‘Ekrupata Namkaran’ and the Nepali speaking people in South Asia: The problem and challenges of finding an appropriate collective representational nomenclature

Anup Shekhar Chakraborty

[Note from the author: The backdrop of the discussion in this article is the native Nepali speaking people in India and their quest to cartographically chart their emic self-defined identity in a map called Gorkhaland in and around Darjeeling in the directional construct ‘North Bengal’ located in the Indian state of West Bengal. As a geopolitical space Darjeeling has reflected immense tensions amidst the phased calm and phased uncalm in the form of demand for Chuttei Rajya (separate state) of Gorkhaland. The Chiyasi ko Andolan (1986 Movement) and the current imbroglio  (stretched from 2007 to 2017) though showing signs of peculiarities and particularities in terms of the movement, styles of leadership, political agency ,participations etc., continues to showcase commonalities, connections, and continuations in the indelible question of identity of the people and its place. Chuttei Rajya (separate state) of Gorkhaland is projected as the panacea for all prevailing problems of its people ranging from being stateless, neglected, misconstrued and misrepresented (as Durwans, Security guards etc), branded as ‘foreigners’ (confused to be from Nepal), called ‘Chinky’ (confused to be from North East India) etc. Though a popular tourist destination, globally known for ‘Darjeeling Tea’, idyllic backdrop of many Bollywood movies (and feeding into the romanticised visual social imaginaries of the South Asia) the region continues to be geographically misconstrued. The simple question ‘where is Darjeeling?’ can uncork startling responses and confusions: few presuming it to be in Assam (a clear confusion because of the ‘Tea’ factor); while others considering it to be a part of Nepal and trying to use Nepalese Rupee; and still others focusing on the historical connections with Sikkim etc. Another difficult question ‘Whom does Darjeeling belong to (territorially, politically, culturally, socially)?’ evokes vexed responses: while the Chuttei Rajya narrative claims its deep seated autonomy enmeshed in cultural, social, linguistic differences; those against ‘Bangavanga’ (division of West Bengal) claim Darjeeling to be the ‘crown’ of the state of ‘Sonar Bangla’. These responses do little to quench the thirst and curiosity of the questioner. I am of the view that if Darjeeling could speak for itself (like the Bollywood song sung by the late Mahendra Kapoor ‘Ye Mati Sabhi Ki Kahani Kahegi’ (Lyrics: Bharat Vyas. Music: Ramachandra. Soundtrack in V. Shantaram, dir. (1959). Navrang. India) the response might unleash startling rethinking, positional shifts and realignments. The current imbroglio in the ‘hills’ needs to be understood silhouetted on these seemingly disparate issues and problems.]

The evolution of martial race[i]– ‘Bir[ii] Gorkha’ (the brave invincible Gurkha)[iii] in South Asia and India in particular is embossed and engraved deeply into the history of the Raj (the British colonial government that ruled India in various forms over two centuries) and the Raj making. The ever changing borders, frontiers and spaces of the Raj witnessed the flow of a multitude of people/races/ethnicities/religions etc.[iv] The ‘traditional’[v] territorial spaces were traversed, turned inside out, made malleable to the demands and visions of the Raj. This meant that communities/people were coming to an interface more strongly at a faster pace amidst the wave of multidimensional change in transports, administration- security (artillery, war craft, defence, military intervention etc.) just to name a few. This also meant that communities/people were slowly yet surely by want/choice, force/coercion becoming categorized as ‘citizens’, ‘subjects’, ‘denizens’, ‘enemies’, ‘foreigners’, ‘interlopers’ and the like. The colonial census projects, studies of administrators doubling as anthropologists, surveyors, the missionaries and the numerous retinue of experts (white/European/American) and informant natives (the elites, the traditional privileged sections, mostly men) resulted in the creation/ construction of stereotypes and social imaginaries of communities/people in South Asia.

In South Asia, specifically in India, and the North East of India[vi], in effect, the predicaments of being/belonging to a ‘privileged’[vii] community/people is strongly experienced. Contacts and conversations between India and Nepal can be traced to times immemorial through the Epics, historical exchanges, pilgrimages and trade relations.[viii] Contemporary nomenclature referring to community as a homogenous unit has remained haunted by the spectre of the colonial visions and its projected social imaginaries.[ix] The case of the ‘Gurkha/Gorkha/Gorkhey Identity (Chinari)[x] in the erstwhile colonial spaces is reflective of this uneasiness and discomfort. The discomforts and contests over the community appellation are intensely visible in the discourses of/about the community and the inability to arrive at an agreeable ‘coinage’[xi] has worsened the projection of a unified collective nomenclature for ‘the’ representational identity. Borrowing from Rhoderick Chalmers[xii] and improvising it further I would call this the inability to arrive at a consensus as the problem of ‘Ekrupata Namkaran’. Further the homogeneity that ‘Gorkha/Gorkhey’ entails is astoundingly visited by variegations and hybridized[xiii] innovations such as ‘Nepali versus Nepalese’[xiv], ‘Bharpali or Nepamul’, ‘Lhotshampa’, ‘Zo Gorkha/Gorkhey’ etc

‘Being Gorkha’/‘Being Nepali’, ‘Feeling Gorkha’/ ‘Feeling Nepali’ is severely webbed and caged into experiential and existential paranoia.[xv] The Gorkha identity is further complicated when tied and looped to the ‘Pahari/Paharey Identity[xvi] (‘Hill Identity’). It is interesting to observe that this seemingly innocent looping of constructs namely ‘Gorkha’/ ‘Gorkhey’ with the ‘Pahari/Paharey’ is not as simple as it appears, rather it is a ‘calculated replication’[xvii] of borrowed constructs and distortions of associated caste/class/race distinction between the ‘hills people’ (the ‘Nepte’ (the largely mongoloid Rai, Mangar, Thapa and others) and later conveniently used as absorbing even the Chhetri-Bahun, Newar) and the plains people (Madeshi)[xviii] as operative in Nepal. The interloping of the two constructs very readily seals the aspirations of the plains communities to be a part of the Gorkha/Gorkhey Identity. It unleashed an exclusivist construct that insulates itself neatly and gate-keeps membership. However, the ingenuity of the human mind is incredible. My confession is that the ‘Others’[xix] in the operational spaces of the ‘Gorkha/Gorkhey Identity’ have manufactured and chiselled their ‘own convenient ways’ to seek group membership or remain at least in the fences as ‘fence sitters’.[xx] Here we arrive at the problem of ‘nomenclature’ that I refer as ‘one breathing and oozing with ‘borrowed’ semantics’ and definitively lacking in an ‘authentic’ self- representation and fraught with contestations from within and outside. Here I would echo A.C. Sinha [xxi] ‘lets be brave to use new construct’: constructs that were not in existence, newer nomenclatures to definitively chisel and ease/tease out ‘authentic self-representation’.

The dilemma of having to ‘explain’ their identity/ community appellation and hem it to a particular region/state is indeed perplexing, traumatizing and results in emotional exasperation. The Gorkha in the region have been constantly challenged by contending communities to prove their authenticity as citizens, their loyalty to the Indian nation and prove their ‘Indianness’.[xxii] An overview of the socio-political history of the Gorkha in India unveils locational, positional, and situational ambiguities[xxiii] and further dismantles the ‘homogenized Gorkha[xxiv] and unveils the veritable differences within the construct of the ‘Gorkha Identity’. In a short while there might be overlaps on certain issues like concerns over citizenship, political insecurity etc., there are distinct political differences between Nepali speaking communities living in different parts of India as elsewhere.[xxv]

The term ‘Gorkha’, though intensely contested has survived not simply because of its community appellation but more because of the failure to moot an agreeable replacement and has over the years transformed its culture-historical underpinnings into an ethno-political one.[xxvi] The intervention of the current State government in West Bengal further complicates[xxvii] the already complicated ‘Gorkha/Gorkhey/Pahari/Paharey’ construct with the mushrooming of specific ‘clan/tribe/caste/group’ based ‘Development Boards’. The ‘Gorkha Identity’ is as of today faced with stiff challenges from within as now the stakeholders are keen to showcase ‘socio-cultural difference’, ‘cultural distinctiveness’, ‘peculiarities’ and all the little veins that make the disparate people more ‘particular’ and ‘creating communities’ anew therefore befit to be granted ‘autonomy’ and caged into a ‘development board’ of their own. The musings of the ‘collective subjectivity’ i.e., ‘Gorkha/Gorkhey/Pahari/Paharey Identity’ is contested by the moorings of the ‘subjective particularities’[xxviii] of clan, tribe, and caste.

Dr. Chakraborty teaches at Netaji Institute for Asian Studies, Kolkata. He can be reached at anupshekharc@rediffmail.com


[i] See, A.C. Sinha. (2003) ‘Prologue’, pp.11-29, in A.C. Sinha and T. B. Subba. (Ed). (2003). The Nepalis in Northeast India: A Community in Search of Indian Identity. New Delhi: Indus Publishing Company.

[ii] I am not comfortable for many reasons with the notion of the ‘brave’ (‘Bir’). My discomfort arises from my contention that individuals can be brave for many reasons or situations but can communities in totality be classed as ‘brave’. How does an entire community claim to be brave when only a section of them might/may depending on the situations or other factors displayed acts which can be classed as acts of bravery? If this claim is taken to be rock solid and a universal truth then just on the basis of acts of few individuals let’s say a hypothetical case of having seen few students of a particular community fail repeatedly in a class, can we call that community a ‘community of failures’? or lets change the situation to having seen a group of individuals from a particular community stealing, can we call that community a ‘community of thieves’? Such constructions of communities are deeply ingrained in the colonial project of creating subjects, citizens, denizens and the everlasting impressions in the social imaginaries and stereotypes. My argument is that individuals can be brave and not communities, and yes few communities can/might have more of these ‘brave individuals’. (ASC)

[iii] Michael Hutt. (1989). A Hero or A Traitor: Representations Of The Gurkha Soldier In Modern Nepali Literature. Modern Asian Research. 9. pp.21-32; Also see, J. Marks. (1971). Ayo Gurkha. London: Oxford University Press; D. Forbes. (1964). Johnny Gurkhas. London: Robert Hale; Caplan Lionel. (1995). Warrior Gentleman: Gurkhas In The Western Imagination. London: Oxford University Press.

[iv] A.C. Sinha. (2003) ‘Prologue’.Op.cit.

[v] I use the term ‘traditional’ to refer to the age old, maybe pristine territorial spaces, places that communities in South Asia claim as their root place. I use traditional as reflective of the historical, the age old. I use it as a convenient term to get my message across and also because I fail to find a better word in English. Apologies to the readers for my inability to be sharp worded in ‘her majesty’s language’. (ASC).

[vi] It was the colonial encounter that proved to be a catalyst for an organised migration from Nepal hills to the Indian frontiers’. See, A.C. Sinha and T. B. Subba. (Ed). (2003). Op.cit.

[vii] The Gorkha eulogized as a ‘warrior community’ received preferential treatment in terms of recruitment in the Army; and this form of outmigration continued from the colonial through the post-colonial times. See, Sushila Tyagi. (1974). Indo-Nepalese Relations (1858-1914). Delhi: D.K Publishing House; Richard English. (1983). Gorkhali and Kiranti: Political Economy in the Eastern Hills of Nepal. Ann Arbor: University microfilms International; D.K. Palit. (1984). Sentinels of the North-East: The Assam Rifles. New Delhi: Major General D.K Palit; Kumar Pradhan. (1991). The Gorkha Conquests. New Delhi: Oxford University Press; K.K. Muktan. (2001). The Legendary Gorkhas. Guwahati: Spectrum Publications; Lopita Nath. (2003). The Nepalis in Assam: Ethnicity and Cross Border Movements in the North-East. New Delhi: Minerva Associates Publication; A.C. Sinha & T. B. Subba. (Ed). (2003). Op.cit.

[viii] Ramakant. (1976). Nepal-China and India (Nepal-China Relations).New Delhi: Abhinav Publications; Jahar Sen. (1977). Indo- Nepal Trade in the Nineteenth Century. Calcutta: Firma KLM Pvt. Ltd.

[ix] The predicaments of the Nepali speaking people to find an expression to definitively relay or signify their selfhood is a universal problem and criss-crosses the borders. Take for instance the social imaginaries of the Nepalese as operative in Nepal in relation to India which is clouded by the Mughal state and its flexible connections with the Kingdom of Nepal. For the large section of Nepalese/Nepali people ‘India’ is always ‘Mughlan’, an alien territory, exploitative, extractive, polluting, contagious and a necessary space for ‘earning, saving, and investing back in Nepal’, India is thus not for ‘living’: at the closure of the day the ‘Nepali/Nepalese/Gorkha’ longs to be in the ‘Pahar’ (hills, mountains). Such images can be absorbed from the popular cinematic visions like ‘Saino’ (Dir. Ugen Chhopel, 1987), ‘Muglan’ (Dir. Shiva Regmi, 2005) etc. These cinematic projects are intensely reflective of the realities on ground zero, the trans-appropriation of nomenclatures, cultural troupes, symbolisms (like the Khukri) etc., are the connections of nostalgia, memory and history that the community continues to hold across the borders/spaces/territories. For instance till the early 90s Nepali speaking households in many parts of North East India could be seen with the garlanded (adorned with ‘Saipatri’ (Marigold) flower) framed photographs (atop the main door) of the late Nepalese King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah and his family with the liner: “Hamro Raja, Hamro Desh prana bhanda pyaro cha” (Our King, Our country more precious than our lives) (All literal translations mine) (ASC).

[x] The term ‘Gurkha, Goorkha spelt with ‘u’ or a double ‘o’ is patterned on the colonial documents while ‘Gorkha’ or ‘Gorkhey’ has got a community appellation and transformed its culture-historical underpinnings into an ethno-political one. The ‘brave gorkha’ construct is not just a colonial given but also a ‘borrowed image’ and more intensely a diaspora historical consciousness. Especially when one keeps a cautious reminder that the term had its roots in the Kingdom of Nepal. ‘Gorkha’ and ‘Gorkhey’ are used interchangeably while referring to the community’s self-defined identity. The latter though has more poetic connotations associated to it. I acknowledge the insights provided on this by Dr. Radha Sharma, Associate Professor, Department of Nepali, St. Joseph’s College, Darjeeling.

For my discussions I use the term ‘Gorkha’/Gorkhey’/‘Gorkhali’ as a blanket term to denote all ethnic tribes/people who migrated from Nepal to British India and who speak the ‘Khas Kura’ the lingua franca of Nepal. I do not intend to delve on the debates on the correct nomenclature for the said group as argued by A.C. Sinha in the Prologue to A.C. Sinha and T. B. Subba. (Ed). (2003). Op.cit. I consider it more appropriate to refer to the said group as ‘Gorkha’/Gorkhey’/‘Gorkhali’ because of their colonial linkages as migrants either recruited in the British Indian Army or Administration. What is interesting to note is the fact that the term ‘Gorkha’ is basically the name of a district in present day Nepal, and later the term acquired a special meaning in British martial discourses. (ASC).

[xi] The contest over nomenclatures is clearly visible on the issue of the language of the Nepali speaking community in India. Nepali or the Khas language is spoken in a variety of versions and the non-agreeability over the authentic style of spoken and written and usage of terms and colloquial jargons/terms is neatly wedged. In few cases the words and sentence formation in spoken as well as written is astoundingly different For instance the use of ‘Anda’ for eggs in Darjeeling, while in the North East of India the community would use ‘Dimma’ for eggs. Few areas have large influence of the Hindi belt while others have Tibeto-Burman influences. The community popularly refers to its ‘Chinari’ as ‘Gorkha/Gorkhey’ but has agreed to retaining ‘Nepali’ as its representational spoken language inplace of ‘Gorkhali’ language. See for details, the 8th Schedule (dealing with languages ) of the Indian Constitution. The adoption of the term ‘Neplai’ for its language is again a part of what I call ‘mimicry’, ‘borrowings’. (ASC).

[xii] Rhoderick Chalmers in his discussion unseals the tensions in language as operative among the Nepali speaking people in the hill of Darjeeling and gleans into the knotted problematic of the ‘Ekrupta versus Bahurupta’ of the Nepali speaking community and their national consciousness (Jatibhiman). See, Rhoderick Chalmers. (2003). ‘The Quest for Ekrupata: Unity, Uniformity and the Delineation of the Nepali Community in Darjeeling’ in A.C. Sinha and T. B. Subba. (Ed). (2003). Op.cit. Inspired and borrowing from Rhoderick Chalmers’ discussions I attempt to tease out the nuances of Nepali/Gorkha consciousness further in my discussions in this brief write up.

[xiii] ‘Hybridization’ arrests the essentialist claims to inherent authenticity or purity of cultures which, when inscribed in the naturalistic sign of symbolic consciousness frequently become political arguments for the hierarchy and ascend of powerful cultures which claim hegemony. This also means that the colonial subject positions itself as a subaltern and inscribes a space of iteration for itself. The colonial subject undoubtedly is located in a space of hybridity and transmutations, where identities are formed, iterated and translated by the colonizer-subject relations (ASC).

[xiv] T. B Subba. (2003) ‘The Nepalis in Northeast India: Political Aspirations and Ethnicity’, pp.54-67, in A.C. Sinha and T. B. Subba. (Ed). (2003). Op.cit.

[xv] Most individuals (belonging to the Nepali speaking community) cite being perplexed and hurt when posed a question as to which community they belong? or the country they belong? and strongly believe that a separate state for the Nepali speaking Gorkha is the only solution to heal the community. My argument based on my studies on Mizoram drives me to firmly negate this proposed solution. If a separate statehood was the final solution for community identity and aspiration than why do the Mizos, the Nagas, the Manipuris, the Khasis (the Jaintias, the Garos) still struggle to prove their national identity over and over despite having their ‘own state’?

Also, the Nepali speaking community’s nostalgia for Nepal, mimicry of the ways and customs of Nepal including the ‘borrowings’ and transportation of  identity nomenclature ‘Gorkha’/ ‘Gorkhey’, celebration of ‘Bhanu Bhakta’ as the community’s representational bard are all deeply engrained into the ‘problem-solution’ web. Though the Nepali speaking community in Darjeeling will be in denial I have observed (participant) for 9 years that any mundane development in Nepal (for instance the adoption of the changed constitution 2015) had its ripples across the borders. Many among the Nepali speaking people (including the politicians and businessmen) in Darjeeling have intense connections in Nepal by way of relatives, marriage, investments in business, hotels, property, jobs (the British Army) etc. So much so that households diligently listen and update themselves with news from Nepal TV and would care less to listen to news updates on/about India. My interaction with my past students and others  in Darjeeling impressed on me the ‘vision/tendencies’ that I call ‘Nepal callings’, i.e., the urge to go to Nepal (Kathmandu), find a job , work for few years and fly off to Dubai, or to UK, USA or anyplace else and earn big. These tendencies are the bricks that build the problem of ‘being Nepali’/ ‘being Gorkhali’. The mobility and migration of people to earn more (for betterment of course) is good and should be encouraged, also with education individuals will obviously never stay rooted and will find their own green pastures. But questions that clouds my mind is ‘if everyone leaves for elsewhere, then who will live, work and survive for ‘Gorkhaland’? Shouldn’t the retention of able bodied young force equipped with the power of education and the zeal to stretch beyond the call of honour be a part of the community’s social imagination? Shouldn’t the political leaders encourage (instead of egging students to boycott schools, colleges) the youths to study harder, compete with the rest of India, come forward with more civil servants (IAS, IPS, or the state civil service), more college teachers etc., and place themselves in all relevant positions and thus overcome their challenges much like the way the ‘Meena community’ has done for itself over the years and crossed the traditional  barriers to empower their community. (ASC).

[xvi] ‘Pahari identity’ is a common hill identity that can be found among many hill communities or communities living in the mountainous places like Garwhal, Kumaon (Uttarakhand), the hill communities in the North East of India, the hilly regions across South Asia. The notion of ‘insider-outsider’, ‘hill men(women)-plainsmen(women), ‘the exploited-exploiter’ etc., plays strongly into the construct. (ASC)

[xvii] I call this ‘calculated replication’ precisely because the ‘Chhetri-Bahun-Newari’ group has been the traditional beneficiaries of the “Char Jat Chattis Varna” (four ‘Jat’and thirty-six ‘Varna’(castes)) and their patriarchal privilege has outcaste the rest of the communities as ‘Duniyadar’ (Worldly). The ‘Bahun-Newari’ have over the years very conveniently appropriated the martial ‘Gorkha’ identity that was styled for the mercenary forces comprising the Khambu-Rai-Limbu hill people. The Chhetri as the Kshatriya were the traditional martial caste. For an understanding of the complexities of caste-class structures in Nepal, see  Lok Raj Baral. (2012). Nepal – Nation-State in the Wilderness: Managing State, Democracy and Geopolitics. New Delhi: Sage Publication; Lok Raj Baral. (2004). Nepal: Local Leadership and Governance. New Delhi: Adriot Publishers. pp. 73-75; Imdad Hussain. (2003) ‘Soldiers and Settlers: The Recruitment of Gorkhas’, pp.67-105, in A.C. Sinha and T. B. Subba. (Ed). (2003). Op.cit; D.G.P Ryan. (1925). Historical Records of the 6th Gorkha Rifles, 1817-1919. London: Aldershot; L.W. Shakespear. (1927). (1977). History of The Assam Rifles. Calcutta: Firma KLM Pvt. Ltd. Aizawl: Tribal Research Institute.

[xviii] Among the Nepali speaking community in India especially in North Bengal region the tag ‘Madeshi’ is used to refer to any plains person more specifically to the Hindi speaking persons identifiably the Bihari. In the North East the term ‘Madeshi’ has very limited usage and the plains people are referred as ‘Thal ko manche’ (flat land people). The fuzzy tag- ‘Madheshiya’ in Darjeeling Hills can broadly include the ‘Bengali’, the ‘Marwari (a community from the state of Rajasthan locally scorned as ‘Kainya’, their entrepreneurial enterprise is conceived as extractive, exploitative and detrimental to local/ native interests. Many of my respondents during formal and informal discussions referred to the ‘Kainya’ as the ‘Indian Jews’), the ‘Bihari’ (locally referred to as the ‘Bhaiyaji’. It is interesting to note that Hindi language is seen as a language of this ‘Bhaiyaji’ category and there is much hesitation to converse in this language as it belongs to the ‘other’), the ‘Punjabi’ (as the ‘Ghantauke’ is seen as the entrepreneur-political leader) etc. However, the category of the ‘Others’ or ‘Outsiders’ in broader context also incorporates the Santhal/Adivasi (mostly Tea tribes), the Tibetan (locally referred to as the ‘Bhotey’ seen as unwanted intruders infringing on local resources and eventually controlling the local economy thereby depriving the Nepali/ Gorkha the benefits of ‘their land’etc). The category of the ‘Others’ is fuzzy and encapsulates those groups or ethnic communities/minorities who maintain cultural, linguistic distinctiveness or exclusiveness and do not share the imagined rootedness to the ‘Bir Gorkha’. (ASC).

[xix] The nebulous category of the ‘Others’ in Darjeeling Hills can broadly include the ‘Bengali’, the ‘Marwari’, the ‘Bihari’, and at times also incorporates the ‘Tibetans’. The category of the ‘Others’ encapsulates those groups or ethnic communities/minorities who maintain cultural, linguistic distinctiveness or exclusiveness and do not share the imagined rootedness to the ‘Bir Gorkha’. The inmigrants have strong discomfort with the ‘Madheshiya’ and ‘Bhaiyaji’ tag given to them by the Gorkha and as a response employed survival strategies of camouflaging their identities in tune with the ‘Gorkhey Identity’. For instance, newer and more convenient forms of defining community identities in synchrony with the overarching ‘Gorkhey Identity’ have been sought by most inmigrants in the region. Gorkhey-Bihari, Gorkhey-Punjabi, Gorkhey-Rajasthani, Gorkha-Muslim etc., are the hybridized identities that have evolved and displayed in the public in contemporary times among inmigrants especially the younger generations born and raised in the region and who typically are multi-lingual and conversant in Nepali/Gorkhali language. The older generation among most inmigrants tend to display both publicly as well as privately more conservative response. For instance, privately they stick to their identities as Bihari, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Bihari-Muslim etc., and interestingly refer to themselves as Bihari-Gorkhey, Punjabi-Gorkhey, Rajasthani-Gorkhey etc., when it comes to the public. Based on Interview(s) of Bihari, Marwari and other migrants in Darjeeling town (names withheld on request) (July-August 2011).

[xx] See, Anup Shekhar Chakraborty. (2016).“Enduring ‘Muslim-Ness’ in an Ostensibly Multicultural Terrain: Muslim Women in Darjeeling Hills”. Women’s Link, Vol. 22. No.1, January-March, 2016. pp. 38-48; Anup Shekhar Chakraborty. (2015).“Becoming ‘Local’: Muslims and the Politics of the ‘Local’ and the ‘Non-local’ in Darjeeling Hills”. Refugee Watch. Vol. 46. December, 2015. pp. 21-35; Anup Shekhar Chakraborty and Subhas Ranjan Chakraborty. (2016) ‘Ambiguous Identities: Statelessness of Gorkhas in North-East India’ in Paula Banerjee, Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury & Atig Ghosh, (Ed.). (2016).The State of Being Stateless: An Account of South Asia. New Delhi: Orient Black Swan Pvt. Ltd. pp.207-245; Anup Shekhar Chakraborty. (2015). ‘Gleaning the Politics of Cartographic Representation and Gorkha/Gorkhey Identity in Darjeeling’ (Chapter 9) in Tirthankar Chakraborty and Tabesum Begam. (Ed.). (2015). The Barefoot Transformation: West Bengal and Beyond – Reviewing State Politics in India. pp. 117 -141. Kolkata: Levant Books.

[xxi] A.C. Sinha. (2003) ‘Prologue’.Op.cit.

[xxii] For instance, the Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Bachao Committee (BOBBBC) has time and again questioned the Indianness of the Nepali/Gorkha population in North Bengal and has even submitted a memorandum to the Election Commission requesting the office to withhold the inclusion of Nepali speaking population in the electoral rolls. This challenge ‘to prove their loyalty’ to the nation-state has been a universal experience for the Gorkha community and comes very close to the experience of the Gorkha in the United Kingdom as seen in the case of the Joanna Lumley led debt of honour movement. (ASC).

[xxiii] Lopita Nath. (2003). Op.cit; Monimala Devi. (2007). Economic History of Nepali Migration and Settlement in Assam. Economic & Political Weekly. July 21-27, 2007, Vol. XLII No. 29. pp.3005-3007; A.C. Sinha & T. B. Subba. (Ed). (2003). Op.cit.; E. Gait. (N.A.).History of Assam. N.A:N.A; M.L. Bose. (1979). Historical and Constitutional Documents of North East India. Delhi: N.A. pp.82-86; Bonita Aleaz. (2005). Emergent Women Mizo Women’s Perspectives. New Delhi: Mittal Publications; Anup Shekhar Chakraborty and Subhas Ranjan Chakraborty. (2016). Op.cit.

[xxiv] “We are Indian Gorkhas and not the Nepalese Gorkhas,” (Vijay Kumar Gurung, president, the HP Gorkha Ex-Servicemen Welfare Association (Gorkha Sabha), Bakloh) Times of India. (2016). Kangra Gorkhas facing identity crisis. Bhalok: TNN | May 6, 2016, 01.38 PM IST . http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/shimla/Kangra-Gorkhas-facing-identity-crisis/articleshow/52143264.cms retrieved 30 May 2017.

[xxv] Similarly the Gorkha Movement in the United Kingdom also unravels continuities and discontinuities, while the former is concerned more with equal wages and pensions as British Gurkhas; the latter is more about ensuring political recognition as Indian citizens. Elsewhere throughout India we find that the construct of the ‘Gorkha’ is vexed and doesn’t stand the test of homogeneity. Though the Gorkhaland movements in its different phases has called for a collective solidarity, experience shows that the Gorkha is variegated. For instance, Mr. Chhetri (name changed), Mr. Subba (name changed) and many others from different parts of the North East of India who post-retirement shifted base to Darjeeling (District) found that they were treated as second citizens and scorned as ‘recent arrivals’ and often subjected to the ‘bahira ko manche’ (outsiders) treatment. In fact one of my respondent mentioned that Gorkhaland and Gorkha Identity is assumed to be the badge of only the ‘Darjeelingwalas’, rest of the Nepali speaking people are mere pawns for mobilizing the cause of the Gorkhaland movement. (ASC).

[xxvi] Pravesh Jung Golay. (2009). ‘Ethnic Identity Crisis, History & Cultural Anthropology: Some Reflections’, Chapter 3, pp. 49-62; Bidhan Golay. (2009). ‘Rethinking Gorkha Identity: Outside The Imperium Of Discourse, Hegemony, & History’, Chapter 5, pp. 73-94, in T. B. Subba, A.C. Sinha, G.S. Nepal & D.R. Nepal. (Ed.). (2009). Indian Nepalis: Issues & Perspectives. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company.

[xxvii] For a similar discussion on ‘creating a community’ through “paternalistic economic intervention” and its after effects see, Aparna Rao. (2009). ‘Floating Identities: Some Thoughts on the Construction and Manipulation of Cultural Similarity and Difference’, pp.112-156, in A.R. Momin. (Ed.). (2009). Diversity, Ethnicity and Identity in South Asia. Jaipur: Rawat Publications.

[xxviii] G. W. F Hegel. (1978). Hegel’s Philosophy of Subjective Spirit. Vol. I, (Ed., and Trans., M.J. Petry). Dordrecht, Holland: D. Reidel Publishing Company. pp. 95-97. The ‘Subjective Particularities’ I observe are readily challenging the homogeneity and hegemony of the ‘Gorkha/Gorkhey’ for many factors one obvious factor being the arrival of the final moment in the history of the Nepali speaking people where the multitudes of marginal castes, clans, tribes have a chance to defy the unwritten norms/codes of ‘pani chal ne, pani na chalne’ (pollution-purity) as observed among the Chhetri-Bahun and the exclusivist Newari/Newar and the others ie., Kami-Damai-Sarki, and the tribals. This is the unique historic opportunity for all those who have been subalterned (like the Biswakarma collective working for their own development board) to express/articulate, exhibit/display their agency, autonomy and create/ manufacture their spaces of collective redressal and being heard. Agreeing, invoking and stretching Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s question ‘Can the subaltern speak?’ I would here add that the current political developments in the hills of Darjeeling opens the doors and windows for the subaltern to circumvent the hurdles of being represented and speak for themselves, speak not just in their voice but also be ‘heard’ perhaps patiently. (ASC).



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