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The Demand To Establish Gorkhaland As A Separate State

The demand to establish Gorkhaland as a state separate from West Bengal has surfaced once again as a national issue in India. This demand was first put to the British India government in 1907. This region has a political history and socio-cultural background that is different from the complexities of Bengal’s politico-economic structures. This 110 year old demand has seen three phases of intense agitation and violent eruptions during 1970-81, 1985-88 and 2008-2012. It was preceded by the fierce Naxalite movement in 1960s and 1970s originating at the very core of Darjeeling’s foothills. The people of the Darjeeling district and the adjoining Dooars are of the view that their region has very little to do with the state of West Bengal in terms of geographical features, natural resources, socio-cultural patterns and livelihood systems.
The Bengal government may have established the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council in 1988 and the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration in 2012, but the people are coming to realise that the government is neither inclined to make substantive development interventions nor correct historical injustices.
Once celebrated as the “Queen of the Hills”, this region today is in a state of ruin. The forest resources, cinchona plantation, tea industry, opulent biodiversity, water resources, rich human resources and traditional institutions have been systematically plundered. The world famous 150 years old Cinchona (quinine) Plantation exported quinine to the tune of IRs71.72 lakh in 1966-67 alone and did so for several decades. Bengal exploited this commodity but left the industry in the lurch when production started decreasing. This smacks of internal colonialism practised from the Writers’ Building in Calcutta.
Firstly, this new state will be the only state in the country to have four international borders with Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Nepal. Simply undertaking cross-border trade including through land customs at Phulbari, Jaigaon, Jelep la and Pani Tanki/Pashupati on a regulated framework could trigger huge development multipliers. As the regional and global trade scenario becomes more liberal and cross-border connectivity improves, these trade routes are likely to become robust and vibrant in the very near future, thus leading to newer varieties of sub-regional cooperation and integration. These borders will be the core part of cross-border energy exchanges under the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Initiative.

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