After the declaration of Telangana as a separate state, the movement for Gorkhaland has intensified. The decision on Telangana is not the result of the self-will of the government at the Centre, but its political course of action. The region has 14 parliamentary seats and in the alliance-dependent government, the figure matters much. But one cannot say the same about Gorkhaland as it has only one parliamentary seat. What will be the fate of the Gorkhaland movement is a separate issue, but we must speak about their rights to self-determination and their identity in the country, from which they have been barred till now.
It is also a fact that the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is a part of India only because of the Gorkhas, as Britishers exchanged the island in lieu of four battalions of the Gorkha Regiment. The Gorkhas paid a high price to get the tag of being part of the newly-independent India. But did the warrior clan of Nepalese-origin get their due recognition within Indian history? That is the question, which CS Thapa has tried to answer in his book Gorkha: In Search of Identity. The writer, who also belongs to the Gorkha community, is from the fifth generation of a family which is carrying forward the legacy of serving in the Indian Army.
The crisis of Gorkha identity arises from being a minority in almost all the Himalayan states. Can the crisis of identity facing the Gorkha community be solved by the formation of the state of Gorkhaland? It may not, but it will certainly help in giving the community a sense to demand their legitimate place in the Indian society and polity and not just remain proud of their loyalty and allegiance to the sovereigns of different nations.
The Gorkhas have always given the nation a reason for military confidence. They have won five wars for us and participated in several internal operations to make the Indian nation secure. Unfortunately, the government for all these years has resolutely followed the policy of not seeing beyond the Khukhri and Topi to really look into the hearth of a Gorkha home. Among other grievances, these are the delicate issues which have been forcefully put forth by the author in this book.
Unfortunately in India, as also in other democracies of the world, the numerical strength of a community, which can easily be converted into a vote bank, is the most important factor for the government arriving at a decision about them. However, the beauty of Indian democracy is that there is also scope for forceful debate and argument. There is possibility for the power of word as against the power of the numbers. Gorkha: In Search of Identity will go a long way in providing that power of word, the voice of conviction to the community, which so far has been treated by the government no better than the trophies in the dining halls of various military units.
According to the book, although the Gorkhas originally belonged to Nepal, their identity has blossomed outside the confines of the place of their birth. In India, it has acquired the hue of a community demanding a state; in Britain, the Gorkhas have acquired citizenship rights. Besides this, the Gorkhas also serve in large numbers in Brunei, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, United States of America, France, Germany, United Kingdom and of late the veterans of Indain Army are serving in large numbers by being a part of the second tier in the three-tier defence system put in place in Afghanistan.
The writer says that the book carries information collected over 25 years. It all started out of curiosity to find out about the people from whom he got his identity. According to anthropologist Mary Des Chene, Gorkhas have been sold and bartered and they have been the coin of international diplomacy at key moments in the Nepalese history. If the Nepalese rupee is not convertible currency, Nepalese soldiers have long been a valued commodity.
The contribution of the Gorkhas to international commitments have been stunning yet today Nepal is treated as a third rate power, and the Indian Gorkha who is now serving in Afghanistan with American contractors hardly gets his due.
The book all through maintains a racy narrative and opens new vistas of information for the readers. As mentioned in the foreword to the book, it has the ability to convert the reader into a supporter of the Gorkha cause. The book firmly manages to establish the justification for the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland. It’s a must read for everybody and anybody who wants to have a peep into the sociocultural practices of these extraordinary people.