Gorkhaland’86: A Protest That Shaped The Future


Indian Society is pluralistic. The heterogeneity lies in every aspect of the society, namely language, religion, culture, traditions, ethnic identities, etc.

The term identity, refers to the recognition of the person or thing or group of people or thing, acknowledging their existence, and on a wider basis, showing consideration to the needs of the particular individual or group, belonging to the identity.

Regionalism refers to the expression of a common sense of oneness among the people, united by their unique culture, beliefs, language, religion, etc. In the pessimistic sense, it implies over-attachment to a region that has a large possibility to threaten the unity and integrity of the country. Gorkhaland Ethnic Conflict is one of this kind.

Curious to know more about Gorkhaland Ethnic conflict, stick to the end of the article then.

A. About Gorkhaland

Insurgencies and separatist conflicts, regarding autonomous new states are witnessed on a huge scale in the northeast part of the country. Gorkhaland Ethnic conflict’s objectives and importance and implementation are perceived on the ethnic ground, one is them being the issue of Gorkhaland’s Ethnic Conflict.

Gorkhaland is one of the popular proposed states of India, for the Nepali-speaking ethnic group near the Darjeeling, Dooars, Kalimpong, etc districts of West Bengal, originating state.

The Gorkhaland ethnic conflict or movement witnessed great participation of women, tribes, and other weaker section’s people of society. This research, further, will dive more deeply into different aspects of the movement, from different sub-groups’ participation to economic-political concerns.

India has always been proudly remarked as a country of “Unity and Diversity”. With time we have seen and realized that, sometimes, this diversity leads to certain conflicts in the country.

We think that conflict generally happens between 2 or more distinct states (Inter-state), but socio-political tensions are usually intra-state concerns, major factors being language, region, religion, etc.

Our history has proper evidence on the same lines, from the Khalistan issue to the Kashmiri pandits identical concerns; from Vidarbha, Telangana to Northeast insurgencies, etc. So, this shows that there is a need to interpret the tensions and conflicts and further push the discussion toward rational solutions.

B. Gorkhaland Ethnic Movement

Even after India’s Independence, the demand for the Gorkhaland state (proposed) was not yet acknowledged and looked upon nicely. There were rows and rounds of agitations by the people demanding autonomous bodies and identity recognition of the hilly and Gorkha people.

Even though the West Bengal government introduced Gorkha Territorial Administration GTA Bill, through which administrative and economic powers were provided to the group, still the hopes and demands were not yet satisfied as per the ethnic group.

The Change in the powerholding government of West Bengal, and the support of the Gorkhas also changed. The demand of the GJM and other parties for a New State – Gorkhaland including the Siliguri area, lead to confrontation between many communities.

The recent ruling party’s diplomatic methods of actions and decisions like attempting to integrate people by stating that new states will not promise prosperity, agitations will not only make the ocio-cultural situation worse but will also disturb the economic status of the state, affecting the major livelihood of the people. were to degrade the aspirations of the Gorkhas.

Women’s participation in the Gorkhaland Movement

The nature of the involvement of women is complex throughout the movement. Their participation was not recognised as influential at the beginning.

The Nari Morcha helped the women to be an active group in the movement and agitations. Women’s participation was equal in political and social work. Their Democratic and non-violent approach helped the movement reach a new height.

The leaders also started giving moral support and pointing out the importance of their presence in the Gorkhaland movement.

The extent of women’s participation in the movement was their own conscious decision, which later got encouraged and supported by the leadership of GJM. There were challenges faced by them, because of the imbalance in their household responsibilities.

In the middle stage of the movement, women participation got a little less, and that absence resulted in the violent nature of the movement since men weren’t into using peaceful methods. In recent times, the participation of women has revived and increased impressively.

Women are represented as a symbol of peace, and non-violence. Following in the footsteps of Gandhiji helps to restore the peaceful ways to fight against injustice.

Women’s sincerity and dedication towards achieving their goals resulted in constructive means to attain the ends. They were less in numbers but much more in terms of their contributions. This also led to an increase in their welfare and building a road map towards their empowerment.

Considering women as an unheard or unseen section of the society will not be fruitful, instead, the proper implementation of power-sharing in any aspect be it socio-economic or political will have optimistic results. It is worth the mention that there is still a long way to go, and with the help and cooperation of every section of society, the real empowerment aim will be fulfilled.

Complexity between Gorkhas’s Gorkhaland and Tribals in the North Bengal- Darjeeling Hills

North Bengal has always been home to many different ethnic groups like Koches, Rajbansis, Gorkhas, and Adivasis, and in the movement, they claimed to protect their distinct identity respectively.

Migration of people was always one of the important sources of people from different ethnic identical groups, coming together and living collectively. Demand for an autonomous council in the tribal dominating areas for the better development of the tribal people was always there. This was because of the lack of developmental initiatives in the region, creating a deprivation sense.

The concerned authorities have failed to address the concerns of the local people. Gorkhas considered themselves as a new 21st Century tribe, and regionally motivated Gorkha identity has a huge potential to shape the future of Darjeeling. The fragmentation within Gorkha’s identity is for the political distribution of opportunities and resources.


By gillpoh / Pixabay Copyright 2022

Contemporary Concerns of Gorkhaland Ethnic Conflict

In recent times, the ruling state party – Trinamool Congress led by Mamta Banerjee, announced that Bengali should be a compulsory subject from Class 1 to 10, in the entire state. This statement was interpreted by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), as an imposition, in contrast to the fact that the Nepali language is the official mode of instruction in the hill region of the state, since 1961.

The initial reaction of GJM was ignored by the ruling party, which considered them as issues of the non-issue subject. The agitations and protests were intensified by the dissatisfied groups the situation was seeming to go out of the hands of the state.

The small pocket areas having great exaggerated power to fight were supposed to be controlled using the Police force, rather than any other peaceful way, seemed to decide not to understand and the people showed their anger toward the police force, making the issue complex, yet again.

Soon, it was clarified that in the hilly regions Bengali will be an optional subject. An assurance on letting the educational institutions in the region choose language as per their choice caused to fizzle out the agitation.

By Quang Nguyen Vinh/ Pexel Copyright 2022

Pre-Independence and Post-Independence, there were some constant gaps in terms of the communication between the leaders, the people, and the ruling political party. Initially, the political party thought that the new statehood demand will degrade the nationalism principle in the state. The leaders tried to bring people together, and fight for their needs, their major need was Overall recognition, and attainment of socio-economic powers, rights, and authority by the state and other authorities.

Whereas the engaged people only concentrated on the attainment of a new autonomous state, though with time, got distracted because of the misinterpretation of the actual demands. And the most peaceful method to attain it was not taken into consideration. In the lasted times of Several Councils, constitutional recognition was provided to encourage the people to fulfil their needs without using the destructive method.

Whenever the Gorkhaland people’s ethnic differences started demanding an autonomous state of their own and acknowledging their presence, the Government saw it as a challenge or threat to the national integrity, without actually analyzing whether it was a threat or not.

It is true that to maintain the feeling of oneness the division of any kind can act as a hurdle but still it is also true that the creation of new states has improved the socio-political and economic well-being of the people residing over there and the state as a whole. And if the government thinks that there is no need of creating a new state, they should not only ensure that the people’s welfare is done but also work along the lines of their empowerment.

If we see, we will get to know that the base of all the demands done by the Gorkhas was because they thought that there is a threat to their identity and existence. If the authorities assure them that they won’t make any decision that will harm their existence, then it would be much easy to go towards the problem-solving method. Involvement of the women has always been remarkable throughout history.

Sub-categorization of the population results in the feeling of alienation. Contributions of the Indian Democratic nature and Constitution provide welfare to marginalized groups like women, children, etc.

C. Bottom Line

It is the responsibility of the governments at different levels to acknowledge and address the problems rather than giving importance only for their political benefit. It is also a duty of the citizens that they should believe in the political institution, show their concerns, and adopt measures that will not only provide welfare but will also make them self-sufficient without going towards the violent means.

Whether the people consider themselves as Tribes are not, it should be noted that people were attracted by the ST reservations to get more political power and recognition base, but the sentiment was so strong for the demand for a new state that it was proposed that a non-constitutional Trible development board will work with accordance of Gorkhas ethnic culture and Gorkhaland, implying how people want more and more yet never satisfied.

In contemporary times, the Language Imposition by the state government gave a new turn to the agitations and movement carried out by the hill region’s dissatisfied and affected people, to again try to put their demands in the limelight in the front of the state. The ruling government was surely running out of solutions, which could have resulted much more peacefully than the contradictory result.

Before announcing such a critical and sensitive statement, the government should have revisited our history, whether it be the time when Jawaharlal Nehru in the starting only assured the Tamilians who were against the Hindi language, that English will remain a mother link language; or should have learned the less from the example of the Civil war between Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese and Tamilians.

The government instead chose a Political weapon to control the agitation, which was interpreted by the hill people as suppression and imposition. We must learn from our history, that if we continue to use the violent method instead of questioning its relevance, importance, and whether it’s worth the loss of lives and livelihood, then we might soon get into a much deep loop of struggle.

Contemporary times’ concerns on the formation of new states should neither be always opposed nor always be supported. Due to Gorkhaland ethnic conflict, the movement was started in the year 1986, demanding a separate autonomous state led by Shubash Ghisting’s Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF).

The decision to choose either of the mentioned must be depended upon the need and situation. If the proposal of new state formation is because of the lack of resources or insufficient political, social, and economic, development of the originating state, then instead of new statehood formation, required schemes should be introduced and proper steps of implementation must be taken care of by the concerned authorities, especially government.

Image Source: alexstockphoto21/depositphotos

And if there is a colour of the better empowerment of the people if a new state is formed, and there is a huge possibility that the socio-cultural tensions will be reduced, then we must encourage the formation of new statehood, implying New State as an Opportunity for prosperity rather than a tension/ ethnic challenge to deal with.

Some of the steps that can be taken can be various Union Ministries, can be for example (suggestion as of 2022): the Ministry of Culture, can become a nodal component to resolve the tensions and it can also establish various units in the regions where there are tension and concerns related to socio-cultural or ethnic conflict. It can, if required with the help of other ministries and introduce schemes to solve the problems. The ministries can do a job of assisting the government in case of requirements.

For reference, Darjeeling and Telangana (New State) share similar traits, The demand for the formation of the separate state respectively. Telangana through the process of separation has opened up a whole new political discourse of division as a basis for forming new states. The Principle of Regionalism and New statehood demands, need not be regarded as an anti-national phenomenon unless it takes an aggressive turn threatening the national security and integrity at stake.


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