This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Dawa Sherpa. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Why I Refuse To Support The Claim That Gorkhaland Supporters Are Divided

More from Dawa Sherpa

The following is a reply to the article, “Emerging Class Divisions in the Gorkhaland Movement” by Dr Trent Brown.

At the very outset, I would like to express my deep gratitude to the author for writing an analysis on the ongoing movement for Gorkhaland. This, at a time when there is such selective amnesia and indifference from the larger Indian intellectual fraternity and civil societies, in the face of such brutal repression by the state on the people demanding Gorkhaland.

A number of Gorkhaland supporters have allegedly been killed by armed security forces for democratically demanding constitutionally guaranteed right to self determination. The supply of food and essential things (like medicines) has been stopped by the state government, local media has been gagged, internet has been cut off and political activists and common people (including children) have been arbitrarily incarcerated for past 70 days. Such horrendous atrocities by the state and the total subversion of democratic norms – paradoxically accompanied by deafening silence, general apathy and calculated indifference of most civil societies and prominent intellectuals – only shows that collective conscience, condemnations and concerns are limited to people from certain social locations and regions of this country.

I agree with Dr Trent Brown on the point that the urban middle class harbours a general disdain or a patronising attitude towards the rural/working class and also opposes the political assertion of the working class. However, I disagree with the application of the same analysis to explain the purported emergence of class division in the context of the contemporary Gorkhaland movement. At the same time, I do not deny the existence of class divisions within the community and the strong class bias/apathy against the people from rural areas and the working class.

Brown’s core hypothesis seems to be that criticisms of and disagreements with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) in the ongoing movement is actually a manifestation of class anger – shown by the urban middle class against the upward mobilisation and assertion of the rural class. This in turn is identified as the actual reason behind the purported division in the movement. Here, I argue that this hypothesis rests on many untenable assumptions and over-generalisations.

1. The use of a party-centric template (broadly under a class-based framework) to analyse the fissures and contradictions in the ongoing movement for Gorkhaland is inadequate, because it fails to capture the true ‘mass character’ of this contemporary movement.

Just like any other community in India, the Gorkha community (which is conglomeration of ethnicities bound by a common lingua franca – Nepali – and a shared history of oppression under Bengal’s rule) is also deeply enmeshed in contradictions based on class, caste, race and religion – each of them being vital in their own terms. These contradictions should be unapologetically addressed to make this movement more inclusive and just. However, a closer look into the history of the movement for Gorkhaland demonstrates that political aspiration for self-rule (the demand for the separate state of Gorkhaland) transcends all such inner contradictions. A mere cursory look at the social locations of those 1200 people who died during the 1986 Gorkhaland agitation will make it this point self-evident.

2. Equating a party (GJM) which was supposedly formed to fight for the political aspiration (cutting across class, caste, religion, race and region, both rural and urban) of self-rule as the custodian of the political voice and economic aspiration of the rural population is an act of gross misrepresentation and false identification.

Have the masses grown wise to the GJM’s tactics? (Photo by Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

The argument that since few leaders of the GJM are from rural areas, political and economic empowerment of rural areas and factory workers is guaranteed, is a major unsubstantiated assumption. The apathy and lackadaisical attitude shown by this party on the major labour issues of tea garden workers (starvation deaths, abysmally low wages, stringent working conditions, denial of land rights, frequent lock-down by owners) tells a completely different story. Since the initial premise of the argument (that the GJM represents the voice of the rural working class) cannot be ascertained with empirical evidence, the entire chain of argument collapses.

3. It appears that the author has implicitly assumed that people from rural areas and factory workers uncritically follow a single party and are incapable of identifying wrong political practices (‘violent, authoritarian and nepotistic tendencies’) of a particular party – while the people from urban areas recognise them effortlessly. Such an implicit ‘construction’ of people from rural areas or workers as ‘docile’, ‘passive’ and ‘simpleton’ political beings challenges the existence of their independent political agency.

Even in the case of Gorkhaland, the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) leader Subhash Ghising who was hailed as ‘Mahamahim/Supremo’, and had unquestionable authority over politics in hills, was overthrown. Ghising – who had a mass support in the rural regions and had made significant impact in terms of developing rural infrastructure (building roads and bridges, during his regime in the 1990s) – was forced to live a life of political exile when people realised that he was no longer representing the political aspirations of the people. It unequivocally demonstrates that people (especially from rural regions) not only recognise the wrong political practices but also punish such acts severely.

Where’s the division in the ranks of the Gorkhaland protesters? (Photo by Anshuman Poyrekar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

4. The disagreement between the GJM and the ‘newer cadre of urban middle class activists’ does not reflect the disagreement between the rural masses and the urban masses on the issue of Gorkhaland. Since the political subjugation of the ruling elites of Bengal does not differentiate between the urban or the rural population of Gorkhaland, both have equally strong sentiments to get rid of this political domination – and are fighting for this aspiration of self-rule.

Due to weaker economic capabilities, the people from rural areas and the working class have to bear the brunt more severely during prolonged agitations for Gorkhaland. Most of the people who were killed recently by the state forces were from this social class. Hence, to expect that rural masses will remain silent and not notice or criticise any dilution in the fight for the aspiration of Gorkhaland by any party including the GJM, is an untenable proposition.

As the urban masses (outside Darjeeling district) who have access to internet are criticising the GJM’s expectation of a deviation and its backtracking from the real struggle (rather than intensifying it), the expected reaction from rural masses will also not be very different. Then, where does the seed of disunity and division lie?


Featured image used for representative purposes only

Featured image source: Ravi Choudhary/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
You must be to comment.
  1. Kulbir Chhetri

    I agree with the writer: the Gorkhas are not divided.

    “Follow Me,” says Gurung.

    “Why should we'” asks the Gorkhas?

    “Because, over 100 days, I shall destroy the tourist industry, and people shall not want to visit the Hills ever anymore – if you give me power.”

    “Because, over 100 days, I shall destroy the tea industry for years to come – if you give me power.”

    “Because, over 100 days, I shall completely destroy any reason for any parent to send their child to a boarding school here and shall completely destroy the boarding schools here – if you give me power.”

    “Because, over 100 days, I shall make your life utterly miserable and give you absolutely NOTHING in return – if you give me power.”

    Because, over 100 days, your property shall be destroyed, you shall be assaulted, you shall be threatened, you shall live in fear – if you give me power.”

    And the Gorkhas answered:

    “Yes, we give you the power to do this –

    To us

    To us

    To us.

    When Gorkhas look back at the last 104 days, let them do it when they are looking at themselves in the mirror

    because it is they who created the last 104 days

    not the State and not the Centre.

    It is Gorkhas who created Gurung

    by giving him power over them.

    It is Gurung whom they shall see when they look at themselves in the mirror because Gorkhas created Gurung by giving Gurung power over them.

    Stupid is Gurung – whose only expertise is telling his masked thugs to “punish” those Gorkhas who oppose his thuggery – whose only expertise is being the Minister of Processions of Gorkhaland – whose only expertise is being a constant, complete and utter failure at all he does.

    Stupid most definitely is the Gorkhas following Gurung.

    Stupid is
    as Stupid does.

    For this reason – there is no division among the Gorkhas.

    Stupid is
    as stupid does.

More from Dawa Sherpa

Similar Posts

By Amiya Bhaskara

By Ritwik Trivedi

By BS Murthy

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below