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Dichotomy of Existence of Indian Union and Gorkhaland Statehood Demand [Part 1 #Gorkhaland]

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By Ashish Kumar:

Eminent scholar Ramachandra Guha, in the prologue titled ‘Unnatural nation’ of his widely acclaimed, marquee work ‘India After Gandhi’, citing many scholars and philosophers, tries to elucidate the dichotomy of existence of India as a nation in spite of the presence of “countries-within-the-country”, inhabitants of which speak different languages, look different and are more different than two countries of Europe. Although, it is remarkable achievement of Indian democracy and constitution that the patchwork of mosaics which was created at the time of independence has tethered together till date and there has been no secession or partition after the catastrophe which accompanied our Independence, pages of contemporary Indian history still can’t boast of a clean slate when it comes to insurgency and demands of autonomy and statehood from different parts of the massive nation fuelled many a times by the urge of being identified as the native of this massive landmass in addition to developmental and political reasons.

Just after the Independence, there were demands for redrawing of boundaries of Indian provinces on the basis of language. Telugu-speaking people, who were present in large number in Madras presidency, wanted a separate state of Andhra. Bombay presidency, having a milieu of Marathi, Gujrati and Sindhi-speaking people, Marathi being largest in number, wanted separate states for Marathis and Gujaratis, with the island-city of Bombay going to Marathis. The fast-unto-death of Potti Sriramulu and mass-protests led to creation of Andhra, but it wouldn’t satisfy dwellers of Telangana region. Sikhs in western-Punjab (after partition) wanted a separate Sikh state stating that their language and culture was entirely different from that of Hindus and Muslims. The State Reorganization Committee was set up to play the role of Mercator of India.

Today, our government faces statehood demands from Telangana. A stalemate has been prevailing between the government and the protesters for a long-time. The reasons cited are linguistic and cultural distinction, and alienation added to under-development. Naga insurgency for the creation of Greater Nagaland has been a chronic handicap for India’s policy-making in North-East. Anti-foreigner or migrant agitation in Assam and Tripura is rampant. In fact, every state of North-east, due to its porous borders with Bangladesh and Myanmar, has turned into a hotbed of militant insurgency.

The agitation over the statehood of Gorkhaland, unlike others, stems primarily from the identity-crisis of Gorkhas and less from the halted development in the hills. Gorkhas are still looked upon as migrants from Nepal whose only profession is to join the Gorkha regiment of the army or watch the entire country’s abodes at night. In spite of adhering to India for so many years, they still have to face questions like-“Which part of Nepal you are from?” from the dwellers of our more “civilized” cities.

The Gorkhaland as envisaged by its mongers would contain the northern-most hill-district of Darjeeling of West Bengal state, sandwiched between Nepal and Bhutan while some part of it adjoining Assam and Sikkim and Dooar regions of Jalpaiguri district. Darjeeling is the district headquarters while Kalimpong, Kurseong and Siliguri are three subdivisional headquarters of Darejeeling district. The population is about 2 million which mainly consist of tribes like Lepchas, Nepalis, Kochyas, Leches, Rajbanshis and Bhutias which are together termed as Gorkhas. Gorkha population in India is not restricted to only Darjeeling. In fact, out of 12 million Gorkhas in India, only 2 million live here. Other 10 million of these indigenous people live all along Himalayan belt and North-eastern states and inhabit states like J&K, Himachal, Assam, Sikkim, Uttarakhand.    

Before Gorkhas invaded Sikkim and adjoining areas including Darjeeling and its Terai regions in 1780, these regions were administered by Chogyals of Sikkim. After being at the helm of its administration for around 35 years, Gorkhas were defeated in Anglo-Gorkha war and were forced to cede all the area acquired from Chogyals to British under the Saguali treaty. In 1817, according to the treaty of Titalia, the British reinstated Chogyals in Darjeeling, restored all the tracts of land between Mechi and Teesta River and promised to guarantee their sovereignty. Subsequently, Sikkim granted Darjeeling hill and an enclave to the British through a Deed of Grant while Bhutan gifted Bhutan dooars leading into hills and Kalimpong. Darjeeling district started taking shapes from these regions. The political denominations of Darjeeling has been swinging from “Non-regulatory area” prior to 1861 and between 1870-74 to “Regulated area” between 1862-70 to “Scheduled district” in 1874 to “Backward tracts” in 1919.

In 1907, a Joint petition for autonomy and recognition was filed by the Lepchas, Nepalis and Bhutanis. This petition was in the wake of Division of Bengal, in the aftermath of which the delimitation and redrawing of territorial boundaries took place as a result of which Darjeeling found itself as a Scheduled district of Bengal. 1917 saw the Hillmen Association’s petition to Secretary of State Edwin Montagu citing the fact that there was no similarity or adhesion between Bengalis and Gorkhas whatsoever- whether culturally, historically or linguistically. In 1929, a petition was filed to Simon Commission. After the Independence of India, Communist Party of India Memorandum to the Constituent Assembly was issued for separate Gorkhastan. In 1955, a memorandum was issued to visiting chairman of State Reorganisation committee.


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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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