The demand for Gorkhaland is intensifying every day and the ongoing movement supporting the demand has reverberated not just in the hills of West Bengal, but also in neighbouring Sikkim and other Northeastern States. Support for the movement from Sikkim has been overwhelming to say the least. Sikkim had entered the North East Council in 2002 and it is a common sentiment in the region that if Gorkhaland State is eventually formed, North East India would have nine members.
Reactions from Sikkim
Omi Gurung, renowned fashion designer and entrepreneur from Sikkim told Eclectic Northeast, ‘We are supporting the demand for Gorkhaland because it is not an emotional but a legitimate demand. And considering the cultural affinity and geographical resemblances, if Gorkhaland State is formed, then it should definitely be considered a part of North East India.’
Young entrepreneur from Sikkim, Rewaz Chettri who runs NE Taxi says, ‘Firing at innocent people in Darjeeling is not at all acceptable. I stand with my brothers and sisters. I stand for Gorkhaland’.
Shailendra Dewan, Vice President of Sikkim University Student Association and Convenor of Gorkha Students Federation, speaking in the same vein said, ‘Darjeeling should be entirely a part of North East. Ethnically, culturally and geographically, we are very similar. The reason why West Bengal government doesn’t want to let go of Darjeeling is because they see it as an asset. BJP can help our cause but even they are sitting silently.’
Regarding the support from Sikkim for the movement, Dewan said, ‘Last week, we had organized a rally in Gangtok to show solidarity with Darjeeling and more than 10,000 people had attended it. Today, we have organized a padyatra from Gangtok to Kalimpong to mobilise masses.’
P Giri, a research scholar from Darjeeling who is currently studying in Sikkim University says, ‘We don’t have any enmity with Bengal or Bengalis. However, we opposed when Mamta Banerjee’s government tried to impose Bengali language in the schools in Darjeeling. We are genuine citizens of India but over the years, Nepalis are suffering from an identity crisis here. These things will stop when we get our own State.’
The Gorkhaland movement has been boosted by support from Sikkim’s Chief Minister Pawan Chamling who said, ‘Creation of a Gorkhaland state will also restore permanent peace and prosperity of the region and Sikkim will be hugely benefited as her developmental tempo can be maintained undisturbed.’ The supporters of the movement hope that the central government will finally accept their demand of Gorkhaland. And if that happens, like the Navaratnas in Mughal Emperor Akbar’s court, North East will also have nine jewels in its crown.