Sunday, September 21, 2008

THE FACTS OF DARJEELING

“DARJEELING”, the very name of this hill station in India reminds you the colonial days and tea. Because it was the British colonizers; who were constantly on look out for cooler places, obviously in India it uses to be in hills what would remind them their home. The temperature in tropical countries, particularly in summer months use to be unbearable for them for mercury touching anywhere between 35 to 44 degree Celsius! In India Shimla and Darjeeling earned their reputation for hosting the colonial administrators with their staffs with families during summer months for running colonial administration for years. Though with English rulers, gone are the colonial days and prestige of Darjeeling, but it still holds name in world for its tea. It still the producer of world number one flavored tea and sold at a price, unthinkable for we ordinary mortals!
Off late, a new hue for Gorkhaland is raised time and again. It stared in the decades of 90s, lot of agitations, number of strikes called by the local Gorkha people , finally got the award of local autonomy albeit to very limited extent and their leader Mr, Subhash Ghising was calmed with whatever he was offered. But that finally failed to satisfy the aspiration of the people who want full autonomy, rather freedom! At present their new leader Mr Bimal Gurung is agitating for such status, Mr Subhas Ghising having stepped down. For the Government of India, it is bolt from blue and for the government of state that is West Bengal, it is ridiculous! After all the tourism is the main industry there besides tea. Mr Gurung , in all the way , likely to lose the support of locals who mostly depend on these two industries for their lively hood. Their fate can only match to that of people of Kashmir. This summer Darjeeling saw minimum number of tourists. However, let us see , how far Mr Gurung`s or in that case the demand of a separate Gorkhaland is justified.
How many of us know the history of Darjeeling? Do you know once upon a time it was a part of Sikkim! Gorkhas were nowhere then in and around that area. Later with incremental interest of Britishers and development of tea industries, created a market for labor force. That brought hordes of Gorkhas from neighboring Nepal, way back in mid 1800s. The impoverish condition at their native country and the available opportunities what could be availed of by them almost without any competition because people of plain are not use to the hilly cold climate, opened up a Eldorado for them. The Gorkhas of Darjeeling and around areas are the progenies of the same immigrants. History testifies that the inhabitants of the place before the annexure to British Raj, were Lepchas and few other tribals, numbering in few hundred but they were swayed with the arrival of Gorkhas from Nepal, the neighboring kingdom.
Let us see what history tell us. The East Indian Company`s Nepal acquaintance with Nepal goes back to1767. The three Newar Kings were ruling Nepal, which was under threat from Gorkha ruler Prithvi Naryan. The Newar Kings sought help of British. In respond to their call and East India Company`s own empirical design Captain Klnloch was sent but he was compelled to withdraw due to unfamiliar climate of Terai. The Gorkha chief overran Nepal and the valley between Kali and Mechi rivers, from west to east was brought under his ruling. Let us cut the story short. It was again another war between British and Nepal in 1814 brought the entire area back under British control. The East India Company kept Garhwal and Kumaon under their direct control and under the treaty of Seagauli in 1816 , restoring the remainders with the Kings and chieftains who originally own the land. The King of Sikkim was one of them.
It is necessary to mention that Darjeeling was originally a part of Sikkim. Sikkim being a adjoining county of Nepal became a victim of several inroads of Gorkhas between 1780-1800 and the British intervention was necessary to settle the disputes every time. Two Britishers Liod George and JW Grant were deputed by the then Governor General Lord Bentinck to Sikkim to arbitrate the disputes. They were the first European who was captivated by stunning beauty of Darjeeling. They expressed the feeling to Lord Bentinck and urged him to acquire the place for a sanatorium. The British realized the importance of the place for its strategic importance too. It was its close proximity to Nepal, Bhutan, and the road leading to Tibetan capital Lasha. So, finally on February 1835, the King of Sikkim ceded Darjeeling to the Company by a deed of grant. However till 1865-70 Darjeeling could be approached by road through an enclave passing through Sikkim. A dispute arose between the King of Sikkim and British by 1850, and finally after the war between Bhutan and British in 1865 the area covering KalimponG along with other territories of western Dooars was annexed and finally incorporated with Darjeeling in 1970.
This is the short history of Darjeeling. Originally only few hundreds of Lepchas (tribals) were the inhabitants of the area. Later, having taken over the place, the British started construction and plantation (tea). This invited the Gorkhas from Nepal for jobs of labors in thousands and they gradually flooded the local population and settled their permanently.
Now there is a resentment among the Gorkhas that they are deprived lots and deserve much more. They are seeking autonomy by forming a separate state `GORKHALAND' comprising surrounding areas of Darjeeling and adjoing districts.
For the reactions of Gorkhas and their sentiments you can log into my other Blog
`BUGULE'. Please see the comments.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dude your article sucks and reeks of racism.. please get your facts correct before writing on issues of which you have no clue at all.... Moreover, what more can we expect from those who crossed over to our country after being kicked out of Bangladesh...

ARABINDA BHATTACHARJEE said...

I have directed my readers to the history that you have written in my other blog, BUGULE. It should satisfy you. By the way, may I know the name of historian , who has written your history text book?