Merger of Darjeeling with Sikkim is a contentious topic at present, creating a degree of irritation in the rather peaceful minds of the Sikkimese people. A subject that has evolved not from within its boundaries but from the neighbouring region where a long existing political instability and quest for its solution has diverted its course and seeks to a find a retreat in Sikkim. However, the peace loving state of Sikkim does not harbour the same amount of love for merger as the Darjeeling hills and rather it seems to be a one-sided love affair with its ultimate destiny somewhere else.
Time and again, small groups of political enthusiasts and people from the Darjeeling hills have shown their interest for merger of Darjeeling Hills with Sikkim as a solution to their long pending quest for recognition of their identity and a path to development. However, in this long and tiring journey, the route of merger seems to be completely misguided and awry. The love for merger in the Darjeeling hills has all the signs of a young man’s desire for a beautiful wife, but with an empty pocket (pun intended).
It neither has the charm to woo the bride nor the resources to keep her happy (pun intended). Some few fundamental issues out of the many have been provided below to justify the same. Population of Sikkim stands at 6.11 lakhs whereas the population of Darjeeling hills stands at 18.47 Lakhs as per the last census of 2011, which is about 3 times greater than Sikkim’s population.
Population density of Sikkim as per 2011 census was 86/Km2, whereas of Darjeeling is 586/Km2. A threefold population majority would mean a greater voting majority, which would divert all the development schemes into the Darjeeling hills away from the people of Sikkim. The original inhabitants of Sikkim would ultimately be reduced to a political minority, in some way losing their existing political rights and benefits. A high population density would create scarcity of resources in a state already grappling with issues of influx.
Darjeeling hills are already troubled with many social issues, unemployment being one of it. Merger would mean inheriting them all when for Sikkim itself unemployment has been a big concern and is finding it difficult to provide jobs to many its own people. Article 371F provides a special status to the state of Sikkim. Merger of Darjeeling with Sikkim would imply abolishing article 371F and its special provisions and status or its dilution or amendment, which would be against basic ethos of the agreement between the people of Sikkim and India made during the time of inclusion of Sikkim into India as the 22nd state and a breach of constitutionally guaranteed right. This would clearly be against the sentiments of the people of the state of Sikkim.
Now, as about the history, it isn’t a hidden fact that Darjeeling was a part of Sikkim and gifted to British East India company in the year 1835 by the then Chogyal. However, from Anglo-Nepalese war (1814 -1816) and signing of Sagauli treaty in 1816 to Treaty of Titalia in 1817. We have come a long way creating our own new history where we are no more governed either by the British East India Company or those treaties but by the constitution of India which pronounces Sikkim as a state within the Indian nation and safeguards our rights as its part with article 371F of the Indian constitution.
It is also important to note that during the time of cession of the of Darjeeling Hills to British by the Chogyal, the population of Darjeeling was in thousands which has now gone to about 18 lakhs or more and with the increase of influx the cultural diversity and demography of the area has completely changed and now only partly resembles Sikkim. We cannot just move back into history changing a few facts for our convenience, but if we should go back into the past everything has to go back to where it was, which is impossible.
However, in the 21st century, historic facts alone should not have precedence over the indicators of progress and development of a society and its people. Entire land on earth was once a part of one big land mass which the nature in course of time has slowly divided into different regions which we now refer as continents and countries. Some divisions are not planned and are a part of a natural process and cannot be blending them together again.
I would like to bring about a closure to this topic and calm the spirited unthoughtful minds behind the idea of merger by pointing out the fact that the present problems of the Darjeeling hills which is treated with the cure of merger, like an illness would shift into Sikkim too and make it sick. This is only a one-sided love affair and in this marriage Sikkim has nothing to win but only to lose, and it would be in the best interest of both to part ways and choose separate destinies.
Views/Opinions expressed in the article is purely of the author and not of the Sikkim Chronicle. For any queries or contradictions, the author can be contacted in his/her email ID.
By Roshan Pradhan. He can be contacted at [email protected]