Opinion

The Gorkhaland demand is valid – and the racism I face in mainland India reinforces this view

Like my parents and grandparents, my generation has always believed in the demand for Gorkhaland.

When I read a tweet about Suraj Bhusal being shot dead by the paramilitary forces, I called my father in Kurseong, Darjeeling, immediately, and asked him what he was doing.

“Going for the funeral march of Tashi Bhutia, who was shot the night before,” he replied.

Bhusal had been walking in a pro-Gorkhaland procession in Darjeeling when he was killed. I begged my father not to go – from faraway Mumbai, it seemed as if the paramilitary was out to kill anyone who were part of the Gorkhaland protest. There had been two shootings in less than 10 hours. My father said, “Ae nani Gorkhaland ko lagi... marcha bhanae maroshh.” For Gorkhaland... if they’ll kill me, let them.

The Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts along with the Duars region at the foot of the Himalayas form the proposed state of Gorkhaland. The ethnolinguistic cultural sentiments of the people living in these parts of West Bengal form the basis of the demand for a separate state within the Indian Union. This movement is supported by the Nepali- or Gorkhali- (a version of Nepali) speaking Gorkha ethnic group of North Bengal. The demand for a separate unit has been there since 1907, when the Hillmen’s Association in Darjeeling submitted a memorandum to the Minto-Morley Reforms Committee, demanding a separated administration set up. In the 1980s, the agitation took a violent turn.

Girls play as paramilitary troops stand guard at Chowkbazar area during an indefinite strike called by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha in Darjeeling. Photo credit: AFP
Girls play as paramilitary troops stand guard at Chowkbazar area during an indefinite strike called by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha in Darjeeling. Photo credit: AFP

I wasn’t born during that agitation but heard stories about it from the elders in my family. On May 5, 1986, at a march in Kurseong demanding autonomy for the hills, five people were shot dead by the paramilitary forces. The violence took a much brutal shape thereafter. My uncle was jailed for four months, during which time he almost lost his life to grievous beatings. He was never involved in politics – he still isn’t.

During the 1980s, men were routinely rounded up by the armed forces. They were either taken to prison or assassinated (according to official estimates, the movement left 1,200 people dead). This meant women and children were left alone at home, routinely making them vulnerable to rape and sexual harassment. These incidents were never reported, no relief was provided to the victims, my family says. It’s just what ordinary life was like.

From that time on, the people of Darjeeling grew up in an atmosphere of fear and trauma. This was why my parents sent me to college in Hyderabad and later, Mumbai. They made sure I was away from the heart of the resistance and the anxieties it brings – except I have never really escaped it.

Humiliation by a million cuts

The night my father went to attend Tashi Bhutia’s funeral, I couldn’t get through to anybody’s phone in the hills until late at night. I was worried sick. None of my friends from Darjeeling, who had migrated from home for safety, better education or jobs, could call home either – the internet had been banned and we suspected that phone lines had been cut too.

Irrespective of our religion, caste, tribe or location in the world, my friends and I have considered ourselves part of the Gorkha community. Like my parents and grandparents, my generation has always believed in the demand for Gorkhaland.

Photo credit: PTI
Photo credit: PTI

I was 15 when I left home to attend high school in Siliguri. Growing up on the mainland during those years, I came across many versions of the person I was supposed to be, as a Gorkha person. These opinions were incompatible with what I had experienced as a child growing up in Darjeeling. In junior school, my teacher Miss Lama often told us we are the daughters of Kangchenjunga – so she reminded us to be righteous.

In college, people would greet me with “Salaam Saabji”, mimicking accents they had seen actors perform in the movies. When people learn I’m from Darjeeling, they say something about tea, without fail. A professor once reasoned that Gorkha/Nepali women are trafficked in such unbelievable number, because we are beautiful and soft.

The media tells stories about us that have become part of our lived experiences. The stereotype of a Gorkha watchman that struggles to speak in Hindi might be comic relief for some, but it causes irreparable psychological harm to the Gorkha community. The majority of mainland Indians do not even think they are being racist when they use the term Gorkha interchangeably with the word watchman.

Thanks to my degree in Dalit and tribal studies, I was able to see these endless examples of people mistaking my ethnicity for an occupation, for what it really is – a consequence of the jati framework followed by caste Hindus, where the occupation of a person translates into their identity. But the Gorkha identity is a meta identity of the people residing in the hills of Darjeeling, Terai and Duars. The language adopted in these parts is Nepali.

IT IS THE HOME OF THE BRAVE GORKHAS 💪🏻 #gorkhaland #Gorkhalandunrest

A post shared by WE WANT GORKHALAND (@gorkhalandunrest) on

I began to realise that there are few people from the Gorkha community in positions of power. A majority of the people who migrate to metropolises become part of the labour force – in contrast to other communities that migrate from Bengal.

Being a historically oppressed community renders our voice inaudible. There is a confusion that surrounds the Gorkha identity, since what we are defined as has always been determined from an external source – either by Nepali citizens claiming that our ancestors were from the Gorkha district in Nepal, or the colonial classification of the Gorkha as a soldier. This is a deliberate strategy for exploiting us (as soldiers, plantation labour) or dividing us.

Old resistance, new blood

While the government ignores the deaths of the Gorkhas in the hills, the Gorkhas outside have begun to re-examine our histories. We discuss our ethnicity, our Gorkha identity, the indigenous knowledge systems that are now defunct, the persecution of the Gorkha population in parts of the North East and in Bhutan.

On June 8, when the shutdown in the hills began, people I hadn’t spoken to since I was in school, called me from various cities across mainland India. They are people like me – with no political affiliations, in diverse professions, people who grew up hearing stories of the andolan in the 1980s, people like me who shrug off racist comments every day of their lives.

There are those of us who want to go back and experience the revolution, and contribute to it in some way. The fear of the paramilitary has percolated from our grandparents and parents to us. We are scared but we speak often, about how the dream of Gorkhaland, alive since the 1980s, might finally be realised. We talk about organising and executing campaigns in the cities to mobilise people, make a noise loud enough for the government to pay attention to.

Through the conversations, it was apparent that no matter how near or far we were from home, we are united in our search for a sense of belonging. The creation of a separate state of Gorkhaland in the Indian Union will warrant that we are no longer deemed foreigners in our own land. We are pushing back the stereotyping, the negative pathologies and the racist hate against the Gorkha community, so we are accepted as equal citizens in our own home.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Top picks, best deals and all that you need to know for the Amazon Great Indian Festival

We’ve done the hard work so you can get right to what you want amongst the 40,000+ offers across 4 days.

The Great Indian Festival (21st-24th September) by Amazon is back and it’s more tempting than ever. This edition will cater to everyone, with offers on a range of products from electronics, home appliances, apparel for men and women, personal care, toys, pet products, gourmet foods, gardening accessories and more. With such overwhelming choice of products and a dozen types of offers, it’s not the easiest to find the best deals in time to buy before your find gets sold out. You need a strategy to make sure you avail the best deals. Here’s your guide on how to make the most out of the Great Indian Festival:

Make use of the Amazon trio – Amazon Prime, Amazon Pay and Amazon app

Though the festival officially starts on 21st, Amazon Prime members will have early access starting at 12 noon on 20th September itself, enabling them to grab the best deals first. Sign up for an Amazon Prime account to not miss out on exclusive deals and products. Throughout the festival, Prime members will 30-minute early access to top deals before non-Prime members. At Rs 499/- a year, the Prime membership also brings unlimited Amazon Prime video streaming and quick delivery benefits.

Load your Amazon pay wallet; there’s assured 10% cashback (up to Rs 500). Amazon will also offer incremental cashbacks over and above bank cashbacks on select brands as a part of its Amazon Pay Offers. Shopping from the app would bring to you a whole world of benefits not available to non-app shoppers. App-only deals include flat Rs 1,250 off on hotels on shopping for more than Rs 500, and flat Rs 1,000 off on flights on a roundtrip booking of Rs 5,000 booking from Yatra. Ten lucky shoppers can also win one year of free travel worth Rs 1.5 lakhs.

Plan your shopping

The Great Indian Sale has a wide range of products, offers, flash sales and lightning deals. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals, or lose your mind, plan first. Make a list of things you really need or have been putting off buying. If you plan to buy electronics or appliances, do your research on the specs and shortlist the models or features you prefer. Even better, add them to your wishlist so you’re better able to track your preferred products.

Track the deals

There will be lightning deals and golden hour deals throughout the festival period. Keep track to avail the best of them. Golden-hour deals will be active on the Amazon app from 9.00pm-12.00am, while Prime users will have access to exclusive lightning deals. For example, Prime-only flash sales for Redmi 4 will start at 2.00pm and Redmi 4A at 6.00pm on 20th, while Nokia 6 will be available at Rs 1,000 off. There will be BOGO Offers (Buy One Get One free) and Bundle Offers (helping customers convert their TVs to Smart TVs at a fraction of the cost by using Fire TV Stick). Expect exclusive product launches from brands like Xiaomi (Mi Band 2 HRX 32 GB), HP (HP Sprocket Printer) and other launches from Samsung and Apple. The Half-Price Electronics Store (minimum 50% off) and stores offering minimum Rs 15,000 off will allow deal seekers to discover the top discounts.

Big discounts and top picks

The Great Indian Festival is especially a bonanza for those looking to buy electronics and home appliances. Consumers can enjoy a minimum of 25% off on washing machines, 20% off on refrigerators and 20% off on microwaves, besides deals on other appliances. Expect up to 40% off on TVs, along with No-Cost EMI and up to Rs 20,000 off on exchange.

Home Appliances

Our top picks for washing machines are Haier 5.8 Kg Fully Automatic Top Loading at 32% off, and Bosch Fully Automatic Front Loading 6 Kg and 7 Kg, both available at 27% discount. Morphy Richards 20 L Microwave Oven will be available at a discount of 38%.

Our favorite pick on refrigerators is the large-sized Samsung 545 L at 26% off so you can save Rs 22,710.

There are big savings to be made on UV water purifiers as well (up to 35% off), while several 5-star ACs from big brands will be available at greater than 30% discount. Our top pick is the Carrier 1.5 Ton 5-star split AC at 32% off.

Also those looking to upgrade their TV to a smart one can get Rs. 20,000 off by exchanging it for the Sony Bravia 108cm Android TV.

Personal Electronics

There’s good news for Apple fans. The Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Laptop 2017 will be available at Rs 55,990, while the iPad will be available at 20% off. Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP will be available in the discount range of 20% to 26%. Top deals are Lenovo Tab3 and Yoga Tab at 41% to 38% off. Apple fans wishing to upgrade to the latest in wearable technology can enjoy Rs 8,000 off on the Apple Watch series 2 smartwatch.

If you’re looking for mobile phones, our top deal pick is the LG V20 at Rs 24,999, more than Rs 5000 off from its pre-sale price.

Power banks always come in handy. Check out the Lenovo 13000 mAh power bank at 30% off.

Home printers are a good investment for frequent flyers and those with kids at home. The discounted prices of home printers at the festival means you will never worry about boarding passes and ID documents again. The HP Deskjet basic printer will be available for Rs 1,579 at 40% off and multi-function (printer/ scanner/ Wi-Fi enabled) printers from HP Deskjet and Canon will also available at 33% off.

The sale is a great time to buy Amazon’s native products. Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Stick will be on sale with offers worth Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively.

The Amazon Fire Stick
The Amazon Fire Stick

For those of you who have a bottomless collection of movies, music and photos, there is up to 60% off on hard drives and other storage devices. Our top picks are Rs 15,000 and Rs 12,000 off on Seagate Slim 5TB and 4TB hard drives respectively, available from 8.00am to 4.00pm on 21st September.

The sale will see great discounts of up to 60% off on headphones and speakers from the top brands. The 40% off on Bose QC 25 Headphones is our favourite. Top deals are on Logitech speakers with Logitech Z506 Surround Sound 5.1 multimedia Speakers at 60% off and the super compact JBL Go Portable Speaker at 56% off!

Other noteworthy deals

Cameras (up to 55% off) and camera accessories such as tripods, flash lights etc. are available at a good discount. Home surveillance cameras too will be cheaper. These include bullet cameras, dome cameras, simulated cameras, spy cameras and trail and game cameras.

For home medical supplies and equipment, keep an eye on the grooming and personal care section. Weighing scales, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, body fat monitors etc. will be available at a cheaper price.

The sale is also a good time to invest in home and kitchen supplies. Mixer-grinders and juicers could see lightning deals. Don’t ignore essentials like floor mops with wheels, rotating mop replacements, utensils, crockery etc. Tupperware sets, for example, will be more affordable. There are attractive discounts on bags, especially laptop bags, backpacks, diaper bags and luggage carriers.

Interesting finds

While Amazon is extremely convenient for need-based shopping and daily essentials, it is also full of hidden treasures. During the festival, you can find deals on telescopes, polaroid cameras, smoothie makers, gym equipment, gaming consoles and more. So you’ll be able to allow yourself some indulgences!

Small shopping

If you have children, the festival is good time to stock up on gifts for Diwali, Christmas, return gifts etc. On offer are gaming gadgets such as Xbox, dough sets, Touching Tom Cat, Barbies, classic board games such as Life and more. There are also some products that you don’t really need, but kind of do too, such as smartphone and tablet holders, magnetic car mounts for smartphones and mobile charging station wall stands. If you’re looking for enhanced functionality in daily life, do take a look at the Amazon Basics page. On it you’ll find USB cables, kitchen shears, HDMI cables, notebooks, travel cases and other useful things you don’t realise you need.

Check-out process and payment options

Amazon is also offering an entire ecosystem to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. For the festival duration, Amazon is offering No-Cost EMIs (zero interest EMIs) on consumer durables, appliances and smartphones, plus exchange schemes and easy installation services in 65 cities. HDFC card holders can avail additional 10% cashback on HDFC credit and debit cards. Customers will also get to “Buy Now and Pay in 2018” with HDFC Credit Cards, as the bank offers a 3 Month EMI Holiday during the days of the sale. Use Amazon Pay balance for fast and easy checkouts, quicker refunds and a secured shopping experience.

Sales are fun and with The Great Indian Festival offering big deals on big brands, it definitely calls for at least window shopping. There’s so much more than the above categories, like minimum 50% off on American Tourister luggage! To start the treasure hunt, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon.in and not by the Scroll editorial team.