Saturday, May 5, 2012

I am not too convinced whether I am doing the right thing by writing this piece. My mind and my heart are in conflict over this issue. My heart wants me to go ahead writing while my mind is screaming that I stop here and now. But then Palmistry says that if the head line and the heart line are merged at their origin on any hand then the heart always dominates the head, and in my palm, these two are very much one at their origin hence I have always followed my heart. Here too I will, not just because my heart wants it but also because I genuinely feel this is a topic that deserves urgent attention of our society.
The reasons behind my mind advocating restrain are many. First and foremost this matter is sub-judice. From Asansol to Kolkata to Kalimpong, this matter is being rebounded from one court to the other. The Second reason my mind is advising restrain is because of the fact that the women’s lib brigade may interpret this article in a way I did not mean to write. Hell has no fury like a woman scorned.. I sure don’t want any “panga” with them. The third reason of course is because of the fact that this matter is too personal for me and in my sixteen years of writing I have by rule avoided the temptation to write on personal subjects. But then what makes me continue writing is the fact that what is personal to me today may affect you tomorrow. Since I have always written on subjects that affect you, its best that I write today than writing after you have already fallen victim to it.
The subject that I am writing on is Section 498(A) of the Indian Penal Code or rather the misuse of this Section by a handful of unscrupulous people. Dowry has been probably the biggest social ill in the Indian Society for long. Countless women in India have become victim of this social woe. A stringent law was required to put an end to this and the law makers of our country did a wonderful job by coming up with this piece of legislation which looked severe enough to deter greed amongst dowry seekers. Women across the country felt safer and more confident entering the institution called marriage. Thousands of lives and lakhs of marriages were saved.

But sadly even before the euphoria over the introduction of this seemingly wonderful law could die down, the devil started baring its fangs. What looked like the angel turned out to become a devil in the hands of people driven by greed and ulterior motives. What was envisaged by the law makers to protect victims of the monster called Dowry is increasing seeming like the sword of Damocles over the families seeking brides in this country of ours.

Why? Well simply because Section 498A is the most vicious weapon in the hands of those who decide to be vindictive. Under the Dowry Prohibition Act, the wife, relative of the victim or a welfare organisation could lodge a complaint against the husband and his family. This could put the family behind bars for 15 days. The burden of proving his innocence is on the accused. In an ego-shattering exercise, “harassed husbands” are out “demanding justice”. Their main enemy is not the wife, not her greedy parents or conniving relatives. It is the legally recognized, constitutionally valid “monster” called Section 498A, IPC. No investigation or warrant is needed before arrest and start of proceedings since the crime u/s 498A is cognizable and there is no punishment if the complaint is proved false - two major reasons why 498A is used as a pressure-tactic.

498A is a handy tool for shady practices, men argue. Among them are [1] Pre-marital affairs. Marry the guy of parents’ choice, dissolve the marriage, collect funds and marry the old flame. [2] Extra marital relationship. [3] Extortion, serially, one marriage after another. [4] To alienate husband from his responsibilities toward his old and dependent parents [5] To obtain a favourable divorce settlement [6] To wrest child custody from the husband.

The matter has become such that even the Courts in India are now calling it legal terrorism and calling for reforms in the Act. The reasons could broadly be stated as under.

1 It is handled under the Criminal law for marriage related matters and not under Civil Laws.

2 Non-bailable warrant does not require proof before arrest. No investigation necessary. This exposes the vulnerability of the accused taking away their basic human rights.

3 Even those who were not part of the 'day-to-day' family life could be named and arrested on one complaint, which can also include pregnant women and children.

4 Accused is presumed guilty until proven innocent. No where in the world it is so.

5 Gifts are sometimes misunderstood as dowry. Who decides that the gift exchanged were 'gifts or dowry'?

6 It is non-compoundable which means that the complaint can’t be taken back that hinders any scope of reconciliation between the couple.

7 After a man is accused of 498A, he will not take his wife back later.

8 Old parents who lived with dignity and respect have to live with the stigma of harassing their daughter-in-law for the rest of their lives.

9 Groom’s relatives don’t find a suitable bride after they are accused under 498A

10 Most of the cases are filed because the husband refuses to throw his parents out of the house at the wife’s demands.

11 Husband’s job is at risk when he is accused under 498A who could even be the only breadwinner of the family.

12 The health of the old parents dangerously deteriorates after they are arrested in a 498A case.

13 Some even commit suicide for not able to withstand the depression and frustration of been falsely accused.

14 Old parents after 498a case become very apprehensive and advice their son not to marry again.

15 The family ends up paying a very high price to settle the case, the money that was saved for the parent’s health.

16 Most often the lawyers tend to take the family for a ride to extract as much money as possible.

17 The possibility of a woman over-reacting on a trivial matter in the family is never considered as a reason of complaint.

18 A woman tries to get divorce proceedings faster by filing a 498a case even if no dowry was demanded.

19 The witnesses (neighbors) tend to support the woman for not getting into a police case. They even fear of been accused by the woman if they don’t support the woman.

20 Some women marries an NRI and slaps a 498A case only to extort large sum of money

21 Even after knowing that the complaint can be false, police tend to support the woman and asks the man to settle the case with a financial compensation.

22 The case can easily linger in the court for years and only the groom’s family has to pay the price.

23 498A case can be filed even after the divorce, which only means that the accuser wants to demand money legally apart from maintenance.

24 There is no prohibition clause in the 498A law that would stop women to misuse it.

25 It is nearly impossible to file a case of defamation on the accuser because the police will not register the case and it would be hard to prove it.

Now, before anyone accuses me of being biased against this Section of the IPC let me quickly say that I have always believed that this was one of the best legislation enacted against abuse against women in India. Dowry had for long been the bane of our society. Those demanding it surely need to be behind bars for the rest of their lives. Nothing can justify or defend their actions. For me asking for Dowry and Sati are the two most repulsing features that the Hindu Society of yesteryears had. I support the most severe punishment available under our laws for perpetuators of these crimes but the law needs to have checks and balances so that only the guilt are punished while the innocent are weeded out.

And now before I conclude I need to share the reason why this Editorial is about Section 498(A) and its abuses. The reason being that I myself have been a victim of this.. I have spent seven days in Jail in the mosquito infested Correctional Center in Asansol just because a relative accused me and my family of having demanded dowry.


HITLER DIDI-the U turn queen

I am not too big a fan of the idiot box-sitting long hours opposite a TV, shedding tears over the idiotic saas-bhahu humbug is just not my idea of entertainment. But yes, once in a while I do randomly flip through channels to see if there is something interesting on air. But more than often, the only show that I find worth watching after flipping through 117 channels available on my Tata Sky is WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). I kind of love watching the funny looking over sized men (Being the Goody-goody types, I hurriedly change channels whenever the Divas, women wrestlers, come on screen) who act like spoilt kids trying to make the audience laugh at a school concert. Yes I know, its all idiotic but it does come from a box aptly named the idiot box.

A few days back while I was flipping through channels in between a contest featuring John Cena and Kane (it was supposed to be an ambulance match where the looser had to be packed off into the back of an ambulance), the title of a daily serial caught my eye which made me realize that it would be the best title for this particular article that I had been thinking of writing then. The title of that serial was “Hitler Didi”
Somehow this title is apt for this article when you consider this piece is being based on the impulsive, explosive, fiery and extremely unpredictable Chief Minister of West Bengal, Miss Mamata Banerjee.
Ever since she began her political career as the angry young women of Bengal politics, as the leader of the youth congress, she has been more popularly known as “Didi” – now that she is the boss of this beleaguered state, power seems to have gone to her head and now she appears to behave more like Hitler than beloved Didi she earlier was.
Banerjee, the much loved Didi before becoming the chief minister is now just the opposite of what she was earlier. Her words and actions today, as the Chief Minister seems to be just the opposite of what they were before she was crowned the empress of Bengal. The U – turn that she has taken have been of epic proportions. The same Miss Banerjee while in the  opposition had spear headed many a agitations leading to general strikes ( most of which ended up violent, leading to deaths and injuries) but now with her on the hot seat the same Miss Banerjee is now an advocate against bandhs, sermonizing that they do more bad than good. This changed stance may win her some brownie points with the Corporate World but this sudden change has certainly not gone unnoticed by the General Public and the Press. It shows her principles as being flexible hence rendering her reliability as suspect.  Threatening Government servicemen with “ break in service” in case of being on leave on the day the Left trade unions called a strike on 28th of February certainly has not gone down well with the state government employees, hundreds of whom  had to rent hotel rooms or arrange for other accommodation just to be present in “office” during the strike. This was Didi being considerate towards her beloved brothers and sisters.

Didi’s U-turn is most signified by the killing spree by her men in the main land of Bengal. In the years that have gone by she had sold herself as a crusader against political killing or political vendetta. Having borne the brunt of the Left governments “goondagiri” in the last two decades, it was but expected that ‘Didi’ would show a more humane face- but she, it appears, is hell bent on giving it back harder than she had received.
The broad day light killing of former left front MLA Pradip Tah and his colleague, Gopal Gayer, at Dewandighi in Burdrwan District is a case to point. The two leaders, both in their late sixties, were beaten to death, while leading a protest rally, right in the center of the town. Thousand were witness to this brutal slaying.  Chotan Chakraborthy, Patitpaban Tah, Suji Tah and Gopal Goswami were seen by half the town as well as the media as being the perpetuators of this mindless killing. And everyone in the area knows them to be Didi’s men. Rather than condemning this ghastly act, the public was blamed for the same. ”The public had taken its revenge on the  34 years of misrule by the Left” was the verdict….. Taking age into consideration- Mamata Banerjee was not a “Didi” to these two senior citizens were were beaten to death but a “baini”- Didi or Baini whatever- she broke all those vows that an Indian sister takes to protect her brothers.
Lets forget about her brothers and come to her sisters- the women folk of West Bengal- The string of rape cases in her home state and her reactions to them haven’t made her too popular either. By branding most rape cases has been fabricated “to tarnish the image of the TMC led government”, her personal image is what is being tarnished. In one case Didi even went on to accuse a rape victim of fabricating the story on the behalf of her husband  whom she alleged was a CPM supporter. The fact is that the victim is actually a widow who lost her husband 11 years back…can anyone beat this!!!! And guess what? TMC had trumpeted the spectacular electoral victory of “Didi” in West Bengal as being a victory for all the women in the state. Such irresponsible statements from her have been several but Himalayan Times cannot afford another two pages to accommodate all of them here.
Lets come closer home now- mamatadi had with so much fan fare proclaimed that Darjeeling would be transferred into Switzerland.. noble intentions, one would be tempted to call this proclamation of hers. Sadly despite ten months elapsing since her grand announcement, Darjeeling is sliding further towards becoming another Congo or Somalia or Ethiopia, rather than transforming itself into Switzerland. This very column, ten months back, had asked if she had the resources, will and intentions to transform Darjeeling into Switzerland. I guess the pitiful condition of the NH55, filth and stench of Darjeeling town, the acute traffic problems, the crumbling tourists infrastructure, to name a few, answers the questions that this column had asked. Forget Switzerland- Darjeeling would be lucky if it continues breathing…

Her U turns have been many- the Maoist issue, the Railways, the FDI in retail, her dealing with Congress (I), her policy on public loans taken by the sate, her attitude towards investors into the state, the land  acquisition issues, on the GTA polls- all have experienced her yo-yo like swing in her policies. Bengal can only just hope that the yo-yo doesn’t snap into two.
Unfortunately, despite what the GJM may want us to believe, Darjeeling hills, (GTA or no GTA) is as much a part of this very  West Bengalas Midnapur or Purulia or Bakhura, which Hitler Didi treat as her Nazi-dom. So much for “maa” “mati” and the poor maanus” of West Bengal.
This definitely was not the “poriborthan” (change) the people of west Bengal had hoped for- we in Darjeeling can only just say- “SAME HERE TOO” but saying further would be injurious to my health and whatever little property I have, so let me withdraw my hand from this dangerous snake pit before its too late.          

                            BUT WHO ULTIMATELY IS THE LOSER???

Of the scores of essays I have read on this subject, the one written by Ted Gurr, titled    “People Verses States, Minorities at risk in the New Century,” stands out as an exceptional piece of writing, not just from the view point of the meticulous research put in it but more so for his extremely rational thinking and prospective.
 Of course the essay is pretty exhaustive and packed with data and analysis which a casual reader may find too heavy to digest but one point that he makes in this presentation is that “Economic inequality is one of the prime reasons for any separatist movement, the world over.” He observes that Groups which are subjected to economical discrimination or deprivation are more likely to launch a movement for separation from the parent state, than groups which enjoy economical parity.

His observations hold much truth in the cause of the Gorkha community’s quest to separate from Bengal. Years of neglect and economic disparity has led the situation to be what it is today. The crumbling tourist infrastructure, the deplorable condition of our roads, the failing Health Care System, the tight water situation are enough proof of the economic neglect and apathy that the successive State Governments have dished out to the Darjeeling Hills. The resentment of the residents of the Darjeeling Hills was manifested by the two agitations, one led by Mrs. Subhas Ghesing and the current under the leadership of Mr. Bimal Gurung, that succeeded in a partial way to loosen the purse strings that the State and Central Government were holding on to ever so tightly. Whether or not the two agitations actually managed to provide any solace to the masses is matter for debate but what is without any iota of doubt is that fact that in the last 25 years since Subhas Ghesing launched the first Gorkhaland movement in 1986, the inflow of Government funding into the Darjeeling Area has increased to what it was pre 1986.

With the hundreds of crores in Indian Currency that were pumped into the Darjeeling District, the economic expectations of the people of the Darjeeling Hills too increased. The economic health seemed to be on the rise- the Tourism Industry finally looked to revive itself, so did the Tea Industry. The Tourist started to flock back into the Queen of Hills even if just to be confronted a Darjeeling which was just a mere shadow of its glorious past. But yes, overall the scenario was getting better. Hopes of the long deprived people of the Darjeeling Hills was being revived and dreams of better days flashed in the minds of the Hills residents.  
But dreams are just that- dreams…. especially if the dream maker are as inapt as like ours. They led us to believe that the next dream would be the most beautiful we have ever seen but when the eyes closed and the dreams started, its no better than the trailer of a ‘C’ grade Bollywood sizzler. It always started with David taking on Goliath- daring him, defying him, challenging him and mocking him but the dream inevitably ended each time with David making a meek surrender and with David not making good any of his earlier bravado.

All the dreams did was that the public lost valuable man hours and the economy of the Hills took a further beating. By making the Dooars the latest issue and an area of conflict, another tourist season has taken a beating. The tourism industries dream of finally doing some good business this season ended up in flames – literally like the houses and cars in Bagrakote. Booking in hotels and resorts across the Hills saw en-mass cancellations while those tourist who were already enjoying their holidays here, had to make a sudden dash for Siliguri due to the flash Highway strikes called by the GJMM and its supporting parties in the Dooars and Terai. Our leadership somehow behaves a bit like Kalidas-chopping off the very branch atop which they have poised his bottom-most asset-          we cannot afford to kill the golden goose which in our case is Tourism. By resorting to wild cat strikes we are doing more harm than good in the long run. Separate State or not, we still will require Tourism to help sustain the Hill economy. The Hills can ill afford to continue bleeding its main source of economy and yet hope to continue existing especially since now even GTA is looking like a dream gone bad.

The Hills can ill afford any further disruptions, especially during tourist seasons. The once bustling hill economy cannot further withstand the economical blow that Bandhas tend to deliver. The recent blockading of the National Highways by Bandh supporters delivered a crippling blow to the hospitality industry in the Hills. Tourists who had once again started flocking the Darjeeling Hills sped back to the safe confines of their hotel rooms in Siliguri preferring to spend the rest of their holidays there rather than risk being stranded. The bottom line is- who ultimately ends up on their bare backs, looking the joker in the eyes of the world- We-!!!

Our loss is Siliguri’s gain- their hotels run chock-a block, their restaurants are packed all day, their transporters laugh their way to the bank- while we in the Hills can do nothing but wait another season. Why just the Tourism Industry, the day is not far when Siliguri will even our Education Industry. With dozens of Premier Schools now being opened in Siliguri, the day is not too far off when outstation students would prefer to go to the Schools of Siliguri rather than venturing into the uncertain conditions in the Hills. This trend has already started and is growing in an alarming rate. Earlier, students from the Dooars and the North Bengal region formed a large chunk of outstation students community in the Darjeeling Hills. This is not the case any more. They prefer to remain in the safer and more stable conditions of the Siliguri Schools rather than climbing up to the Hills. If the Political instability continues, the Education Industry which provided economic solace to thousands to people in the Hills will soon start facing problems.

The fact is that the GJM leadership has once again been charmed into a hole. The earlier Left Front Government bullied and pushed the GJM into a corner and forced it into accepting the GTA while the present TMC Government courted the GJM leadership like a lover would but ultimately charmed and cajoled them into the same hole that the Left Front government had dug. The strategy of both the LF and TMC government are the same-not allowing the GJM even a toe hold in the Dooars. The earlier Buddhadev Bhattacharya led government precipitated Sibchu, the current Mamta Banerjee led government created Babrakotte. Only the names have changed though the motive has been the same. The strategy of the State Government, both past and present, remain the same. Not allowing the GJM and its allies to hold even a simple public meeting in the Dooars smacks of double standards on the part of the administration. Yet the GJM leadership swears by Mamtas mamta for the Hills.  I just hope that the GJM leadership realizes that their credibility and their “izzat” is our “izzat” and each time they back off or loss credibility-the entire Hills become the laughing stock.

Frankly, despite what may be politically correct to say, the fact is that the State Government by no means will concede to the GJM demand for the inclusion of 199 mouzas each of Dooars and Terai. Justice Shymal Sen, may or may not table his reports in June, but whenever he does, it is sure to set either the Hills or Dooars on fire. The leadership of both the camps appear to stand rigid on their ‘Hum eek inch nahi chorenge” rhetoric hence a stand off is but expected whenever the good Justice tables his report.

It is high time now that the leadership of both sides of the political divide exhibit some statesman like quality which will go a long way in lifting this part of the world from the social, political and financial doldrums it presently is in. The mainland of Bengal does not care a dime whether or not our Tourism Industry survives or our Education Industry sustains itself. In fact they probably would be happy if it does not for the simple fact that if tourism fails here Digha and the few other places of tourist interest in mainland Bengal gains. Likewise if the Education Industry in the Hills takes a hit, Schools and Higher Education Institutes in places like Siliguri and Durgapur stand to gain. After all everyone needs a holiday and everyone needs an education. The fact is that the sights we provide for the tourists or the education we provide for the students are indispensable. If the Darjeeling Hills cannot provide its guest a safe and relaxed holiday or if it cannot give its students the requisite environment to students, then they will move on..

So, who ultimately loses????                           

Wednesday, June 15, 2011



Patting one’s own back, that too in print, isn’t too cleaver thing to do, but then I think for once I can gloat over the fact that I got this one spot on.. I had written just after the Assembly Elections {(Big B, Big Brother & the Big Fight), Himalayan Mirror and www.}, that the fate of the GNLF would be decided by its performance in the elections.
My analysis was that if GNLF polled less than 5% of the total votes, its leadership would need no coxing to rush back to the safe confines of their newly acquired flats in Siliguri without the GJM forcing them too (like it happened in Kalimpong and Darjeeling) and if they polled 5% to 15% of he votes, then there would be a conflict (like it happened in Kurseong) and if they polled anything above 15% of the votes, they would stay put in the Hills. To each of the above scenarios, was attached “hopes” of a certain section of the Hill Society- while the GJM had “hoped” that the GNLF would secure less than 5% of the votes, thereby run away from the Hills on their own, the general public (we the common man) had “hoped” that they wouldn’t get between 5% to 15% so as not to suffer a fate akin to a tomato between a grinding stone.
The GNLF of course had “hoped” to secure more than 15% of the votes which would have probably given their hopes of staying back in the Hills, some amount of credible backing. But then, hopes count for nothing.. No future is based on hope alone- the future is always a case of reaping what was sown in the past- and in the case of GNLF, being the gurus of modern day politics in the Darjeeling Hills, Gheshing and his men were the one who initiated the Politics of Violence, the Politics of banishing all opposition parties and their leadership and the Politics of hate. Hence it is but the law of nature that they now have to reap what they had earlier sown. Gheshing and him men brooked no opposition during their days. In the mid and late 1980’s how the CPM leadership and its supporters as well as all other opposition leaders were hounded out of the Darjeeling Hills ( If they were lucky enough to be alive), their houses razed to the ground and how their families were treated as virtual outcasts, is still vivid in the public memory. Since they themselves set these very loath able practices, they should be the last ones to complain now.
But then if they should be the last ones to complain, who should be the first ones to complain??? The answer is simple –you and me …….it is people like you and me , people who think of the society , people who can realize the future of next generation , people who want a stable, sound, well meaning and progressive Hill society, people who want their children to grow up to be the guardians of the future who should be the first ones to complains. The politics of hatred will take the Hills nowhere- rather the Hills of Darjeeling and its people will get sucked in further into this deadly whirl-pool of violence.
I remember, some of the fancy slogans I shouted during my days as a student leader during those troubled days of the late 1980’s. One of them said “Party bhanda jath thulo” (community is bigger than political party)……sadly, it appears this slogan was used only for its rhythmic value ……Its high time we discard this narrow thinking of ours on political lines and embrace a line of thinking which is more in tune with other progressive thinking communities. Why cannot we have the GJM, GNLF, ABGL, CPR(M) and all other hill parties on one platform fighting for one common goal till it is achieved?? Once the ultimate goal is achieved, all their parties can go back to their fighting best…..we promise to cheer them up everyday too…
We really have to learn from the Bengali Community…….Though I am so fan of Miss Mamta Banerjee, the new CM of West Bengal I have to say this for her. Her fight with the CPM was the most bitter of all political rivalries in modern India, yet she personally sent invitation’s to the CPM leadership for the swearing in ceremony, seated them in the front row and greeted them with folded hands. If the Bengalese were to carry out our primitive political practices, then Buddhedev and company would have been living in Orissa or Bihar by now……By this simple yet very shrewd act, Mamta has won the co-operation of the CPM leadership for at least a couple of months. I wonder why the political leadership on the Darjeeling hills cannot do these simple acts of courtesy even if just to show a united face to the world??
While on the subject of Mamta and her new government I guess I can take a quick detour from the main theme of this article and dedicated one paragraph to her and what I think her government has in store for us. Well I told you before I am no fan of hers- so maybe my views on her and her party may sound a little biased. I have been following her political career for quite sometime now and if my assessment is correct, I get the feelings that she can do anything for power (which she did) and will do everything now to retain power (which I am sure she will do). Bengal till about four year back was one of the most peaceful states in the country. Now, we have Juglemahal, Nandigram, Singur, Rajahat, the Maoist, and a whole lot of other trouble spots …….. While one may be inclined the blame the Left Front government for all the chaos (which they are to an extent due to their mis-governance) the fact is all these spots have a “Trinamul” hand behind it. Mamta and her men actively instigated and fueled the uprising against the democratically elected government, and we all know that many of these revolts against the government were not actually merited. At Singur, thousands of jobs would have been created and it would have revolutionized Bengal. Who lost ultimately?? Bengal of course and its loss is now Gujarat’s pride…but then it brought Mamta to power in Bengal. And as far as her assertion of turning Darjeeling into Switzerland is concerned – well does Bengal have the money for that?? It hardly has money to pay its employees, and each year it is falling further into a debt trap- so forget about Switzerland we would be lucky if our state government employees keep receiving their salary. My assessment is that Bengal is heading for worse time and we in the Darjeeling Hills can brace ourselves to face the brunt of it as after all we are not the ones who voted Mamta into power and whether you like it or not –we , despite , being in Bengal are not actually Bengalese. It’s a sad situation but it’s the hard truth….
Ok lets come back to what this article is actually is all about – and it was the low level of politics we were discussing about. So what remedy do I suggest now– I have to suggest one because without coming out with one, this article will have a head but lack the tail which will make this article a monster. I definitely cannot suggest a change in the present leadership (and you know why) so the next best thing would be to make suggestion to those close to the leadership about the merits of presenting a united force to the world. We have to realize the fact that this fight of ours for separation is no longer just a political fight. It is now a matter of sentiments between the Bengali population and Gurkha population of West Bengal. They number about 7 corers while we numbered 16 lakhs – and they are united in their opinion and fight against a separate state while we still are quarrelling between ourselves like stupid kids. As it is the numbers are against us, 7 corers versus 16 lakhs, itself is a very unequal battle and if even within the 16 lakhs, there are divisions, the battle can never be won.
Its time we become a mature community – Once we attain maturity, I am sure the path to a separate state would become less thorny. Of course the Set-Up, (Interim- Set Up to the politically correct) it seems has been agreed upon and despite what people may say, I think it is a step in the right direction. It’s the best bet under present circumstances as complete separation from Bengal at the moment seems a pretty farfetched dream. Everyone needs to pass the first term and half-yearly examination before having a go at the final examination. The GJM leadership wants us to believe that the Interim Set-Up is our Half-yearly examination and we need to be successful in this before we can sit for the Final examinations, which in our case is a Separate State. Not believing them could turn out to be pretty hazardous hence let’s not disagree for the moment. No doubt political compulsions have dictated the GJM in accepting the current proposal but then for the people of Darjeeling this arrangement will no doubt bring hopes for peace and development.
Here again there is a catch – if the proposed Interim Council is run by people like the ones who ran Ghesing’s DGHC , then its back to square one. Hopefully the GJM leadership will realize that sustaining an agitation and running a Government are two completely different ball games and now they need a different set of people to come on to the forefront to run a administration which can take Darjeeling towards the final examination – But then, like I said earlier too, hopes and realities, don’t always match…. let’s hope better sense prevails this true…

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Burning Hills

By Sandip C. Jain
Even as I write this piece, I am under tremendous pressure from my family, friends and well wishers not to do so. .. They fear I may end up like Madan Tamang…. But my conscience does not allow me to keep mum not just because I respected Madan Tamang the man, though not necessarily the politician, but more so because I believe that violence and assassinations should never be a part of a civilized society which all of in the Hills want to create.
Weeks after the brutal slaying of the ABGL leader I still am having sleepless nights for the fact that despite calling myself a journalist I still hadn’t written a single word on the biggest political assassination in the Hills, in all times. Of course some will argue that C.K.Pradhan’s murder in the broad day light in the streets of Kalimpong was probably bigger but that is their opinion. Considering the timing, considering the stature of the man and considering the brutality of the act, I think this one act of brutality is the darkest moment in the Political history of Darjeeling.
The motive of this article is not to speculate about who enacted this bloody drama, if I did then the worst fears of my friends and family will come true, sooner than later, but rather this article is aimed at trying to make sense of the all that has been happening around us in the Hills in the last few weeks. I know it’s a big ask trying to analyze something as complex and ill logical as the present situation in the Hills but then an effort has to be made even if the effort actually leads nowhere.
First the Madan Tamang killing needs to be put into proper prospective- of course who actually killed him??? Who ordered the killing??? Why was he actually so brutally slain??? Was there a bigger motive behind his killing than which actually met the eye??? I guess no one will ever come to know the right answers to these questions which everyone seems to be asking in the Hills and elsewhere. Well actually, the truth will come out through the investigations that are taking place at the moment and in future but I doubt if this truth will actually ever be made public like the C.K.Pradhan slaying. The CID has already started its investigation, maybe the CBI will probe the affair too but my feeling is that all of it will be just another eye wash… another drain of public money and another “natak”. And even if they one day place their finds on the public domain, not many will be too inclined to believe what they have to say. Actually the general public has probably made its own opinion about the protagonists of this gruesome episode and this opinion will stick whatever the CID or CBI will want us to believe. But one thing is clear and is for sure and it’s the fact that Madan Tamang was one of the tallest and most dynamic political leaders the Hills of Darjeeling ever had. He had dedicated his public life for the people of Darjeeling and for their welfare. One cannot deny the fact that this man lacked nothing, he had the power, he had the influence, he had the aura and he had the money… in fact a lot of money, which he earned not due to his association with politics but despite it. An owner of Tea- gardens, several hotels and business interests in a lot of other fields, he was a man who did not need politics to make a fortune or earn fame and he was in politics because he genuinely was concerned about the innocent and gullible public of the Hills. His death will leave a vacuum which will be hard to fill up again. Of course he had his defects… but then who does not and they definitely were not so bad that he should have been butchered like a lamb right in the middle of Darjeeling town. His loss has done more harm than good to our quest for separation from Bengal.
The commotion that was sparked off on the day of his funeral is another focus of this article. I have not seen a weirder political occurrence than this in my life. The entire public of Darjeeling seemed to have turned against the GJM. The tearing down of posters, the slashing of all GJM Banners and the full throttle cry against the ghastly killing as well as its against the system that allowed this heinous crime to take place all combined to project a picture which suggested that the days of the GJM were numbered. It seemed that Darjeeling was ready for another political upheaval and the opponents of GJM found themselves rubbing their hands in glee. The massive waves of protests against Bimal Gurung and his party was something unfathomable and it seems that Madan Tamang’s death had done what he could not do all his life. With the BIG B camping in Kalimpong, debates took place in every sitting room and tea stall alike on whether this was the end of GJM, Bimal Gurung and the Statehood demand and those in favour seemed to be winning the debate.
Then in the very next day of the funeral, the tide seemed to have turned the opposite direction again… Gurung and his supporters entered Darjeeling in a convoy numbering more than a hundred cars, despite supporters of the opposite camp blocking his path and it was back to normal for GJM. Nothing seemed to have changed for it. On the contrary the rhetoric had become stronger and shriller and forgotten was the fact that the Hills should have been in mourning on the death of one of its most famous sons. It seemed that Bimal Gurung’s stars had favoured him again with no political leader of sufficient repute and goodwill being able to capitalize of the outpour of public outrage against him on Darjeeling.
Meanwhile, Gorkhaland is now Gorkha-Adhivasi Pradesh… Is this just another bargaining clip or a significant policy change remains to be seen. How and why are we trying to cajole/drag the Adhivasis into being a part of a proposed Gorkha State is something that baffles me no ends and I am sure it does all the readers of this magazine too. But I guess trying to get an answer to this may be treated as questioning the Almighty and may be injurious to my health so its best not to be too nosy about it.
Till a few months back I thought I could write without fear and without any apprehensions but today after the Madan Tamang killing I fear writing on political subjects. When someone like him could be slaughtered like the way he was, its best to leave the public make its own judgment rather than trying to offer my opinion. Lets leave it to this for now……….

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


By Sandip C. Jain

In its roughly 150 years of its existence as a civil society, Kalimpong can proudly boast of its association with some of the biggest names in modern history- Prince Peter of Greece and Denmark, The Roerichs, the royal families of Afghanistan, Burma, Bhutan and Nepal, the Dalai Lama, Rev McFarlane, Younghusband and many more such luminaries but definitely its association with Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore and Dr. J.A.Graham will be counted as its most cherished and memorable ones.
Gurudev’s association with Kalimpong is a special one. By making the first Live Radio Broadcast in India from Kalimpong, Kalimpongs name has been engraved in the history of Telecommunication and Broadcasting in India. He broadcasted his poem “Janmadin” live over All India Radio from Kalimpong and this fact will live on forever but this is something which is well documented and well known to all lovers of this beautiful little town. Dr. Graham on the other hand, can without much hesitation, be credited to be the “Father of Kalimpong” for all the work that he and his associates have done for Kalimpong to make it the place it is today. His tireless and ceaseless efforts laid the foundation for modern Kalimpong. But these efforts and contributions of his too are well described in each and every history book on this town and region.
What is not well know despite being a matter of much interest and high historical value is the close relation that these two great men of history shared. One came from an aristocratic Bengali family, who is acknowledged as one of the greatest poet, writer, artist, philosopher and thinker of all times and whose contribution towards the Independence struggle of India can never be forgotten. The other was a missionary who came into India under the patronage of those very colonial forces who enslaved India. One was a staunch Hindu, the other a devote Christian but the bond, mutual respect and friendship, the two shared was something worth being made into a fine example.
It probably is no coincidence that both these two illustrious men were born in the same year (1861) and died too within a year of each other (1941 & 1942). Though from entirely different cultures, religions, upbringings, countries and societies, the two shared remarkably close views on most of the issues and aspects of life. Since Gurudev was a frequent visitor of Kalimpong, the two have many opportunities to interact with each other and have lengthy discussions on culture, art, music, religion, philosophy, politics as well as the Independence of India. In fact, despite being closely associated with the then British rulers of India, Dr. Graham was favourably inclined towards a free India as his broadcast in Wellington suggests wherein he advocated that “India and Britain should be co-partners” , which implies he wanted some kind of political freedom to be given to India. It appears that many of Rev. Graham’s views regarding the political situation prevailing at that time were coloured by Gurudev and his writings too gave reflection to this fact.
Their main contact was in the year 1938, a few years prior to both of their deaths. Tagore was in Kalimpong recuperating after a serious illness. It was during this period that he made the now famous broadcast over All India Radio on his 77th Birthday> During his stay in Kalimpong, Gurudev was visited by Dr. Graham frequently and they spent long hours sitting on the lawn of Gauripur house, discussing mutual interests. Though it cannot be positively confirmed but it is believed that Dr. Graham was present within the premises of Gauripur house at the moment Gurudev was addressing the Nation over AIR on the occasion of his birthday. It is also believed that during the period Gurudev was sick and recovering in Kalimpong, Dr. Graham made sure that the noble laureate was constantly attended by doctors of the Kalimpong hospital. In the same year, Dr. Graham too fell seriously ill and Rabindranath Tagore showed the same concerns that Dr. Graham had showered on him during his own sickness.
In the year 1941, Tagore fell seriously ill, again in Kalimpong, and had to be rushed to Calcutta for his treatment- this time too Dr. Graham was at hand to arrange things and rush him proper medical care. Later in the year when Gurudev died, Dr. Graham paid glowing tribute to him not only as a poet but also as a musician, preacher, politician and educationalist. Paying tribute to Tagore, Dr. Graham wrote thus, “ …for him India is not merely the motherland of Nationalists; she represents great spiritual principal, viz. the fundamental human unity of the diverse people who, whether as original inhabitants, immigrants or conquerors, have made their home on her soil. Above all freedom for India was for Tagore the freedom of her common people from oppression and injustice, foreign or native…..”. “ He hated the cowardice of the weak as much as he hated the arrogance of the strong, but he was always on the side of the weak against the strong…..”.
Dr. knew the Gitanjali well and often quoted from it. The two me, not just contemporary in age but also in tune with their thinking and philosophy and had much in common- Shantineketan was for Dr. Graham an ideal temple of learning and often wrote about it in his writings. It is believed that when Tagore brought a piece of land in Kalimpong- it was Dr. Graham who suggested that the house to be built on it could be a replica of Tagore’s house in Shantineketan. The house “Chitrabhanu” situated at Atisha Road of Kalimpong is a close copy of Tagore’s residence at Shantineketan which is called “Shyamali.”
Dr. Graham and Gurudev were two completely different people and of different backgrounds but the common meeting grounds of Kalimpong made them friends whose special relation is still being talked about seventy years after their deaths….


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Would you believe this???
Sandip C. Jain
Just the other day, two very interesting stories took me to the still virgin hill slopes on which Lingsay village is cradled. The stories of course were only a pretext- the main reason I travelled to Lingsay was simply because I wanted to go and see the area. The stories which had felicitated my travel to Lingsay will be printed in the forth coming issues of this magazine but what I am sharing with you here, although also about Lingsay, may be too astonishing for many to actually believe it.
Lingsay, which is in the Kalimpong Sub Division, lies about 45 km to the northeast of the town. The only motorable road approaching this isolated village is via Pedong and Rehnok in Sikkim. Yes, one literally has to enter Sikkim and then come back into DGHC to reach Lingsay. The approximately 15 km that one has to travel between Rehnok and Lingsay is through amazing scenery through paddy fields and lust green forests. Half of this 15km lies in Sikkim and other half of it in DGHC. One half of the road is so bad that it can hardly be classified as a motorable road - it is more akin to a stairways on which a four-wheel driven vehicle can barely manage to huff & puff and stay alive- while the other half of road is as smooth as any hills road can possible be. The almost amazing and unbelievable thing about the above is that the bone jarring portion of the road is in Sikkim while the smooth roads are in the DGHC. One would bet it would have been the other way round but the fact is that the road on the DGHC side is 200 times better than on the Sikkim side.
What this piece actually wants to say is that even though the grass always seems greener on the other side of a fence, the fact is that the grass on our side, at times, too could be better groomed, more lush and is any day more useful!!!
Propagators and supports of the weird “Darjeeling – Sikkim Merger” theory should take note!!!.