Darjeeling uprising: Want a separate state, do not want to separate from India

Jul 11, 2017, 09:55 IST | Hemal Ashar

Roshni Rai
Roshni Rai

The gentle hills of Darjeeling are alive not to the sound of music but gun shots and protests as the picture postcard tourist enclave has been rocked by agitations for a separate State called Gorkhaland. Indian Gorkhas mainly from Darjeeling in West Bengal, though there are Gorkhas elsewhere too, want a breakaway State of their own, a physical definition of their "identity and culture."

Supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) shout slogans as they march under the national flag during a protest rally in New Delhi on Sunday. Pic/AFP
Supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) shout slogans as they march under the national flag during a protest rally in New Delhi on Sunday. Pic/AFP

One with India
Dhruva Pradhan, president of Mumbai's 'Bharatiya Gorkha Ekta Sangh' formed in 2002 is, "supporting the Gorkhaland movement in Darjeeling. We want a separate State but we do not want to be separated from India. We are so proud to be Indian; we never want to break away, as some Mumbaikars not fully cognizant with what is going on in the North East, like to believe. Canards are also being spread that we are separatists creating problems in India. That is untrue."

Gorkha rally in Mumbai in mid-June
Gorkha rally in Mumbai in mid-June

Pradhan says, "A separate State within our motherland of India will give us cohesiveness. Pradhan cites the huge contribution of Gorkhas to India, from sizeable numbers in defence, to economic and tourism, "the tea industry" and sporting too. There is shooter Jitu Rai, boxer Shiva Thapa, and footballer Sunil Chetri," says Pradhan with pride.

A traffic police post on fire after it was torched by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters during their violent protest in Darjeeling. Pic/PTI
A traffic police post on fire after it was torched by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters during their violent protest in Darjeeling. Pic/PTI

The world with us
Pradhan says, "demands for Gorkhaland have been since 110 years, this time social media is fanning the flames and we will see it widen its arc." Pradhan rues that, "we are not asking for a separate country to be carved out of this land. Rubber bullets are fired at separatists in Kashmir, who do not want to be with India. When we protest, real ammunition is used."

Soul to sole
Pradhan's views are backed by marathon runner, Gorkha Roshni Rai, who started a project called 'Run with Roshni' in Mumbai a few years ago. 'Run with Roshni' was started with the aim of making Mumbaikars aware "about the Indian Gorkha identity," says Roshni, "and giving opportunities to long distance running talent in the community." The headquarters of the movement are in the city, though its founder Roshni has shifted base from Navi Mumbai to Darjeeling, recently.

Love blunts hate
Roshni says of the protests, "This agitation is global with social media connecting the Indian Gorkha diaspora. A Gorkhaland will help solve the Indian Gorkha identity crisis."

The peripatetic runner says, "I want Mumbaikars to leave a message of love and support on our social media pages. Today, because of the police action, there is so much anger in Darjeeling, and there is talk like: let us take our 'khukhris' etc. Hatred should not spread, let us resolve this with love," is Roshni's plea. The athlete adds, "Run with Roshni' will create awareness about the cause. Runners may run wearing t-shirts about Gorkhaland and spectators may carry placards in forthcoming races in Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai about the demand for Gorkhaland," signs off Roshni, who knows the power of long distance running events as platform for different messages.

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