Many non-Gorkhas support movement for separate state

June 21st, 2008 - 6:47 pm ICT by IANS  

By Soudhriti Bhabani
Darjeeling, June 21 (IANS) They are not Gorkhas, yet many Marwaris, Bengalis, Biharis and others who have lived in the Darjeeling hills of West Bengal for decades have been braving the rains and the government’s ire to publicly express support for the movement for Gorkhaland. The three Darjeeling hill subdivisions - Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong - have a total population of 810,000, of which the majority are Gorkhas who are now demanding a separate state. Now several non-Gorkha inhabitants have expressed solidarity with them.

Deepak Kusaryi, a Bengali whose grandfather migrated from Kolkata to Darjeeling, said: “I always support the Gorkhaland demand. Though I don’t belong to the Gorkha community, I can easily relate to their problems as I have been born and bred in Darjeeling.”

“There has been little development and people are deprived of basic facilities,” said Kusaryi, a teacher at St. Joseph’s School here.

“There are no water supply lines, no proper sanitation systems. The hills also do not have an adequate number of educational institutes for economically backward local students,” Kusaryi said.

Several members of the Marwari, Bengali and Bihari communities who have been living in the hills for years have been coming out in the rains to enthusiastically participate in the daily rallies taken out by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha, which is spearheading the protests.

The Gorkhaland movement has also found support among many Muslims, who are a religious minority in the hills.

However, West Bengal Municipal Affairs Minister Ashok Bhattacharya, who is a senior leader of the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), said such a show of support from the non-Gorkhas was only a survival strategy for minority communities in the hills.

“They have to say all this for their survival. Being a minority in the hills, they are demanding Gorkhaland out of fear,” Bhattacharya told IANS.

But many non-Gorkhas say the demand for a separate state is genuine.

Kiran Sharma, a shopowner in Darjeeling, stood by his Gorkha brethren. “We don’t want anything less than Gorkhaland. And we want full-fledged development for our homeland,” said Sharma, whose ancestors came to Darjeeling from northern India long ago.

He criticised the state government for trying to give a communal colour to the movement, which is “essentially political”.

“There is neither any communal discord nor any racial conflict in the hills,” said Sharma.

Mustaq Ahmed, who took part in a rally at the Darjeeling Chowrasta, said: “This place has a composite culture. We have no enmity with the Bengalis. But it is just that we don’t want to remain a part of West Bengal.”

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