A brilliant piece by Prof. Bivek Tamang and Prof. Sangmu Thendup of Sikkim University, Gangtok. One knows so little about India political system that it is shameful really. Thanks to the focus of most history textbooks on North and Central India. Even South India is being covered but North East remains virtually ignored.
In this piece, authors write about the demand for a seperate Gorkhaland and how it is similar to Telangana movement. They also say instead of calling it seperation it should be called as demerger. Both Telangana and Gorkhaland were merged with Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal in the initial organisation of states. And now they are just being demerged. Seperation invokes anger, violence etc whereas demerger is just a much more normal process:
The Darjeeling Hills and surrounding areas were merged with West Bengal in 1947. This article argues that the formation of Telangana opens the door for accepting the century-old demand of the Indian Gorkhas for a separate homeland. It also argues against the use of the term separatism to describe the demand of the Indian Gorkhas and instead suggest the terms “merger” and “demerger.” Darjeeling, whose merger with West Bengal was, at best, a post-independence administrative exigency, could now be demerged, much like Telangana from Andhra Pradesh.
The authors start with history of how Darjeeling first emerged as a Gorkhaland and then merged into West Bengal. It should be demerged now:
After India became independent, Darjeeling, which was never a part of Bengal, was absorbed into West Bengal only in 1954 under Schedule V of The Absorbed Areas (Laws) Act 1954 (Act No 20 of 1954). The district lost all special privileges, and all statutes, except the Bengal Tenancy Act in certain areas, applied to it (Banerjee et al 1980: 95).
With its hundred year-old movement for separate homeland, Darjeeling has many similarities with Telangana. The Gorkhaland movement may not actually be a movement for separation; it would be apt to see it as a case of merger and demerger. Ideally, Darjeeling should have gone back to Sikkim in 1947, which was a separate country then. The Absorbed Areas (Laws) Act 1954 proves that the merger of Darjeeling with Bengal was only for administrative purpose and convenience.
The first petition for a separate homeland was submitted in 1907 by the leaders of the hill people led by Sonam Wangel Ladenla, the first hillman to retire as assistant superintendent of the Darjeeling police. The petition demanded a separate administrative set up for the district of Darjeeling (Lama 2008: 199). Thereafter, there have been numerous petitions, memorandums and demands including two major movements, one in the 1980s and the other from 2007 onwards, demanding a separate state within the Indian union for the Indian Gorkhas of the Darjeeling hills and the surrounding areas.
The dynamics of India’s political scenario has led the discourse of the statehood demand to revolve largely around linguistic differences, but it has also encapsulated economic and developmental differences. However, with the formation of Telangana, a discourse patterned on “merger and demerger” has emerged.
Separatism may be defined as an instance of political disintegration, wherein political actors in one or more sub-systems withdraw their loyalties, expectations and political activities from a jurisdictional centre and focus them on a centre of their own (Hass 1968: 16). Linguistic separatism, cultural separatism, regionalist separatism based on economic and political grievances, aboriginal separatism and separatism based on the notion of sons of soil have been recognised as different forms of separatism (Wood 1981).
The first era of separatism or reorganisation of territory in India began in 1956. Such separatism had a linguistic basis. Needless to say the era opened up a plethora of demands for statehood in India. The second era of reorganisation was initiated during the 1970s with creation of north-eastern states from the division of Assam after the formation of Nagaland in 1963 and Meghalaya in 1972. The third phase, in 2000, was marked by Uttaranchal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh being carved out of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, respectively (Chadda 2002: 44–61). The fourth phase may have just begun to unfold with the creation of Telangana and could be followed by the creation of newer states in the country.
Ironically, reorganisation of the political boundary of a state or creation of a separate state within the Indian union itself and an extremist exercise to separate from the Indian union are all labelled as separatism in existing political literature and discourse (Horowitz 1981: 65–95). Some modern theorists view separatism as detrimental to national integration and as conflicting with the process of nation building (Datta 1988: 517–36; Nag 1993: 1521–32).
Separatism invariably brings back the “collective memory”5 of struggle, trauma, separation amongst kin, violence, death, genocide, resource sharing struggles, hurt ethnic ethos and other similar memories precisely to those who have witnessed and experienced the terrible side of separatism. Thus, reorganisation of Indian states is often viewed as separation and disintegration of India (Chadda 2002: 44–61).
The concept of demerger customarily reflects the history of merger and association. But unlike corporate merger (and acquisition), political merger invariably brings the need and relevance of history and administrative rights. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru once said, “where merger is not desirable, let divorce take place.” This statement has been quoted a number of times in the context of Hyderabad and Telangana (The Hindu Centre for Politics & Public Policy 2013). But in the context of Gorkhaland it may be pertinent to say “where merger has not pleased, let demerger take place.” In order to relate the use of the terms merger and demerger for the creation of Gorkhaland (or any name), it would be fitting to compare it with the case of Telangana and its merger and demerger from Andhra Pradesh.
Hmm..something really worth thinking about.
As demands for seperate states is growing, we could look at this concept of political demerger than the more painful concept of seperatism..