Darjeeling is being scorched yet again by the flames of Gorkha separatism. Embers of the movement that had lain smouldering beneath appeasement efforts have broken into flames. This time, though, the movement appears to be more a politically motivated one rather than anything else. India is not uninitiated to separatist movements.
It should be remembered that the India of today, does not have a history of its present geographical boundaries which goes beyond 1947. Ruled by various kings, zamindars and foreign rulers, it never had a unified character which would bind people to a similar history. India started off on its journey as an independent country by quelling separatist sentiments in many parts.
And it is but natural for a subcontinent that had been divided into numerous principalities, often at feud with each other, to not change its stripes beneath the cloak of unity. While the British are blamed for many an ill that plagues India and we claim with great pride that this is a nation of nations which stands united in diversity, we seem reluctant to acknowledge the deep divide that exists among us. Movements such as those of the Gorkhas and other hill tribes, and the struggle in Kashmir, are reminders of these differences.
The sad fact is that the seven decades since Independence have not done enough to unite us as a country with common goals and ideals. Perhaps the country, too, hasn’t understood its peoples well to ensure that they, too, feel part of the unity. In many cases, such movements as that of the Gorkhas are merely manifestations of gaps in the reach of governance. Separatists are not expected to see any so called larger picture. They are justified in their regional demands because of long standing neglect.
And India is unlikely to see an end to such movements, given the country’s huge physical dimensions and diversity. The fact that the country has given in to demands for further division into newer states in the past gives greater confidence to separatists. But there is no guarantee that fresh divisions will actually help the people get good governance. It is debatable whether states such as Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand have really done any better than when they were part of bigger states.
Chhattisgarh in its rush for growth is giving rise to disputes with neighbouring states such as Orissa over the sharing of waters of the Mahanadi. The creation of the state has only helped produce yet another subsystem that is repeating mistakes of the governments they were part of before separation.
The creation of new states or separate identities and rights for sections of the population must be addressed and use of force should be avoided. The formation of Telangana, for instance, has brought upon Andhra Pradesh the need for a new capital city at Amaravati. However, it remains to be seen whether such expenses will help that state in growth.
Although an Indian city may not suffer from the lack of people as the new capital of Myanmar Naypyidaw is said to be, there is no guarantee that the splurge on the new capital will deliver results. The key to any division should be the benefit that it delivers to people. There will be more Gorkhalands in waiting unless the feeling of oneness despite differences is nurtured through adequate inclusion of all sections settled in this part of the world.