Whether it is Darjeeling, Kokrajhar, Kishagunj, or Bangalore, it is a civil war and the brunt of this war is felt by tea, in particular, our beloved great Indian tea, including Darjeeling, Doke, and Assam.
Last month in Darjeeling, elections for the GTA (Gorkha Territorial Administration) – a variant of the DGHC (Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council) – were held. The GJM (Gorkha Janmukti Morcha) swept these elections and Bimal Gurung was made the chief of the GTA. Now he has to deliver and other political parties are criticizing him, so the war goes on. Agitation is easier than administration as hooliganism has been rampant in the hills since 1989 when the DGHC was formed after the first Gorkhaland agitation and Subhash Ghising, the agitators’ hero, was installed as chief of the DGHC. After 20 years, he was thrown out on charges of rampant corruption. Now we have to watch the unfolding activities under Bimal Gurung, the man who overthrew Subhash Ghising.
Bodoland – the westernmost Bengal border area of Assam – was burning last month as a result of the communal riots stemming from the issue of illegal immigration from Bangladesh. This political unrest had far-reaching reactions in Mumbai, Lucknow, Bangalore, and Hyderabad and thousands fled from there to the Northeast. A new disalienation has started, which has made Siliguri a pivotal point on the real boundary between India and the Northeast – the area bordering China, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma, and Bangladesh – and Sikkim a silent partner. A sense that both travel and business is unsafe there prevails.
Bihar, in the northeastern corner – also called Purbanchal – is an area occupied by the adivasis – or the aborginal tribes of India – the people who traveled with the landmass when the African and Asian geologic plates joined and created the Himalayas. Bihar is now teeming with supporters of a Maoist movement who recently instigated unrest near the border of Nepal, resulting in the King there being overthrown. Sadly, established tea plantations are being taken over by roving bands of adivasis and the local administration has completely failed to control the situation. Entrepreneurs who were invited by the government to invest in the area are being unduly punished with the filing of various court cases.
We are living through a very difficult situation, where we feel helpless. But I am turning to the tea in my cup for answers to what the future holds. As difficult as it is, we must all make the effort to change and move all social groups toward a common good. Sounds too idealistic? I think not. Just as we have caused chaos, we have the power to bring balance and order back and open the door to positive change. This is the opportunity to reverse suffering and start a big change. We have to build, with hope and dignity, good opportunities for all. Welcome to the construction of a new paradigm – together we have the power to forge a new route.
I suggest we follow the Yunnan model, in which tea has uplifted the local people’s standard of living and the golden triangle of Chiang Mei has replaced poppy with tea.