Nanda Kirati Dewan, Guwahati .
Gorkhas in Assam I am referring to are those communities in Assam which have been living in ancient Assam i.e Kamrupa days and even before, which also has its roots in various regions of present day in India like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarkhand, Sikkim and proposed Gorkhaland and subsequently in British days the ex-Army Gorkha soldiers who were settled in Assam. “Today all their descendants in the geography of Assam here I am using the terminology ‘Gorkhas of Assam or Gorkhas’ certainly not the Nepali (Nepali nationals in India and Assam who migrated to a foreign land abiding a treaty) the reciprocal one.
Assam embarked on a decision of decentralization of power by granting community and tribe specific autonomous councils. Starting with the creation of Bodoland Autonomous Council in 1993, Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council and Missing Autonomous Council also presentday Tiwa Autonomous Council formerly Lalung (Tiwa) Autonomous Council in 1995, Deuri Autonomous Council, Sonowal Kachari Autonomous Council and Thengal Kachari Autonomous Council were created in 2005ahead of Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s second term. However Karbianglong the largest hills district of Assam was given territorial autonomy long back.
When eight communities of Assam got its constitutional protection and development funds from the Union Government in the form of Autonomous Council the indigenous Gorkha settlers of Assam to decided to demand constitutional identity and all round development and fundamental safeguarding at the historic Tezpur Silver Jubilee conference (on 25-28th Dec 2002) of the apex students organization of Gorkhas the All Assam Gorkha Students Union (AAGSU) by demanding Special Protected Class in Assam by forming Special Protected Class Demand Committee (SPCDC). Later on consultation with AASU and other indegenious students’ union AAGSU passing a resolution came to a decision and demanded Gorkha Autonomous Council within the geography of Assam strictly on satellite basis thereby forming a demand committee naming itGorkha Autonomous Council Demand Committee(GACDC) its founder supremo as Harkha Bahadur Chetri- the former three termed students’ union President. Then AAGSU leaders Harkha Bahadur Chetri , Bhaskar Dahal, Dillu Sarmah, Dil Bahadur Limboo, Birendra Subba, Purna Chetri, Padum Baraily, Bhim Bahadur Rai, Krishna Rai, Uday Singh Limboo, Purushattam Subba, Krishan Newar, Madahab Karki, Dirgha Tamag , Rajen Thakuri and others played a vital role in campaigning for the cause of Gorkha Autonomous Council.
The issue of Autonomy for the plain people started of Brahmaputra valley more particularly for the Gorkhas has undoubtly been one of the most contentious for political leadership of Assam and also for the civil society as while resolving such issues in earlier Assam witnessed lot of violence and bloodshed over the past few years. The political and identity consciousness of the Gorkhas in Assam has been only possible as the present day students leaders involved young educated, energetic and dynamic youths in leadership leaving aside as advisors to school teachers, semi govt. employees. The emergence of Gorkhas in this field is the credit of AAGSU and its workers. Lot of research and inquisitiveness for security and identity and emergence of youthful exuberance amongst the Gorkhas and rising spirit finally culminated in a popular movement for Gorkha Autonomous Council. Each Gorkha of Assam today dreams of Gorkha Accord signed with AAGSU by the state government leading to the formation of Gorkha Autonomous Council. Back to the historic Assam Agitation or the Assam Andolan under the leadership of All Assam Students’ Union(AASU) –the Gorkhas had also participated but at that time even the many of us were tortured in a movement to drive out the illegal Bangladeshis and foreigners. Since then the Gorkha students’ politics got glorifications as scores of people supported the cause of then All Assam Nepali Students’ Union (AANSU) as since 1976 to 2002 the now AAGSU was AANSU then. After shedding the critical Nepali identity conscious Gorkhas in Assam have been considered as main stream Assamese. It is notable to mention that AAGSU is one of the convenor of the Peoples Committee for Peace Initiative in Assam (PCPIA) an organization of as many as 42 democratic organizations and students’ union. GACDC spokesman and author of well researched book “Hami Gorkha Hami Bharatiya” Purna Chetri's article “Conspiracy to term Indian Gorkhas as Nepalis nationals in India” published in Balidan Divas souvenir and compiled in his book “Gorkha Chintan” tells how Gorkhas were subjected to indecent and unworthy behaviour by the administration. However the scenario has changed now and Gorkhas too are emerging and now fighting for themselves. They have fought among themselves for various reasons best known to them for a longtime but today they stand as one. Interestingly the transformation to Gorkha and thereby immediately demanding Gorkha Autonomous Council invited lot of criticism from so called Nepali intellectuals but other intellectuals of Assam and civil society supported the genuine demand citing reasons that the demand has to however cover only genuine Gorkhas of Assam but not legal foreigners Nepalis the reciprocal one. All 42 organisation of PCPIA has moral support for formation of Gorkha Autonomous Council in Assam while 27 has given written assurances. The major Opposition political party of Assam Legislative Assembly Asom Gana Parishad(AGP) had incorporated the formation of GAC in their election manifesto in 2005 and gave assurance in written to AAGSU and GACDC.
Gorkha Autonomous Council movement
AAGSU had two round of bilateral talk till now with the Chief Minister of Assam Tarun Gogoi and Chief Secretary to CM Assam Prafulla Chandra Sharma and have come to a decision of accepting the proposed Gorkha Development Council (GDC) along with six other communities of Assam as of now but strictly not in lieu of Gorkha Autonomous Council. The announcement of providing GDC to Gorkhas came in Digboi conference of Assam Gorkha Sanmellan by CM Gogoi where he attended as Chief Guest. It is expected that the GDC will be formed after the General Elections. Sources in the Assam Government say that the process is on and it would be completed in next monsoon Assembly session. Since then the activities of AAGSU has been affected as they are issueless now but however they have participated in all aspects of a composite Assamese society which is gaining momentum.
The 12th binnenial conference of 32 years youth AAGSU at Duliajaan OIL field in Dibrugarh on 21,22and 23rd December 2008 has voted and elected young brigade of leaders a bachelor President Dil Bahadur Limboo and Vice President Birendra Subba, Publicity Secy Digambar Chetri and others with few seniors to lead the movement. AAGSU by far has been the voice of Gorkhas from Sadiya to Dhuburi in the geography of Assam. Lastly let me mention that the demand of Gorkha Autonomous Council(GAC) in Assam noway harms or affects the demand of proposed Gorkhaland in West Bengal. Definitely there are such provisions if not the demand would have been by far rejected by now by the Ministry concerned. Constitution analyst, senior journalists, intellectuals and blogging friends will have to comment on it and suggest AAGSU, GACDC in Assam and GJJM in Darjeeling and Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh (BGP) in New Delhi. Even Bimal Gurung, H B Chetri and Dil Bahadur Limboo and C K Shrestha should hold discussion in this matter with experts and among themselves as well. The good news from the centre is that the proposed Gorkha Development Council (GDC) has been moved to 13th Finanace Commission as communicated to AAGSU central leadership by the Assam state cabinet. The breakaway faction of then AANSU had expressed its utmost desire to declare unification at the 32ndDiphu annual convention and Special GACDC Convention on 16th, 17th and 18th January 2008 however the proposed program was cancelled due to unavoidable security circumstances in Karbianglong. The unconstitutionally breakaway faction of the All Assam Gorkha Students' Union (AAGSU)-the apex Gorkha students' organisation of Assam AANSU in its abbreviated form All Assam Nepali Students' Union (AANSU) on 15th March 2009 merged into former unconditionally. It was a red letter day for the Gorkha students community of Assam at the Phanidhar Dutta Memorial Seminar Hall Gauhati University as the Special Joint AAGSU-AANSU unification Steering committee declared All Assam Nepali Students' Union (AANSU) merger into All Assam Gorkha Students' Union (AAGSU) unconditionally. AAGSU-AANSU Unification Declaration drafting committee team lead by Deepak Niroula on behalf of AANSU and Harkha Bahadur Chetri on behalf of AAGSU lead the AAGSU President Dil Bahadur Limboo and former AANSU President Kishor Upadhyay to shake hands and exchanged greetings. The unification has further strengthened the Gorkha Autonomous Council movement and now AAGSU is empowered to determine the destiny of Gorkhas.
The writer Nanda Kirati Dewan is Principal Correspondent; Assam Times, North East News Bureau; Darjeeling Times and Photojournalist/Reporter/News Editor with UB Photos. He also has been voted as TOP 10 Gorkhali of Assam by “Saparivar” magazine and is an active executive member of AAGSU. Mr. Dewan can be contacted at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and at +919864077700 (M)