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

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'Demerger' and Statehood

Similarities between Gorkhaland and Telangana

The Darjeeling Hills and surrounding areas were merged with West Bengal in 1954. This article argues that the formation of Telangana opens the door for accepting the century-old demand of the Indian Gorkhas for a separate homeland. It also argues against the use of the term separatism to describe the demand of the Indian Gorkhas and instead suggest the terms "merger" and "demerger." Darjeeling, whose merger with West Bengal was, at best, a post-independence administrative exigency, could now be demerged, much like Telangana from Andhra Pradesh.

Darjeeling District is in the northernmost part of West Bengal, bounded on the north by Sikkim, Bhutan on the east and Nepal on the west (Dewan 1991: 29). Prior to its acquisition by the English East India Company in 1835, Darjeeling was a part of Sikkim. For a brief period before that, it was a part of Nepal. Before 1816, the whole of the territory known as British Sikkim belonged to Nepal, which had conquered it and annexed it from Sikkim. On 4 March 1816, it was ceded to the East India Company. The treaty of Segauli enjoined Nepal to ceding Darjeeling to the East India Company.

The company then handed the area over to the Raja of Sikkim through a treaty signed at Titalya in 1817 (Dozey 1922: 2). On 10 February 1817, the British restored Darjeeling to the Sikkimese. However, on 1 February 1835, the area was transferred by a deed of grant to the East India Company (Sen 1989: 16–17). The transferred land included the hill lands east of the Mechi and part of the terai between the Mechi and the Teesta.1 Henceforth, the East India Company assumed a position of paramount importance in Sikkim; the company’s arbitration was to be sought in any dispute between Sikkim and her neighbouring states (Chakraborty 2008).

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