ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Gorkhas, Adivasis and Others in North Bengal

The demands for a separate state/autonomy by different ethnic groups have kept the people of north Bengal in a state of uncertainty. Lack of developmental initiatives in the region has created a sense of deprivation and discontent, and this has been used by different ethnic groups to demand separate region(s) on the basis of each group's identity.

North Bengal, comprising the districts of Cooch Behar, Jalpai­guri, Darjeeling, Uttar Dinajpur, Dakshin Dinajpur and Maldah, is predominantly rural and the districts of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri are characterised by a higher proportion of a scheduled caste and scheduled tribe population. In terms of infrastructure, civic amenities and human development indicators, north Bengal lags behind most of the other parts of West Bengal. Neglect of development of the region by successive governments is one of the major contributory factors behind discontent in the region.

What is important to note is that north Bengal is the home of different ethnic groups for over a long period as a result of colonial rule, growth of the tea industry and Partition in 1947. Different ethnic groups like the Rajbansis, Koches, Gorkhas and adivasis at different junctures resorted to movements for either statehood or autonomy, claiming to p­rotect the interests of their respective e­thnic groups. North Bengal is again witnessing a series of movements by the supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad (ABAVP), Kamtapur People’s Party and others. At the centre of the present crisis is the claim made by the GJM for the inclusion of the Dooars and Terai areas along with the Darjeeling hills in the proposed Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA). The demand for statehood and autonomy has resulted in rivalry among various ethnic groups, violent confrontations and disruption to normal life. To understand the present tensions in the region it would be pertinent to understand the roots of the crisis.

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