One day in school when we were asked about what we wanted from life, a classmate of mine stood up and clearly said, “I want Gorkhaland.” The few of us who were Bengalis frowned at her. Back in those days, to ‘remain faithful to our state and to our country’ was a requirement to be a ‘good girl’. Therefore, we nodded in annoyance.
In retrospect, though, we were actually a pretty ignorant lot.
Since the past few days, newspapers and news channels have been flooded with the ongoing debate about identity, statehood and language. Many are saying that India is a ‘diverse yet unified’ force – and therefore, it should not break its arms and legs. Some are emotional about losing a ‘holiday spot’ – about not being able to control the holiday revenue. Some are playing the roles of the ‘papa’ and the ‘mama’ and are putting a ‘not possible’ tag on their child’s ‘nagging cry’.
Only this time, the ‘cry’ itself is a unified one. There are times when you do not need somebody else to tell you that some things are wrong and that they need a proper resolution. Darjeeling is standing at one such juncture. This time, it will not back out.
People should be aware of what had happened in Kalimpong in 1986. July 27, 1986, saw the death of men, women and children fighting for the state of Gorkhaland and the Left Front’s oppressive measures to put an end to it. In fact, the 1980s saw death across the hills from Kalimpong to Kurseong, and it did not stop there. After the sudden blows of the khukris, the gunshots led to absolute madness in the cliffs and the valleys. There was bloodshed everywhere – and the call for a separate land was choked for some time.
Recently, however, the revolution was interfered with, from a different perspective. Apart from being treated as a ‘minority’ sect and ignored by almost more than half the state itself – this time, their language is at stake. First, it was said that the state language, Bengali, would be made compulsory; then, there was another statement by chief minister (CM) Mamata Banerjee saying that Bengali was to be taught as an ‘optional fourth language‘ there.
Essentially, as a language, Bengali must have a presence in the hills. Most will say that this is necessary because it is the ‘state’ language. And this is exactly what the issue is!
While delivering a lecture on the ‘Paradox of Democracy’, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak pointed out that ‘semi-literacy’ and the domineering attitude of the leaders have endangered the very foundation of democracy. She further pointed out that if democracy is to survive, it needs to overcome these barriers. Even if one ignores the ‘semi literacy’ of the leaders for a moment, their domineering acts have certainly taken the nation through a number of rough rides. On the one hand, Kashmir has taken to the streets, ignoring any kind of leadership and solely looking for freedom, and on the other, the Gorkhaland agitation is an appeal for a land of one’s own.
The issues and concerns are numerous and pertinent. For instance, recently, a joint forum of trade unions in the tea industry in north Bengal began a two day strike, demanding the implementation of minimum wages among other things. A ban on the internet and cable channels have left the hills in darkness. Moreover, the implementation of Section 144 and the urgency to shoot at the slightest provocation has left the people with no choice but to know that the state maintains boundaries between its own citizens.
It is true that West Bengal will lose a ‘treasure’ if a separate state is formed – but then again, that ‘treasure’ will be left blemished in its hands. The child of the youngest wife remains ignored. Yet the dominance of the parent is unfaltering – and therefore, a mutual understanding between the two remains unattainable.
Whether the state will be divided in two is unknown. However, tolerance will never be a part of this country. Most people will always choose to be intolerant. After all, it is far easier that way!