Hillbillies and The ‘Ghantauke’ Syndrome

I remember vividly, I was nine years old, on my way home from school, when I heard a man delivering a speech in Hindi in the heart of Darjeeling – Chowk Bazar, and amongst other things, he had said, “… Isi liye Ghishing Ji mujhe Ghantauke bulate hain…” [This is why Subash Ghishing calls me big headed]. Everyone had laughed a little, and clapped a lot. It was 1989, and the speech was delivered by Inderjeet Khuller, Congress candidate for Darjeeling MP seat, supported by Subash Ghishing and his GNLF. Khuller went on to win the MP elections twice, in 1989 and in 1991, and both the times, only because we – the hill people supported him.

I did not know what the speech was about, till much later, and when I finally understood the essence of his speech, it left me seething with anger. Turns out, in saying “Ghantauke,” Khuller was referring himself as someone with “a big head and thus BIG BRAINS” – a ‘la intellectual messiah’ who would deliver the people of Darjeeling freedom and development, and someone who was ‘smart and intelligent’ enough to solve Darjeeling’s problems. The problem does not lie in him referring to himself as the one with “BIG BRAINS,” the problem lies in what he left unsaid, “YOU – the hill people don’t have the smarts to solve your own problem.”

Sadly, after seeing what has happened so far, may be Khuller was right after all. Time and again our politicians have relied on imported “Intellectuals” and “Ghantauke’s” to represent us, as made evident in GJM importing Jaswant Singh to raise the voice of Gorkhaland, and it seems like WE – the people of Darjeeling, do suffer from the Ghantauke Syndrome. An inferiority complex of the worst kind, which translates to – us having to look up to others, to solve our problems and issues time and again.

We – The Hillbillies
Not sure how many folks are familiar with the word – Hillbilly? It is mostly used in reference to mountain folks, who are thought to be poor, ignorant, naive, uneducated and stupid. Sounds familiar? Yeah!! In short it describes US – we the hill people… I know majority of our people will disagree with me on this, but let’s face it. We have been some of the most exploited, manipulated, terrorized and beguiled people in the world – sometimes by our own politicians, sometimes by the Central government and most of the time by the West Bengal government.

Yet! We are the most loyal, quiet, satisfied and sheepish community, who have time and again let ourselves be used and used again to serve someone else’s purpose, and collectively at that. And if we do not WAKE UP NOW, ours will indeed be a lost cause.

The Board and The Bored
Everyone is busy these days, demanding “Development Boards” for their own communities, what the heck is that about? No they are not demanding “development boards” for protecting their language or culture, but for straight out economic and financial gain. And even in accepting the so called “development boards” our Hillbillieness gets reflected, evident in the fact that the same West Bengal government while forming the Mayel Lyang Lepcha Development Board merely ‘promised’ jobs in police and GTA for the Lepcha youth, recently promised 6% reservation in all government jobs for the Adivasis while forming the Adivasi Development Board.

The Lepcha youths are being recruited as village police, while Adivasi youths will have guaranteed seats reserved in studying medicine, engineering, architecture and even guaranteed seats reserved in WBCS. Yet! the so called champions of Lepcha rights the Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association has not even said a single word of protest against this slight and discrimination.

Now the Tamangs seem to be thrilled to be ‘awarded’ their own development board, so thrilled, that a group of sellouts under the guise of “Tamang Youth Association” even declared their support for Trinamool Congress in the upcoming elections. But what all those clambering for “development boards” seem to not realize is that every state government is “Mandated [garnui parcha]” to look after the welfare of every tribal community. It is OUR RIGHT, and for that we don’t have to depend on their benevolence.

We the Subjugated – Hepeko
The arrogance of West Bengal government as reflected in their proposing the name of Bhaichung Bhutia as their candidate for the Darjeeling Loksabha seat is reflective of how highly they consider us – hill folks and our priorities. I wonder what the selection criterion for TMC was? “Nepali boltey pare – Can he speak Nepali? – Yes, “Dekhtey pahadi toh – Does he look like other mountain folks? – Yes, “Amar kotha sunbe toh -Will he listen to what we say? – Yes, “Ami ja bolbo, tai korbe toh – Will he do whatever we tell him to? – Yes, and given that the Bengalis look for “cultured” folks, I will not be surprised if someone even asked, “Nachtey parey toh – Can he dance? Haan Madam Oo Jhalak Dikhla Jaa Jiteche” Yeaaaaaa!!! We got our candidate.

From searching for “Ghantauke’s” to represent Darjeeling, TMC now seems to have taken the act to a whole different level – finding someone to ‘connect with the masses’ – The “Hillbilly” candidate.

In nominating Bhaichung, TMC has played a classic divide and rule hand, everyone knows that this election will go on to become very bitter, and even if the TMC is unable to gain votes, they are sure they will again divide hills into “Bhutias” vs the rest of the hill people. Trust me! This is how they think. In February of last year after declaring the formation of MYLLDB, Mamata Banerjee had said, “we also need to protect the rights of our Bhutia brothers and sisters” [as documented here http://goo.gl/Q5ysMZ]… Hinting that Bhutia’s would be the next after the Lepchas they will try to wean away from the “Gorkha” clan. This nomination of Bhaichung is nothing but a direct manifestation of that ploy, and if we are not careful, we will cease to exist as Gorkhalis, sooner rather than later.

Bhaichung is a great sportsman indeed, and one of the greatest sportsperson India has ever produced. But he is a hillbilly after all, and it is nowhere more evident than when he says, “For years, Darjeeling region has been ignored. There has been virtually no development due to decades of political unrest. This has scared off investors. It is high time this changed…”

Is he aware why there was political unrest in Darjeeling to begin with? Which investors have left Darjeeling? They have built over 5 dams across Darjeeling in the last 10 years. Over 20 new companies have bought tea gardens in Darjeeling. Over 100 new hotels have been constructed by outsiders in Darjeeling, and even Govinda invested his money in buying a property in Darjeeling. What scaring away of investors is he talking about? May be he is mistaking Sikkim for Darjeeling, but even Sikkim has progressed. May be he is talking about Calcutta? Or maybe he is just being a hillbilly and repeating what his political masters are whispering in his ears.

I can only hope that GJM will have the fortitude to contest with a local candidate, instead of contesting with an imported “Ghantauke”… even if you don’t support M P Lama, at least nominate a local person. If nothing else, that person will know what our issues are, and will not say things like, “There has been virtually no development due to decades of political unrest. This has scared off investors.”

Better Darjeeling
I am indeed very thankful to all the Lepchas, Tamangs and others who have seen through the ploy of West Bengal to divide us, with majority of the educated folks protesting against the division of hill people across the blogosphere. I was most touched to read the article by Sankalp Lama a young intellectual and social activist who wrote in his article [Details here: http://goo.gl/NeYs5i]… “A group of sellouts cannot in any way speak over the voice of a majority of determined youths who seek to unite as Gorkhas before Tamangs… It is not hard to see, the policy adopted by Bengal Govt., if this goes on we will witness a full-fledged TMC rule for the next 10-15 years thus effectively wiping out any political leverage that we possess. They will have Gorkhas disseminated & dispersed like puppets in their pockets.”

In Sankalp and his words, I see the hope for a better Darjeeling, an educated Darjeeling, a Darjeeling which sees through the wicked designs, and a Darjeeling that is aware of what is actually going on.

Our youth are awakening and it is indeed heartening to realize that in another 10 years, we will be exporting “Ghantaukes” not importing them.

Courtesy: The Darjeeling Chronicle.
Writes: Upendra

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