The state of West Bengal may not care for the Darjeeling hills in spite of calling it an integral part of the State, but the same can be said for the government in the Centre too. The Darjeeling hills and its people have gone through a rough time for a long time now.
The latest protests ban in 2017 which resulted in a complete shut down in the hills for 107 days had uncovered one very integral thing about people from Darjeeling, said DM Pradhan, father of a martyr who lives in Kalimpong. Pradhan lost his 17-year-old daughter in police firing on 27 July 1986.
Gorkhaland has been a word that any Indian Nepali can relate to. There has been a few uprising, one that can be dated as early as in the 1980s, spearheaded by Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) leader Subash Ghising that led the region blooded with 1200 people dead and later when his trusted aid Bimal Gurung formed his own hill party Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) in 2007.
I was covering the 2017 protest in Darjeeling hills, which resulted in one of the longest lockdowns that the hills had witnessed. I stayed there for close to a month. During this period I met many people affected by the protest of that year and also conversed with many families who had lost their dear ones in the 80’s movement. I read somewhere that the demand is as old as 100 years old but in reality, nothing had been achieved so far except giving the people of the hills the autonomous council which administered the Darjeeling hills for 23 years.
I realised that people in the hills needed respite from the protest because it affected their daily lives and the economy of the district, but somewhere the leaders have been capitalising on the issue of Statehood demand. This resulting work, an ongoing multimedia project, throws light on the emotions of the people from the hills, their demand of a Statehood, which was mostly anchored to their emotions and so little has been heard by people outside the Himalayan hill region.