The Risky Politics in Darjeeling Hills

Writes: Sangay Tamang

You don’t need to go anywhere to ask who you are. Take a minute to look yourself and analyses how do you know about your “self” then define yourself. I am pretty sure enough that you can’t define your identity as a “self” in context of the space where you are living today. Are you Rai, Limbu, Tamang, Gurung, Sunwar, Thapa, Lepcha, Bhutia etc, or you are Nepali/Gorkha? How would you articulate yourself in this complex forge of messy identity? Which identity is important for you-Nepali/Gorkha or your surname?

Perhaps, identity itself is very problematic concept to define in a country like India and for the community like Gorkha.

The situation today in Darjeeling Hill politics is characterized by the same paradox of confusion politics. It has been a decade or two that we have been hearing the voice of hills crying for the separate statehood of “Gorkhaland”.

We were told in every sphere of our life that we are Gorkha but we were never taught to be a Gorkha. I don’t know how to be a Gorkha because we never look back to the genesis of the same.

For the vast majority of youth in the Hills, Gorkha means joining Gorkha Army. Can you be able to define “who is ‘Gorkha’?” if somebody raise you such question in any metropolitan city. We are still in the same episteme of colonial subjugation where we are reproducing the same colonial myth of Gorkha as a “mercenary”. However, our world-view is limit within the construction of the word “Gorkha” as mostly a political construct evolved during the aftermath of Gorkhaland movement; and which has paved its discourse in the academic and political domain as an alternative word to distinguish the Nepali of India from that of its counterpart from Nepal. But there is no empirical reflection of differentiation between the two. We don’t know how to project ourselves as a “Gorkha” except in political sphere.

Hence this confusion has become a bed-rock for identity politics in the Hills today. Taking the renewed pride of cultural elements, the identity in the Hills has been romanticized over the flows of political dimension. This cultural and linguistic trait of Darjeeling Hills has been politicized over the manifestation of political game so much so that “culture and tradition” become tools of even the state politics. The political manipulation over the issues of Gorkhaland moved with the notion of “Gorkhali” to pressurize the State and Central Government while the same notion has been used by the state tactic to dismantle the movement with the politics of Tribal Development Board.

With the growing politics of tribalism in the Hills, the word “Gorkha” arrives to a more complicated scenario leaving less space for the growth of “we-feeling”. Further, the political up heal got new momentum with the notion of tribal captivation where the political party today are busy in promoting the cause of ST status without knowing the rationale of its existence. How valid it would be to demand the ST status for 11 Gorkha communities? The question needs a good research answer.

It is painful to write here but it is the fact that today the word ‘Gorkha’ has become a commercial product which has been brought and sold out from one political party to another. When the opposition party doesn’t find any agenda to raise its voice, the word “Gorkha” serve the basis of their interest. The manifestation of ruling party is clearly based on the agenda of “Gorkha and Gorkhaland” whenever there is any issues emerge of political disturbance. Hence the word “Gorkha” has been commercialized to a level that today one political party is teaching another about how to wear a dress or attire of Gorkha.

The Risky Politics in Darjeeling Hills
Aiyeuni Maldaju cartoon on the present politics of hills

I feel ashamed today to see political elite in Hills arguing over the confusion of who should wear what dress and how should it be worn? If we ourselves are not clear about what we are then how should we project ourselves as a “Gorkha”? This confusion politics of “Gorkha and Gorkhaland” needs to departure itself from the risky politics over culture and tradition and should stop blaming each other for its existence instead work for the common cause.

Thus the word “Gorkha” needs a new dimension free of risky political manipulation. The culture and tradition should be given its own space to grow and flourish rather than politicizing it otherwise Darjeeling would be a land of ethnic conflict in near future as similar to many Northern Eastern state. It is high time for the politician in Darjeeling to learn from the experience of North East’s ethnic cleansing where the existence of one ethnic group is considered to be dangerous and harmful by other.

Hence, the ultimate needs for Darjeeling hills today are the concern over issues which need to be addressed outside of political domain. Each and every aspect of Hill’s development has been politicized in such a way that none of the academic and development perspective can be complete without taking into account the political impact to it.

Perhaps, identity politics in Hills has become so rampant and risky that there is little or no space for other phenomenon to flourish outside of political circle. Could development be possible without political interference of State and local leader? So lets make the hills free of risky politics.

[ Sangay is a research scholar at Hyderabad Central University and this is an excerpt from a paper he is currently working on ]

Via The Darjeeling Chronicle

Share this:

Copyright © 2024 Indian Gorkhas Designed by Darjeeling Web Solutions