Ethnic Problems and Movements for Autonomy in Darjeeling
The complexities of the ethnic problems were embedded in the demands and the resultant movements for autonomy which came to the surface from time to time in the district of Darjeeling in West Bengal. The trajectory of this interlinkage can be comprehensively analysed only if a systematic explication of the different historical stages of the whole process is undertaken. We will try to envisage such an explication in this paper.
Nestled as it were in the Singalila range of the eastern Himalayas, the territory of Darjeeling historically belonged to Sikkim and Bhutan. From the beginning of the 19th century the English East India Company began to take active interests in Darjeeling, and the whole territory came under the British occupation in three phases during the thirty years from 1835 to 1865. During the first phase, in 1835, by a deed of grant, the Raja of Sikkim ceded to the British rulers a portion of the Sikkim hills which covered the areas south of the Great Rangit river, east of the Balasan, Kahel and Little Rangit rivers and west of the Rangnu and Mahananda rivers. The second phase followed a war with Sikkim which resulted in the annexation of Sikkim 'Morang' or Terai' at the foot hills as well as a portion of the Sikkim hills which was bounded by the Rammam river on the north, by the Great Rangit and the Tista rivers on the east, and by the Nepal frontier on the west. This area had always been under Sikkim, excepting the Morang or Terai in the foot hills which was for a time (1788-1816) conquered by Nepal. However, following the East India Company's victorious war with Nepal, this tract was ceded through the Treaty of Segauli (1816) to the British rulers who, in turn, temporarily returned it to the Raja of Sikkim by the Treaty of Titaliya (1817). As
* Professor and Head, Sociological Research Unit, Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta.
Social Scientist, Vol. 27, Nos. 11 - 12, Nov. - Dec. 1999