Translated from an article featured in the Nepali newspaper Himalaya Darpan by Vinanjay Rai, which appeared recently at www.kurseonginfo.wordpress.com
Sonada, 24th September
“The truth that there is a legitimacy attached to the present GTA, 6th Schedule and DGPP (Darjeeling Gorkha Paarvatya Parishad), or that a constitutional guarantee is attached to the above, is none of our concern. Darjeeling is a territory of Sikkim; its constitutional guarantee and its territorial legality lies solely in unification with Sikkim”, stated Mr. Nima Lama, president of GRC (Gorkha Rashtriya Congress), in conversation with Himalaya Darpan.
“We have no comments to make on the present GTA because Gorkha Rashtriya Congress is mainly concerned with presenting the issue of Darjeeling and Doars territories belonging to Sikkim, to the Goverment of India and Sikkim”.
According to Mr. Lama, the current demand of the Government of West Bengal and Communist Party of India (Marxist) made to the Central government, declaring Darjeeling territory as one of the backward regions of the country also lacks appropriateness because in 1986 the government of West Bengal issued an information document declaring Darjeeling as a part of Sikkim and not of Bengal.
Mr. Lama further affirms that because during the British rule, Darjeeling was declared a backward territory, and according to the 1919 Government of India Act, an assembly and a member of the legislative assembly was elected from various backward regions of the country. However, Darjeeling was kept separated from the execution of the above mentioned act. Then in the year 1954, Darjeeling was merged with West Bengal under the Absorbed Act.
Based on historical documents, Darjeeling and Doars territories have been shown as belonging to the King of Sikkim until 1954, post Indian independence.
Mr. Lama further confirms that in the year 1835, the king of Sikkim, Chogyal VI granted this territory to the British through Deed of Grant for sanatory purposes. The British Raj paid yearly lease to the government of Sikkim from 1841 to 1941. The lease had increased from an amount of 3000 rupees to more than 3,00,000 rupees. There are documents stating that since the merger under the Absorbed Act of 1954, the Indian government paid the above mentioned lease to the government of Sikkim, until the year 1975.
It was only in 1975 when Sikkim was annexed to India as the 22nd state, that the Indian government stopped paying the lease to Sikkim. Mr. Lama affirmed that the territory of Darjeeling merged to the state of Bengal comprises of a total area of 5930 square miles whereas, the area that various political parties or leaders of the hills have been demanding for Gorkhaland only amounts to 2256 square miles.
He further states that Darjeeling and Sikkim are very closely related to one another in terms of language, literature, culture, living, clothing and topography. Therefore, Gorkha Rashtriya Congress is resolute on their demand for the unification of Darjeeling and Sikkim in which case, the people of Darjeeling will be free from oppression and exploitation of Bengal. He mentioned that, “since the time of independence, Darjeeling hills hasn’t seen the light of development. Instead, the number of tea plantations have been reduced from 102 to 72 by the government.” Mr. Lama further reflected that in the year 1948, the king of Sikkim Tashi Namgyal submitted a ten page memorandum to the then prime minister of India, the late Pandit Jawarharlal Nehru. Also, in the year 1962, the queen of Sikkim, Hope Cook Namgyal had made a plea for the return of Darjeeling territory to Sikkim but the plea has been ignored by the government of India up until now.
In the context of Sikkim’s annexation with Bengal, Mr. Lama said, that in 1975, a member of parliament questioned the late prime minister Indira Gandhi regarding the fate of the territory of Darjeeling post the annexation of Sikkim to India as the 22nd state. The late prime minister answered saying that Darjeeling had not been claimed by a responsible quarter from Sikkim.
Finally the president of GRC states that the local intellectuals and intellectuals from Sikkim have to understand and consider these historical facts and unite in order to carry this issue forward. Mr. Lama concluded saying that the only solution to freedom from bondage of Bengal lies in the unification of Darjeeling with Sikkim.