Confusing Identity, Overlapping Demands, and Conflict in Leadership: A Deep Probe into the Problem of Rajbanshi-Led Movements in North Bengal1

Publication Date01 July 2016
DOI10.1177/0019556120160326
AuthorNandini Basistha
SubjectArticle
CONFUSING IDENTITY, OVERLAPPING DEMANDS,
AND CONFLICT IN LEADERSHIP: A DEEP PROBE
INTO THE PROBLEM OF RAJBANSHI-LED
MOVEMENTS IN NORTH BENGAL
1
NANDINI BASISTHA
Recent upsurge
of
Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO)
activism in the Northern part
of
West
Bengal makes a severe
blow
in
the security
of
that region. For .fighting with the
situation, both Central Government
and
State Government
give stress on 'Development-Security Nexus
'.
Different region-
specific schemes
and
extension
of
benefits under the policy
of
protective discrimination
for
communities has initiated
to
soothe
the economic grievances
of
the non-Bengali communities. On
the other hand, excessive raids, arrests
and
ban over political
activities has been limited the scope
fo~politics
of
separatism.
But Rajbanshi-led KLO insurgency,
is
a fallout
of
continuous
failure
of
their non-violent movements in democratic arena.
Rajbanshis are demanding separate territory from 1947. But,
due
to
some inherent problems
of
Raj bans hi-led movements -
like fragmented ethno-linguistic identity, overlapping territorial
demands
and
conflict between leadership -they never united
on a single platform. So grievances
of
common Rajbanshis
got marginalised
in
the majoritarian democratic politics. This
ultimately provoked Rajbanshi youths to insurgency.
Jn
this article, the author tries
to
discuss three major problems
of
Raj bans hi-led democratic movements -
viz.
confusion over
ethnic origin
and
linguistic status
of
Rajbanshis, overlapping
territorial demands
of
statehood,
and
conflict between leaders.
The article ends up with the information
of
cross-border
activism
of
KLO
and
their mode
of
operation.
CONFUSING
IDENTITY,
OVERLAPPING
DEMANDS,
AND
CONFLICT
IN
LEADERSHIP
lfGl
NANDINI BAS!STHA
INTRODUCTION
ONE OF the most strategically important areas
of
India
is
Northern part
of
West Bengal. This area is bordered by three foreign states (viz. Nepal,
Bhutan, and Bangladesh) and three Indian states (viz. Bihar, Assam, and
Sikkim). This is the only connecting link between North-Eastern India
with the rest
of
the country. The history
of
this area
is
also very complex.
It was never governed by one dynasty, it rather had a scattered history
of
different chieftaincies. So this area
is
home to a vast variety
of
tribes, each
in a different stage
of
social development and with its own language, culture
and historical past. Long history
of
Chieftaincy
of
different ethnicities
as
well as policy
of
'exclusion' and 'protective discrimination' augmented
cleavages between communities for centuries. For accommodating several
historically disintegrated and heterogeneous political units with ethno-
linguistic diversity, India adopted 'federalism' and, shared power between
national and state governments. But, this form
of
politico-administrative
reorganisation was not able to deal with conflicting identifies amongst the
ethno-Jinguistic minorities
of
northern part
of
North Bengal, and in this
tiny region
of2
l,
855 sq.
km.,
we can see numerous movements for getting
separate statehood within the Indian Union, notables among these being
'Gorkhaland', 'Kamtapur', and 'Greater Cooch Bihar' movements. Why
is
this area facing this kind
of
activism?
Many
of
the existing researches underline continuous economic
backwardness ofNorth Bengal as well as non-Bengali communities as one
of
the main reasons behind mass disgruntlement.
2
Many governmental studies
also accept the economic backwardness
of
North Bengal.3 Therefore, we
can see
an
array
of
policies for economic development
of
this area. But it
is very difficult to prove the exact correlation between statehood demands
with under-development
as
some conflict-ridden areas like Darjeeling are
economically far better than many other districts
of
West Bengal.
4
Therefore,
it
will
be better to search origin
of
this problem
in
separate ethno-linguistic
identity
of
non-Bengali majority
of
this area with a strong historical past.
Sense
of
separateness and movement for separation from West Bengal
in
North Bengal
is
not unexpected. In fact, many
of
the social scientists are
not even
in
favour
of
naming these movements as 'separatist' movements
as most
of
the parts
of
today's North Bengal (consisting six
districts-
viz.
Cooch Bihar, Ja!paiguri, Darjeeling, Maida, North Dinajpur, and South
Dinajpur) historically were never parts
of
Bengal. So sense
of
Bengali
identity cannot be expected from them. Therefore,
in
writings ofactivists
of
this area we can underline complaint
for
Bengali hegemonic rule and identity
crisis
of
the non-Bengali minority groups. Disregard to their demands by

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