The ongoing stir by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) seeking the creation of a Gorkhaland state by carving hill areas in West Bengal has received support from several Nepali groups in the northeast.
Nepalis, who are residents of the eight states in the region, are keenly following developments in Darjeeling and many feel the creation of Gorkhaland would address the “identity crisis” they witness to some extent.
“Our family has been residents of Assam for over 100 years now but we still face queries asking if we are from Nepal. Hopefully, a separate state with a Nepali-speaking majority would address the issue,” said Hari Prasad Sharma, a businessman based in Guwahati.
As per the 2001 census, there are 5.65 lakh Nepali-speaking people in Assam — second only to West Bengal, which had 10.23 lakh. Sikkim, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, and Nagaland also have Nepali-speaking residents.
Data for Nepali-speaking residents in the northeastern states for census 2011 isn’t available. But Nepali speakers in Assam believe their number could be well over 2 million. Nepalis have lived in Assam for close to two centuries – from 1826, when the British used Gorkha soldiers to annex Assam, there have been several waves of such migration.
The community has actively participated in several areas over the years.
There have been 13 Nepali-speaking MLAs in Assam since independence and a few MPs. “The demand for Gorkhaland isn’t wrong and the West Bengal government will have to grant it today or tomorrow,” said Ram Prasad Sharma, BJP MP from Tezpur in Assam, also chief of the Assam Gorkha Sanmilan.
Hundreds of Gorkha youths from across Arunachal Pradesh organised a rally in Itanagar last week. Several organisations in Sikkim, where nearly 63% of residents speak Nepali, including chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling, have also supported the creation of Gorkhaland.
The Mizoram unit of GJM carried out a demonstration in Aizawl last week.
Courtesy: Hindustan Times