a government. Invariably, following Indian independence, the Gurkha subjects, like fellow Indians were automatically qualified and elevated as Indian citizens. As such, there is no misgiving over the issue.
In the same wavelength, Gurkhas contribution in India’s war of independence is most commendable. Once Singapore fell under Japanese occupation, in 1942 the 45,000 or so Indian troops were cut off and isolated from the command head quarter. Amonst the Indian troops were included a large number of Gurkhas. In Singapore, as prisoners of war, they had been imprisoned at Farrar Park. But, by then, Subash Chandra Bose had already floated the conception of Indian National Army, which in abbreviation was referred as the INA. In retrospect, Bose had convinced the Japanese authorities that the combination of Indian renegades and prisoners of war could be mobilized into an effective fighting unit. Once the combined forces were organized and put into operation, the British Empire would automatically crumble to set India free from its rule. In fact, along with fellow Indians, the Gurkhas were literally charmed by Bose’s clarion call of ‘Give me blood and I will give you freedom’. Thus, the Gurkhas were engaged in passionate commitment to liberate India from the imperial yoke. In their endeavour to liberate mother India, the Gurkhas from within and outside India, who had joined the INA were from Himachal Pradesh, Utter Pradesh, Darjeeling District – undivided Assam and Manipur. While from outside, the Gurkhas of Nepal and Burma too were enlisted in the INA.
According to Purusthottam Bhandari: the Burmese Gorkhas joing the INA were; (i) Shaheed Sukman Ram (2) Nar Bahadur Gurung (3) Dil Bahadur Gurung. Similarly, the Nepalese Gurkhas to join the INA were; (1) Shaheed Dhan Bahadur (2) Shaheed Dhan Bahadur (who’s who of Indian Martyrs Vol II, p 78) (3) Captain Tulbir Gurung, (4) Captain Til Bahadur Adhikari, (5) Chitra Bahadur Rana, (6) Durga Bahadur Khatri, (7) Hok Bahadur Rana (8) Santa Bir Ale (9) Hosyar Singh Thapa (10) Jagat Bahadur Thapa (11) Tek Bahadur Sahi (12) Pritman Gurung (13) Kul Bahadur Rana (14) Bal Bahadur Chettri (15) Devan Singh Gurung (16) Eman Singh Thapa (Magar pathik, Azad Hind Fauj ka ye Gurkha Bir PP 68-69)
The Gurkhas, who had joined the INA from Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong were: Tara Singh Lepcha, Lal Bahadur Basnet, Bhim Bahadur Khadka, Sital Chettri, Bhim Bahadur Chettri, Bhakta Bahadur Chettri, Tez Bahadur Subba, Laxman Limbu, Bhairav Singh Lama, Digbir Lama.
In order to translate and put the INA into an effective and cohesive strategic formation; it was classified into components of different Birgades, such of which were; Azad Hind Brigade, Gandhi Brigade, Nehru Brigade, Subash Brigade and Rani of Jhansi Brigade. For further consolidation of the INA in the Indo – Burma Front, three more additional groups were created. They were; Bahadur Group, Intelligence Group and Reinforcement Group. Subash Brigade consisted of the Sikh, Gorwali Pathan and Gorkha soldiers. Over and above the Brigade was a composite unit of crack troops.
According to Purushotham Bhandari, some of the Gorkhas serving in the Bahadur Grup were; second Lieutenant Bhim Singh, Mohan Singh Thapa, martyr man Bahadur Thapa, Manilal Gurung, Dhan Bahadur, Dambar Bahadur, Lieutenant Bhim Singh Rana, Captain Sher Bahadur Bhandari(martyr) Sukhman Rai, Gurkha khan, Bhim Singh Thapa, Mohan Singh Thapa, Shital Bahadur, Lal Bahadur Thapa, Jagat Bahadur Gurung etc. In this gruoup a number of Godwali officers were present, Amongst them were Man Sing Bhandari, Guman Singh Bhandari, Guman Singh Rawat”
FREEDOM MOVEMENT AND ROLE OF INDIAN NEPALESE
The Bahadur group was assigned the most daring task. Their area of operation was behind the enemy line. While promoting such operation; they would eliminate the enemy through espionage, sabotage and subversion.
From amongst the Gurkhas, there were quite a number of gallantry award winners.
‘List of gallantry awards given by Netaji himself
Satrunash Medal Krishna Bahadur Sunuwar
Purna Bahadur Rai
Bir – e – Hind Medal Captain Suraja Bahadur
Captain Dilman Rai
Sardar – e – Hind Medal Captain Man Mahadur
Captain Dilman Sing
Major Purna Bahadur Khawas
Captain Dal Bahadur Thapa
Captain Dilman Rai
Inorder to imbibe the martial spirit of the soldiers, Netaji had instructed Captain Ram Singh Thakuri to compose patriotic songs. One of the song that was composed by Ram Singh Thakuri and his collegue Mamtaz Hassain was:
Subha such chain ki varse, Bharat Bhagya rai jaga
Punjab sindh Gujarat Maratha drabida Utkal banga
Chanchal sagar binidhya himala nila yumna ganga
Tere nita gungayae, Jugh se jeevan payee
Sab tan payee asha….
In Singapore, Ram Singh Thakuri had composed several patriotic songs. One of the popular number was:
Kadam kadam baraye ja
Khusi ke geet gaye ja
Yah jindagie hai kaumki
Tu koum par lagaye ja
Sher Hind age barih
Tu mout se kabhi na dar
Jo samne tere ayae
To khak mein mitaye ja
Moreover, to induce the Gukhas into the INA, arrangements were made to broadcast Nepali programmes from Singapore. “NEPALI PROGRAMME IN AZAD HIND RADIO AT SINGAPORE: S A Ayer was in charge of publicity and propaganda in the provisional govt of Azad Hind, which was formed in October, 21,1943. Therefore he was the director of the radio. Bhim Bahadur Khadka of Kalimpong joined INA voluntarily in the middle of 1942 and posted to Azad Hind Broadcasting station as a Nepali announcer, writer and commentator from Cathay Building in Singapore. The station broadcast day to day news and commentaries regarding the activities of INA in south east Asia for liberation of mother India in Nepali programme, it was urged that the British Gurkhas army of Burma front as well as Gurkhas in Indian Army must revolt against the British Raj and join hands with INA to drive out the Brithshers from Indian soil. Gopal Singh Thapa of Tutarani Dharamsala cant, Himachal Pradesh worked in Azad Hind Radio of Singapore. Ram Singh Thakuri had composed a number of patriotic songs in Singapore and many of them were broadcast by Azad Hind Radio’.
FREEDOM MOVEMENT AND ROLE OF INDIAN NEPALESE
Similarly, without a mention of Rani Jhansi Brigade, the INA’s activities would stand as incomplete. Founded in Singapore, the Rani Jhansi Brigade had started with 126 girls. In the days to come, more girls were recruited into the Brigade. Though the Brigade comprised of women, there was no gender bias and they functioned as nurses and serving soldiers. As soldiers, two Gurkha girls had displayed exceptional valor to thwart the onslaught of advancing enemy tanks. To accomplish their mission, both the girls sacrificed their lives for the India of morrow.
‘Two Gorkha girls, Indreni Thapa and Savitri Devi, not even in their teens, volunteered and with bombs wrapped around their bodies they destroyed the tanks and halted the advance of the enemy. Bose was stunned by this act of bravery and sacrifice but he was equally worried of the negative impact it would have on the other children in the camp. Bose went to counsel them but another surprise awaited him there. The children were perfectly calm and composed and all of them were willing to die in a similar fashion. (Srastra, Year 21, Issue 47, Sikkim, 2000, PP. 35-38)’
Through the Mists of Time
The story of Dareeling
The land of Indian Gorkha
Basant B Lama
Conspicuously, whenever the topic of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose and INA is raised, we hardly come across to share a tangible support from the Province of Bengal. Within the national narratives, while analyzing Bengals lack of revolutionary zeal to bolster Netaji’s movement; the plausible reason revolves around four factors:
i) Unlike, the Bolochis, Sikhs, Gurwalis and Gurkhas; the Province of Bengal suffered from lack of military establishment – in the form of Bengal Regiment.
ii) With the province of Bengal communally polarized between “Hindu and Muslim Bengalis’, the Province had fallen a victim of internal feud. Following the ‘Quit India’ movement, with the Congress banned, the bhadralok dominated Bengal Provincial Congress; at other times stormy and apt at fomenting intrigues and conspiracies, had taken a shelter under the Hindu Mahasabha umbrella.
‘Following the ‘Quit India’ movement, many of Bengalis Hindu bhadralok had temporarily switched their support to the extremist Hindu party known as the Mahasabha’.
As a result of functional disorder, the idea to follow the footstep of Bose eluded Bengal.
iii) The communist directed a political tirade by labeling Bose as: ‘the lap-dog of Japanese imperialism’. However, it was for matter of natural justice that Jai prakash Narayan intervened to forward a more rational view. “Bose was, however, defended by Jai Prakash Narayan, who said, “that it was easy to denounce Subash as a quisling………… But Nationalist India knows him as a fervent patriot and as one who was always been in the forefront of his countrys fight for freedom. It was inconceivable that he should ever be ready to sell his country”
COMMUNIST, MUSLIM LEAGUE AND INDIAS PARTITION
SUNANDA SANYAL, SAUMYA BASU.
Before voicing such scathing remarks, the communists ought to have realized; had Bose not initiated the diplomatic maneuver of the highest order, would the Japanese intrusion into India have halted? For that matter; would Japan have spared British India from another Pearl Harbor like disaster?
iv) In another misfortune, Bengal by the late 1943 was totally devastated. The famine which had infested the Province in early 1940’s had deteriorated at an alarming proportion. Cases of malnutrition and starvation, was on the rise. Within rural and urban Bengal, death toll was mounting by the day. The authorities under the Food Departments; the Ministry headed by Sir Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, were nonplus and had ran out of idea. Amidst chaos and confusion, scores of corpses could be counted in the streets of Calcutta.
‘Hundreds of thousands perished in the famine. Wavell noted in his diary that ‘old men, women and children, drifted into Calcutta, where there was inadequate provision, for giving them food and shelter and they began to die like flies…….’
WAVEL BY MOON PP. 31-2
Quoted by Raj Mohan Gandhi
To catch a glimpse of the harsh reality from another angle, the facts as narrated hereunder, presents a vivid recollection of the dreadful scenario:
Text of an editorial
An All India Disgrace published in THE STATESMAN on August 29, 1943
‘Many, we are aware, will view the photographs with surprise as well as repugnance – not only readers in northern India (still largely ignorant of Bengal’s state) but even in Calcutta. For it is a large city, containing, with its industrial offshoots, a population of between two and three millions; and the comparatively unobservant may still pass through its wealthier quarters without nothing much difference from the rather unattractive normal, but our photographs represent widespread reality in the city’s poorer parts. In its semi-rural environs, and throughout the mofussil, conditions, so far as we can ascertain, are worse. The reality is emphasized by news items about Calcutta which the whole of India presumably reads. Scores of persons collapsing from under – nourishment are daily picked up from the streets; recorded deaths from starvation cases in hospitals between August 16 and August 29 were 143; 155 dead bodies are known to have been removed from the public thoroughfares by the authorities; new corpse disposal squad during the ten days ending on August 24; during the week ending August 21 mortality was 1,129, as against an average of 574 in the corresponding weeks of the previous five years’.
Text of an editorial Reflections on Disaster published in THE STATESMAN on September 23, 1943
For weeks, Bengal has been in famine’s grip. All the standard signs of this dread social malady have been evident; the pliable wanderings of the emaciated poor in search of sustenance; the disintegration of family life and attendant evils; the mounting death toll. Officially recorded weekly mortality from all causes in the Province’s capital has soared to double the normal. In the week ending September 18 there were 1,319 deaths, as against an average of 596 during the corresponding weeks of the previous five years. Since August 16, 4338 sufferers from starvation have been admitted to the city’s hospitals of whom 972 have died. Corpses of starved people removed from the streets and hospitals by the police corpse disposal squad and the two non – official agencies since August 1 have been 2,527. Information from which to form any Broad picture of conditions in the mofussil is scanty. But reports suggest that in many areas rural Bengal is even worse stricken than urban.
Authority in New Delhi presumably must have envisaged loss to India of Burma’s rise exports and the consequent upset in the foodgrains trade throughout the Eastern Provinces. Yet nothing effective was done. A whole year stopped by after Pearl Harbour before New Delhi even set up a Food Department; Governmental shortcomings in this elementary responsibility were cogently analysed on August 10 by the Leaders of the Europeon group in the Central Legislature. He observed: ‘It is really deplorable, after all that has happened, that the lesson of the folly of being too late has not been learnt. It is obvious that the formation of the Food Department itself was too late. When other countries were planning and rationing. India had a surplus in many commodities which, had a Food Department then existed could have been purchased and stored by government’.
To blame the bureaucracy alone would be injustice; File flattened, racially mixed, having little experience of trade, and with undiminished belief on its own wisdom, it is the prisoner of its accumulated defects, containing many fine men who strive whole heartedly amidst confusion for the people’s good. In Indian public life are elements at least as causative of disaster: the unbridled greed of the mercantile classes, the hatreds among politicians, the widespread lack of civil sense. But India not yet being self – governing, disproportionately many of her people inevitably lack the traditions of public service. Under the present system, responsibility for break down rests in the last resort upon authority in Britain and its representatives here. Every British citizen is necessarily shamed and bullied when his Indian fellow – subjects die of starvation’.
‘MONSOON MORNING’ ian Stephens
‘Stephens is remembered not only as a great editor (with amiable, if somewhat eccentric, manners), but also as someone whose hard – fought campaign possible (sic ) saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people’, according to Amartya Sen’.
Following the paper trail
‘THE TELEGRAPH’ 31st March-2012
It would be unfair to state, that the catastrophic impact of Bengal famine had not befallen over Darjeeling. ‘The Partially Extended Area’ of Darjeeling district – too were affected – though to a far less scale. According to old citizens – ration was distributed on strict supervision, people had to fall in queue to collect the inadequate and unpalatable quantum of rice.. Similarly, standard rice was sold at Rs 1 per seer per person. However, there are no records to suggest that the famine had taken its toll – over the town and rural areas of Darjeeling district and Dooars.
When we trace the political development of Bengal, from the context of ongoing instability; the year 1943, offered little to restore the house in order. Further aggravating the existing situation, the sudden demise of the governor, Sir John Herbert in December 1943 was another administrative jolt. The appointment of a new Governor was delayed by two crucial months. Rutherford, the officiating Governor was an absolute misfit. Far from taking responsibility seriously and discharging the Gubernatorial duties, as was expected of him, Rutherford was casual and accustomed to stay on leave. For Governor – General viscount Wavell, it was one of the most intense moments in his otherwise, impeccable career. In the same manner, he was equally distraught with Premier Nagimuddin of Bengal. On Najimuddin, he held the poor impression, that he neither had the will, nor the expected caliber to contain the devastating famine.
Disgusted, as he was; he had even suggested the HMG for dismissal of Nagimuddin led Muslim League government and bring the Province, under direct rule of the British Government. Churchill and Amery, however intervened to stress: the presence of Muslim League would serve as effective counter poise to thwart the influence of undesirable Congress.
‘Churchill and Amery vetoed the proposal: the did not want to weaken the League, which had blocked the In January 1944 re urged HMG to dismiss the League – controlled ministry and impose direct British rule, but advance of the seditious Congress’.
At about the same time, when we take a dig at the political development of Darjeeling: the All India Gorkha League was yet to penetrate within Darjeeling sub- division. Based on the intelligence Bureau’s report on D14 dated 18-1-44,
ALL INDIA GRUKHA LEAGUE, which thus comments:
‘The President is reported to have been able to open branches in Kalimpong, Kurseong and Mungpo in Darjeeling district but not at Darjeeling itself, probably on account of lack of support from the Darjeeling Hillmen’s Association and that on this account. He had contacts with the CPI in Darjeeling in order to gain their support for his organization. The President claims a number of well known Gurkhas residents of Darjeeling, Siliguri and Kalimpong as his supporters but it is not known whether in fact they support him’.
HISTORY OF ALL INIDAI GURKHA LEAGUE 1943-1949
The above noting suggests the fact; despite being able to open its branches in Kalimpong, Kurseong and Mungpo; Darjeeling, as such was yet to meander along the AIGL’s whims. The Hillmen’s Association and the CPI projected as dominant political parties represented the upper echelon and lower strata of Darjeeling sub-division. As such, within urban and rural Darjeeling, the AIGL’s presence was scant and far from impressive. To get a foot hold within the political platform of Darjeeling, D S Gurung was in the process to use the CPI as piggy-back .
While promoting his hidden agenda –no matter,how secretive were Gurungs ploy; the fact remained, he was under constant surveillance. At least the file record as noted here under suggests so:
FROM A NOTE ON THE ALL INDIA GURKHA LEAGUE
‘The General Committee of the League, at its meeting on 13th May, 1944, held at Darjeeling elected Ratnalal Brahmin (CPI) as one of its vice- president and Ganesh Lal Subba (CPI) as one of its assistant secretaries’.
[From DIB report which was sent to the Secretary to the Govt of India, Home Dept. by WH Saumareg Smit, Deputy Secy to the Govt of Bengal on 10th July 1945 from Calcutta]
Ganeshlal Subba: Vvyaktittwa ra kritittwa,a life – sketch of Ganeshlal Subba, written by Dr. MP Dahal of North Bengal University.
The Deputy Secy to the Govt of Bengal recorded statement was based on the time observation which was communicated by DC, Darjeeling, 29th Sept, 44 Thus states:
‘In para 10 of DC Darjeeling’s secret note on the League it was pointed out that Mr. Gurung was liable at any time to attach himself to one or other of the Bengal political parties in order to secure greater political strength for himself personally. We consider that the appointment of a communist to a place on the League committee is a step in this direction, i.e, a personal rather than a party move’.
HISTORY OF ALL INDIA GURKHA LEAGUE 1943 – 1949
Apart from the above narrated facts, could the rational for accommodating the CPI within Gorkha League,a poor imitation of the Congress adopted policy?
‘…. In 1936, at the age of 28, Puran Chand Joshi became the genral Secretary of Communist Party and remained the brightest star in the Communist firmament
….. Joshi took two steps. Firstly, as the Party was banned, it started walking under the guise of the so-called National Front. Keeping the international line in mind this National Front joined the Congress at its Lucknow Session in 1936. They were lucky as the man presiding was Jawaharlal Nehru, a self professed socialist’.
THE SICKLE & THE CRESCENT
Communists, Muslim League and India’s partition
SUNANDA SANYAL, SOUMYA BASU
Following the inclusion of Ratnalal Brahmin and Ganeshlal Subba into the Gorkha league; on 14th May 1944, the AIGL held its FIRST ANNIVERSARY AT DARJEELING.
Insisting upon the demand of the Gorkha Community, Para 2 of the adopted resolution thus states:
‘….they have not been recognized as a separate and distinct community; while other smaller communities like the Anglo – Indians who number only 140, 422, and Sikhs and the Indian Christians, whose population only equal to that of the Gurkhas, have been recognized as separate communities and provisions have been made for them in the Government of India Act, of 1935. The session of the AIGL, strongly urges the British Government to recognize this important people as a separate minor community’.
HISTORY OF ALL INIDA GURKHA LEAGUE 1943 – 1949
Arguably, the Anglo – Indians, Sikhs and Indian Christians were covered by the principle of communal representation. As exclusive minorities, their case was admitted in 1909. It was extended in 1919; to be finally accepted in 1935.
‘The principle of communal representation, admitted in 1909 and extended in 1919, was accepted as a regular feature in 1935. Separate electorate were provided for Muslims, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo – Indian and Europeans’.
HISTORY OF MODERN INDIA 1765 – 1950
2nd revised edition SN SEN
By all means, it wasn’t a case of overnight accomplishment. Being a lawyer politician, Gurung ought to have known these facts. The harsh truth remained; he was either hopelessly ignorant of the standing statute or was trying to baffle the naïve people of Darjeeling. While drawing parallel; Darjeeling had a unique standing. In terms of status; Darjeeling with time had moved three progressive steps. Effectively, from British Sikkim in 1839 – with one or two changes, over to “Schedule District” in 1874. Then in 1919,when the district was relegated as “Backward Track” the Hillmen’s Association’s vociferous rejection had raised Darjeeling district status to “Partially Excluded Area” through the Govt of India Act 1935. Thereafter, when Darjeeling was heading in the right direction for a “Separate Administrative Setup”, the obsolete demand of minority status for the Indian Gurkhas was nothing – save parroting the two decades old rhetoric’s of; by then defunct, but active in the early 1920’s as ‘Kmalipong Samity’ – a role model as Bengal’s “Trojan Horse”. Speculation abounds that the dubious move to put the clock back was initiated following a tacit understanding with the Bengal Provincial Congress. Gurung’s dramatized version of new actor in old stage, not only created confusion, but it marked the beginning of his peddling with untruth.
After scuttling Darjeeling’s cherished aspiration of a ‘Separate Administrative setup’, he wanted to paint a rosy picture for Indian Gurkahs, on a larger canvas. A proposition; even the devil in its wildest sense of imagination wouldn’t have perceived.
Invariably, clause 7 of the resolution of 14 May1944; ‘urges the Government of Burma to take steps to have the Gurkhas represented in the Committee of rehabilitation’. This was out of the necessity and was total nuisance. Burma was lopped off from the Indian Union, way back in 1935 and was treated as a seperate colony along with Ceylon (Sri Lanka) from 1937. Though, aspiring for independence, it was under Japanese occupation. The subjugation virtually annulled Burma’s writ to run the country. Within the reality of perilous atmosphere, the AIGL’s Gurung initiated memorandum had surely stifled the imperial authorities. In fact, exasperated by the list of AILG’s untenable demands, the ruling British refused recognition of the All India Gorkha League via NF 16/1/43 – public dated December 1944. ‘The resolution (enclosed herewith) passed at the annual session of the All India Gurkha League held on the 14th May, 1944, at Darjeeling, as to say that the Government of India are unable to accord official recognition to the League’
HISTORY OF ALL INDIA GORKHA LEAGUE 1943 -1949
On a compatible gesture, in November 1944, the Government had granted Gorkha League, the permission to print its periodical entitled ‘Gorkhas’.
In the beginning of November 1944 the Government of India granted permission to print the Gorkha League Periodical Journal vide Government of India letter No 104 – (1) 76/43 dated 1-11-44 which is entitled ‘Gurkhas’. The League started issuing the same from 1-1-45’.
HISTORY OF ALL INDIA GORKHA LEAGUE 1943-1949
With the publication of the ‘Gorkhas’ from 1st January – the year 1945 had taken off on a promising note. While taking the publication of ‘Gorkhas’ as a significant development, the unresolved question remained: was the year 1945 a fresh beginning or the beginning of a false dawn?
The political divide within the Congress led coalition; between All India Keshan Subba and the communists, who had joined the Subba with Congress help was fast deteriorating. The Swami Sahajanand lead Kishan Subba were of the firm opinion, that the communists through devious means were in the process to hijack the Kishan Subba. The rising suspicion and allegation created a wide rift between the Subba and the communists.
‘On 27 February 1945, Sahajanand being the President of the Subba took disciplinary action against the entire Central office of the Bombay Kishan Subba, the whole of Bengal Subba as, according to him, “they deliberately flouted the Subba’s orders and decision. The Subba far wade by a specific resolution opening of the Pakistan question and doing propaganda in any form either for or against it. But they have gone on doing the same despite repeated warning and thus used the platforms and organs of the Subba in favour of the CPI’s policy” (Bengal Subba suspended by Kishan Sabha President ,Amrita Bazar Patrika, 28 February, 1945)
THE SICKLE & THE CRESCENT
Communists, Muslim League and India’s Partition.
SUNANDA SANYAL, SOUMYA BASU
The growing chasm between the Sabha and the communists had its effect in the western and eastern flank of the country, as well. For the communists North India too, for sure, wasn’t a happy hunting ground. In fact, in Punjab, the CPI came under adverse criticism of the Akalis.
‘Again , at a conference in Jullundhar, on 22 September 1944 top Akali leaders met to criticize the CPI’s slogan of Congress – Sikh – League unity, as being engendered by the selfish motive of drafting the Sikhs into the Kishan Sabha, led by the CPI. According to the Akali leaders, the simultaneous cry for Pakistan on the one hand, and Congress – Sikh – League unity on the other, was a mockery of national unity. At another meeting held in the city of Amritsar the Akali leaders criticized the CPI’s role in popularizing the demand for Pakistan (Amritsar, day by day, the tribune, 14 March 1945)
THE SICKLE & THE CRESCENT
Communists, Muslim League and India’s partition
SUNANDA SANYAL, SOUMYA BASU
In the meanwhile, with Hitler committing suicide and Churchill’s declaration that the war was over, the allied forces achieved the ultimate victory. Officially, the World War II was terminated on 8th May, 1945. Amidst victory celebration, the AIGL on 13th May 1945 had held its second anniversary at Kurseong. As in the past, the election was a formality, since Dambar Singh Gurung, as automatic choice was re-elected president for the year 1945-1946, while Shiv Kumar Rai of Kurseong, was elected General Secretary. The turning point of this meeting was: the official confirmation, that both Ratnalal Brahmin and Ganesh Lal Subba were barred from holding the memberships of All India Gorkha League.
‘About 10 members of the local CPI were present in the meeting on 13-2-1945, at the General Committee Meeting, the members of the local CPI viz Ganesh Lal Subba and Ratna Lal Brahmin tried to get a foot hold in the Committee but the League passed a rule that no member of any political party can hold office in the League and thereafter communist members had to stage a walk out’.
HISTORY OF ALL INDIA GORKHA LEAGUE 1943-1949
While talking a note of the brief honeymoon, between the CPI and the AIGL, speculation abounds to raise an ugly question: was the AIGL’s decision independent and devoid of outside influence? Or as a matter of influence, was the decision largely based upon retrospective of the growing differences between the Kishan Sabha – CPI and again between the CPI and the Akalis? Together with it, was the deteriorating political differences between the CPI and Congress, that lead to the resignation of the CPI en masse, in any way connected to the political fall-out between the AIGL and the CPI? The Timing of the AIGL’s decision somehow coincides with these developments.
Meanwhile, PC Joshi had entered into a series of correspondence with Gandhiji, explaining the party’s position on the people’s war. The tone on both sides,was cordial and friendly, but at the end, both agreed to differ. Thereafter the communist members left the Congress en masse’.
THE SICKLE & THE CRESCENT
Communists, Muslim League and India’s Partition
SUNANDA SANYAL, SOUMYA BASU
While taking these relevant date into account, circumstantial evidence reveals, that the expulsion order of CPI members from the All India Gurkha League was invoked in tacit conjunction with the Bengal Provincial Congress. Furthermore, the new development further confirms: until a year back the AIGL, in the form of poor imitation of the Congress had accommodated the CPI members into its fold. A year later, following the CPI’s decision to leave the Congress en masse, the same Gorkha League decided to expel the CPI members from within the party.
Whether the communists stuck clubbed with the Gorkha League or not, it least mattered. Significantly, the AIGL’s drifting rejoinder in its annual anniversary was glaring evidence, that the organization lacked the grasp to arrest the existing reality and had run out of dept. It’s hollow, deviating and directionless issues would at the most titillate Gorkha sentiment. In practical terms; by scuttling Darjeeling’s core issue and promoting its drifting agenda, the AIGL’s political gimmicks were wayward, whimsical and far from any rational and proportional thinking. By and large; the message that the anniversary conveyed was: the ‘Bhot babu’s’ usual bouts of pontification.
On a pragmatic note, the comrades by the day were deeply embedded within the industrial hub of the tea growing belt. They had envisaged; the teeming proletariats offered abundant scope for future politics. To them, tea gardens were the hot-bed of grass root politics. By all means its hold over the gardens necessitated consolidation.
According to R B Rai, former Parliamentarian and veteran leader of Communist party of Revolutionary Marxist:
‘When injustice, oppression and exploitation far exceeded; and when, the concerned authorities failed to dispense justice; in most tea gardens the workers stood to protest before the owners. They agitated. They beat up and hacked managers. They destroyed bunglows and factories. Lingay, Marebong, Chungthung, Singtam, Happy-vally, Badamtam, Som, Narbong, Okaiti, Dhaje, Barnesbeg, Teesta-valley, Magarjung, Takdah and more such tea gardens (despite starting the organized agitation from 1945) continued to witness similar protests. These incidents have not been recorded. The subject is in the waiting to undergo fresh research.’
Feri Naya Charan
In the corresponding period; after ruling Bengal for exactly twenty three months – in March 1945, Premier Nazimuddin had lost a snap poll. Though Huq claimed to form the majority and retain his rule over Bengal, he was denied the opportunity. Subsequently, under intervention of the British Government the Governor’s rule was imposed and the province came under direct rule of the new Governor RA Casey.
Within Britain, the culmination of World War II had made the election of the British Parliament, imperative. After a short gap, the election of the British Parliament was held on 26th July, 1945. The election verdict was beyond the belief of the ruling conservative. Sir Winsten Spencer Churchill’s, conservative party was literally trounced. Churchill’s image of a war hero had failed to impress the British voters. In fact, his image had plummeted to that of a War monger. While denouncing the ruling Conservative – a large section of the British voters favoured the Labour Party. With Labour Party forming the majority; Clement Atlee was elected as the new Prime Minister. The newly elected Prime Minister was bound to bring the World under a new order. Unlike Churchill, whose overall views of the colonies were imperialistic, the Atlee Government’s approach towards the colonies, were liberal and believed in the modern outlook of decolonization. For a start, they wanted to implement the policy of decolonization, within the Indian Sub-Continent. To do so, the new Government was eager to hold elections. Accordingly, they wanted to transfer power to the elected representatives of the responsible political parties. In the same light; ‘The British communist – Party issued a statement from London on 8 October 1945, requesting the Government to provide settlement of India’s future on the following lines (settlement of India’s Future, London, The Tribune, 11 October, 1945):
• Prepare electoral list for the whole of India based upon adult franchise.
• Release all remaining political prisoners
• Permit establishment of temporary representative Government in provinces to supervise pre-election arrangements
• Bring into being a temporary responsible Government on the basis of Congress-League parity.
This last point made an interesting read as it demanded granting parity to the League at par with the Congress even before the League had earned their right to speak on behalf of ‘all’ the Muslims in the country.
THE SICKLE & THE CRESCENT
Communists, Muslim League and India’s Partition
SUNANDA SANYA, SOUMYA BASU
Under the new format, the foreseeable transition was likely to occur anytime sooner than later. In Calcutta vying with deeper design to grab Darjeeling was the highly proactive Bhadralokh dominated Provincial Congress. Its President, Kiran Shankar Roy had gauged and foreseen the wider scope to fob and influence the gullible leadership of the Gorkha League. Once the Gorkha leadership’s confidence was won over; both the British influence and Hillmen Association’s relentless aspiration to secede from Bengal would instantly derail. After exploiting the political vulnerability in the positive direction, put Darjeeling – the glittering “Queen of the Hills”, into; fraction ridden, famine ravaged and demographically implosive part of future Bengal.
Given the slightest hint, an average Hillman would shudder over the bleak future. In fact, blessed with conventional wisdom to assess the factual reality, the Hill men’s Association was equally repugnant over the horrifying prospect. But, given the fact that Gurung had the mass support; who, could have driven the sense in him? The sense to caution against the impending disaster. In fact, such an effort would tantamount to question the audacity of D S Gurung. On Darjeeling’s future; an impudent and obdurate “bhot-ko-Raja” had no time for discussion or constructive suggestion.
In the midst of an adverse situation, Darjeeling was anointed with a glimmer of hope. Though covertly; the ruling British, in conjunction with the Hill men’s Association, were committed to transform and augment the “Partially Excluded Area” of Darjeeling District. The augmentation was not to be in the often raised verbatim of “Separate Administrative Unit”. Under the new scheme, the District of Darjeeling was to be upgraded as “The Chief Commissioners Province”. The Hill people at large have scant insight on, ‘The Chief Commissioners Province’. Those who know; their comments are either inaccurate and marred with flurry of romanticism, or are views based on unsubstantiated criticism.
As for the former:
‘Around the year 1942, the Governor of Bengal was Sir R C Casey, who was an Australian. Rup formulated a plan, which along with some of the prominent tea planters of the hills as well as some important hill leaders, opened a dialogue with the Governor to keep the hill area of district of Darjeeling as a separate administrative unit – not under the State of Bengal when partitioned’.
As a Political Figure
‘RUP NARAYAN SINHA’
In the same light, word of mouth have gone to describe that under ‘The Chief Commissioner’s Province’ Darjeeling’s flourishing status would equate the advanced colonies like; Hong kong and Singapore.
While the latter opinion narrates:
‘The communist Party of India vehemently opposes the sinister British imperialist plan of excluding the district of Darjeeling from the rest of India and the constitution into a separate chief commissioner’s Province as has been put forward by the Darjeeing Hillmen’s Association in the memorial to Lord Pethick Lawrence, secretary of State of India, in December 1945’.
MEMORANDUM OF THE DARJEELING DISTRICT COMMITTEE OF THE COMMUNIST PARY OF INDIA
Dated 6th April 1947
While asserting fact from fiction, one thing seems clear: History outrightly contradicts both the claims. As stated here under, the scope of ‘The Chief Commissioner’s Province’ was emanated from within the Government of India Act 1935:
‘Under the Government of India Act, 1935, the most conspicuous feature of the constitution was the concept of an All – India Federation, comprising Governor’s Provinces, Chief Commissioner’s Provinces and the Federating Indian States’.
HISTORY OF MODERN INDIA – 1765-1950
2nd revised edition
S N Sen
In the light of my research, while elaborating Darjeeling prospect under the ‘Chief Commissioners Province’, I can only conclude: from January 1937 – January 1946, Darjeeling was represented by two nominated European members in the Bengal Provincial Assembly. They were William Charles Paton, the then Municipality Engineer and resident of Albert lodge, where stands the present day Heydon Hall. The other member was D S Smyth Osbourne, a veteran tea planter and manager of Som Tea estate. Paton and Osbourne, were two amongst the all powerful twenty five European members of the Bengal Provincial Assembly. These powerful members of the Assembly, could make or break the Provincial Government. Their political caliber was proved during the Congress sponsored vote of no-confidence motion in August 1938. It was purely on account of their collective effort, that A K Fazlul Huq’s KPP led Government was voted to power.
Concerning their craft of manipulation; even Pandit Nehru was alert on the matter and had expressed caution;
‘…they have been given twenty five seats for the General non-Muslim population consisting about seventeen millions (apart from the schedule Caste) of the whole province. This British group in the legislature thus plays and can make or unmake ministers’
‘The Discovery of India’
Apart from exercising their craft of manipulation; the two nominated members commitment towards the Darjeeling’s development was unquestionable. For instance, as a civil Engineer, Paton had a remarkable passion for hydro-electric power. After channelizing the tail-water of Sidrapong power – house, he had successfully generated electricity from Singtam power house, in early 1940’s. On course, his next venture of promise was the Jaldhaka Hydel Project. On the said project, he had even completed the task of survey and investigation. Unfortunately, the project was stalled due to the ongoing war. By generating power from Jaldhaka Hydel Project, Paton’s dream was to make Darjeeling Municipality, the largest revenue earning local self government of the country.
Similarly, during the devastating famine; Osbourne, as an influential tea planter had ensured, that the tea gardens weren’t deprived the supply of ration. Thus, preventing the laborers from falling casualty through starvation. Drawing a new map for Darjeeling and Dooars, Osbourne was the architect of ‘The Chief Commissioners Province’.
As an influential member of the Provincial Assembly, he had an easy access to the office of the Governor. In fact, so cordial was his rapport with Governor R A Casey, that the latter would honour the formers invitation for tea at Som Tea Estate. Based on the cordial rapport, Osbourne was to move a bill before the Provincial Assembly, demanding the District of Darjeeling with parts of Dooars be declared ‘The Chief Comissioners Province’. However, before moving the bill into motion, he had requested D S Gurung – Darjeeling’s elected member of the Provincial Assembly to endorse the same. D S Gurung had refused to oblige and the bill was rendered ineffective.
For reason obvious, ‘The Chief Commissioners Province’ wasn’t a munificent gesture of the British towards the Gurkhas. However, in comparative terms, Darjeeling’s association with Bengal, as Schedule district (1874) was a foot not in history. Likewise, economically, with the atmosphere turning out to be hostile and anti – capitalist, Calcutta was more or less a theatre of intrigue and instability. In the ongoing perception, the imperial big wigs had assessed that the future of British mercantile and industry was bleak.
In another significant development, by then, the ownership of other lucrative industries like Jute and Cotton were well in control of the native entrepreneurs. Unlike the two industries, the investment in tea industry was predominantly European oriented. As such, European hold on tea perpetuated with firm grip.
From the British prospect, the transition to ‘The Chief Commissioners Province’ was to further perpetuate, its commercial hold over Darjeeling and Dooars. For the British, Darjeeling Tea was an inseparable part of its legacy. By then the industry had generated enormous fame and wealth. To reinforce its hold over the lucrative industry, it was Osbourne’s dream to convert Darjeeling and Dooars into an International tea hub. The inclusion of Dooars was based in retrospective of “The resolution passed in the town hall, Darjeeling, on Saturday, the 13th March, 1920 at 3:30pm. By the more than 350 representatives of the European Association the Darjeeling Planters Association, and the Hillmen’s Association for the exclusion of the Darjeeling district, including the portion of the Jalpaiguri District annexed from Bhutan in 1865 from the Province of Bengal.”. Of course, this was done after keeping the neighboring tea industry of Assam in mind. Perhaps, it may not have been on the line of money spinning international trade centre like Hong kong and Singapore. Nonetheless, in addition to tea and Cinchona, Darjeeling had other equally viable resources, which were needed to be tapped and exploited. What was even more, Darjeeling was a declared Surplus Area.
On the face of such water-tight monopoly, it was virtually unthinkable for the British to relinquish the captive market of Darjeeling Tea, to further aggravate the limping economy of a collapsing empire.
While, endorsing the formation of ‘The Chief Commissioners Province’; the members of the Hillmen’s Association weren’t naïve and ignorant on the subject. They knew for sure that the colonial glory and commercial monopoly weren’t for eternity. Under, ‘The Chief Commissioners Province’ they had envisaged the large scope to educate, train and groom the broods and siblings of fellow natives. In the days to come they could be cultivated as administrators, entrepreneurs and hordes of other professionals. Most unfortunately, D S Gurung didn’t share the same vision. Deliberately or inadvertently, he failed to foresee, that under Bengal; Darjeeling’s economic health and political liberty would be adversely afflicted.
AS for the structured outline of ‘The Chief Commissioners Province’; efforts had been made elaborately narrate the same in ‘Bas Salkirahechha’. While appreciating the author’s endeavour to translate the English version into Nepali; it is equally mystifying, as to what had restrained him from publishing the original English version of the document. However, to restore the established order of historical sequence, the Nepali version of the same has been retranslated into English.
(18) Because of the following various appropriate reasons, and because of the upcoming constitutional changes in India, the petition of those who submit this memorial is that Darjeeling be set up as a chief commissioner province according to the following outline:
(a) Darjeeling will become a chief commissioner district. The special authority under the present Bengal government and governor and all other authority will be transferred to the Governor General.
(b) The appointment of the chief commissioner by the Governor General will be for two years and the Governor- General will decide about the re-appointment of this individual for a further two years after hearing the recommendation of the Legislative Assembly.
( c) The work of the Centre and the chief commissioner district will be divided in the way that it is divided in India (between) the Centre and self-rule governing districts.
(d) In his capacity as governmental head of the Darjeeling Legislative Assembly, the Chief Commissioner will conduct business. The Judiciary will be under his administration. The Governor-General, according to the advice of the Chief Commissioner, will act according to his own judgment in all appointments (disciplinary and dismissal functions) of principal government officers.
(e) The Darjeeling Legislature will be unicameral which will frame and enact laws for a Chief Commissionary Province and for which governmental officers will be responsible. The chief Commissioner will send to the Governor-General the resolutions tabled in the Legislative Assembly requiring the judgment of the Governor-General.
(f) The Chief Commissionary district – will be governed by its principal government officer.
(g) The Darjeeling Legislative Assembly will send to the Centre a number of its representatives according to the number sent these days by Coorg and Delhi.
(In the Rules and Regulations of the Federal Portion of the – Indddian adddministration Legislationnn – Bharatiya shasan vidhanko – of 1935, there is an arrangement for Coorg to send one member and for Delhi to send two members to the meeting of the 250 members at the Center. According to that arrangement and to give place to the commercial importance of Darjeeling it is considered proper that Darjeeling send at least two members in to the 250 member meeting, and according to that calculation to any larger meetings.)
(h) The Darjeeling Legislative election will be done through “direct election” and “nomination”. The numerical order of the various Electoral Colleges and the members to be sent from them is as follows:
Electoral College Number of Members
Darjeeling Municipality -3
Kurseong Municipality -3
Kalimpong Municipality -2
District Court -5
European School -1
By nomination of the Chief Commissioner -5
Tea Garden(s) -2
Other – jatiya – castes / tribes/ -1
Total -26 members
(i) With progress over time, such a legislative revision will be postponed for the time being. The municipality and District Court will continue in the present form. The activities and powers which are under the local government will be within the responsibility of the Governor General.
(ii) Other – jatiharu – peoples and various public institutions will also have the civil rights which at present the British and other Europeans have obtained.
(19) All the land of this new chief commissionary province will be under the new government, but governmental property that the Bengal Government and other Government desire – such as cinchona fields, Darjeeling Secretariat, Government house, Government press, etc. – this new government is willing to give on a fixed proper lease according to a reciprocal agreement or according to the decision of any panch.
(20) All maritime coastal authority / all hydro authority of fort(s) / border(s)
All hydro authority of the district
-will be nationalized and will remain under the new government – the authorities – but this new government can grant neighboring, government(s) – rather the production of Central hydro power, river / power / ownership / authority canal, authority to set up power house (s), will be put under proper revenue.
(21) The meaning of the desire that the various inhabitants should have authority over the district (jilla) is that it should not be completely separate or different from the all India picture but that ( there is a fond hope that ) it be the reason for such an inspiration that working with neighboring provinces / states (Pradesh) with such responsible service it may also become a strong, self-sufficient and self-governing district.
For these above mentioned reasons we are one in presenting to your Excellency our unanimous petition and we pray / request that a resolution be tabled to pass a required law in Parliament change Darjeeling – on the basis of the above mentioned subjects – into a Chief Commissionary district subordinate to the Governor-General.
At one time, such a topic was acceptable / was pleasing to Damber Singh but after some thought he became concerned / worried. It seemed to him that the time was not favourable to this work / task / move. The result was that with a worried heart he became busy in his own world / with his own affairs.
To conclude a formidable political decision, on the important issue of ‘The Chief Commissioners Province’, Gurung ought to have considered an inalienable right – in the form of public consent. This was to be endorsed by a party resolution. In absence of both the undertakings; a unilateral decision, based on personal accord was a monumental stupidity. By the same token, was D S Gurung a victim of political schizophrenia?
To be concluded…