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In Photos: Cries of Those From Darjeeling Hills Fall on Deaf Ears

What do our brothers from Darjeeling have to say on India’s Independence Day?

Updated
Photos
4 min read


Activists of GJM’s youth wing, the Yuva Morcha, observing fast-unto-death over the demand for Gorkhaland in Mirik, 50 kilometres from Darjeeling.
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The state of West Bengal may not care for the Darjeeling hills in spite of calling it an integral part of the state, but the same can be said for the government in the Centre too. The Darjeeling hills and its people are going through a very rough time.



Protestors shouting pro-Gorkhaland slogans in front of Policemen and CRPF in Darjeeling.
Protestors shouting pro-Gorkhaland slogans in front of Policemen and CRPF in Darjeeling.
(Photo: Nishal Lama)
For close to 60 days now, tens of thousands of people have been marching through the streets of the Darjeeling hills demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland. People have slowly found ways to cope with the shut down in the area, not really letting the indefinite strike mar their spirits.


Locals listen to a leader during a rally conducted by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), one of the major political parties from the hills, at Chowk Bazaar in Darjeeling.
Locals listen to a leader during a rally conducted by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), one of the major political parties from the hills, at Chowk Bazaar in Darjeeling.
(Photo: Nishal Lama)

Schools are closed, internet has been banned, ATMs have run out of money, food supplies are dwindling, and there is still no clarity on when life in the hills will be back to normal.



Special classes are being taken in many small centres for kids so students can keep up with the syllabus.
Special classes are being taken in many small centres for kids so students can keep up with the syllabus.
(Photo: Nishal Lama)

A place that was brimming with tourists just a few months ago is now dark and desolate. Amidst all this, rallies are diligently being held everyday in which thousands participate.



Locals stand at Chow Rasta in Darjeeling as three GJM’s youth wing activists, the Yuva Morcha, sits inside a sheltered house observing a fast-unto-death.
Locals stand at Chow Rasta in Darjeeling as three GJM’s youth wing activists, the Yuva Morcha, sits inside a sheltered house observing a fast-unto-death.
(Photo: Nishal Lama)

Solidarity marches are being held in almost all major cities in the country in support of the movement. Heavy police forces and CRPF have been deployed in the Hills to enforce the ban on protests. Tear gas, batons, even guns, locals say, have failed to do so.



An empty Street in Kalimpong.
An empty Street in Kalimpong.
(Photo: Nishal Lama)
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With the GTA being dissolved and all economic activity coming to an absolute halt, life in the districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong remains grim.



Villagers from some Tea Estate in Mirik check if their names are included amongst the needy families who were given livestock by Mani Trust, a local Trust from Darjeeling.
Villagers from some Tea Estate in Mirik check if their names are included amongst the needy families who were given livestock by Mani Trust, a local Trust from Darjeeling.
(Photo: Nishal Lama)

About 12 activists of GJM's youth wing, the Yuva Morcha, are observing a fast-unto-death over the demand for Gorkhaland since 21 July.

In Photos: Cries of Those From Darjeeling Hills Fall on Deaf Ears
(Photo: Nishal Lama)

In these protests, more than 100 have been arrested, 12 killed and many arrest warrants have been issued against leaders, activists, as well as journalists.

What makes the current wave of unrest different from the earlier ones?

Locals say it’s the sheer number of people taking part in the movement. Not just from the area, but across the country and abroad.



People read newspapers inside a government hospital in Darjeeling. After the ban on internet, locals depend on newspapers, mostly regional, for their source of news on the movement.
People read newspapers inside a government hospital in Darjeeling. After the ban on internet, locals depend on newspapers, mostly regional, for their source of news on the movement.
(Photo: Nishal Lama)

The latest protests have uncovered one very integral thing about people from here, says DM Pradhan, father of a martyr who lives in Kalimpong. Pradhan lost his 17-year-old daughter in police firing on 27 July 1986.

This is the fight for our identity. Gorkhaland is our birth right. This is not the demand for development, but to claim our Indian identity. It was the same back in the 80s during the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) agitation. It’s the same now. 
DM Pradhan


He continues to hope that Gorkhaland will be a reality someday. His 17-year-old daughter was killed by CRPF during the 80s movement.
He continues to hope that Gorkhaland will be a reality someday. His 17-year-old daughter was killed by CRPF during the 80s movement.
(Photo: Nishal Lama)
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While the demand for a separate state is not new, this is perhaps the first time that the Gorkhaland movement has got such a massive response with people taking to the streets in almost all major cities in India.

This is also the first time ever that an apex body – The Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC) – of 30 hill parties has come together, setting aside all differences, with a one-point-agenda for a separate State to lay a roadmap for their demand.



Protestors shouting pro-Gorkhaland slogans during a rally in Darjeeling.
Protestors shouting pro-Gorkhaland slogans during a rally in Darjeeling.
(Photo: Nishal Lama)

A resurgence of the Gorkhaland movement was quite inevitable.

Even after the Gorkha Territorial Accord (GTA) was signed after three-and-a-half years of agitation between Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), the local political party spearheading the movement in the hills ever since its inception in 2007, and the Bengal Government.



Gorkhaland supporters help three Activists of GJM’s youth wing, the Yuva Morcha, sitting inside a sheltered house observing fast-unto-death.
Gorkhaland supporters help three Activists of GJM’s youth wing, the Yuva Morcha, sitting inside a sheltered house observing fast-unto-death.
(Photo: Nishal Lama)

In May this year, when the West Bengal government announced Bengali as a compulsory language in schools across the State, including schools in the hill districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong, where the lingua franca is Nepali, a protest was expected.



Rally in Kalimpong.
Rally in Kalimpong.
(Photo: Nishal Lama)

But little did one think the shutdown will go on to become one of the longest so far.

(Nishal Lama is an independent photographer presently based out of Bangalore.)

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