Hong Kong’s Gurkhas join global campaign for home state in India
Hundreds attend local rally in show of solidarity with compatriots
Hundreds of Gurkhas and Nepali-speaking people living in Hong Kong held a rally on Sunday in a show of solidarity with their compatriots fighting for a separate state in the eastern Indian town of Darjeeling.
Dressed mostly in black, they gathered in the sweltering heat at King George V Memorial Park in Jordan, shouting slogans and singing songs.
They paid tribute to those killed in recent clashes between police and Gurkha activists in the Himalayan town who have revived a decades-old demand for a separate state for the Gurkhas within the borders of India. Darjeeling is currently part of West Bengal state.
“We stand for Gorkhaland”, their placards read, and “stop imposing Bengali on us”, referring to the state government’s attempt to impose an unfamiliar language upon Nepali-speaking people.
“We are not advocating separatism here. As Gurkhas we want our identity to be better represented and respected,” said Subash Thapa, president of the United Gorkha Community of India – Hong Kong.
A decision by the West Bengal government last month to make the Bengali language a compulsory school subject was strongly opposed by Gurkhas in India, the majority of whom reside in the Darjeeling hills and use Nepali as the official language. That was the trigger for the latest Gorkhaland agitation.
The first campaign for statehood was a violent uprising in the 1980s that left 1,200 people dead. A second mass campaign in 2007 also proved unsuccessful.
“I’m 99 per cent optimistic we will succeed [this time],” Thapa said, citing support from Gurkha communities across the world.
Amita Gurung, who grew up in Hong Kong and speaks fluent Cantonese, said she fully supported her friends even though she was from Nepal, not India.
“Their call is backed by history,”she said. “The Gurkhas have lived there all along and deserve a state of their own. Gurkhas are an emotional group with a strong sense of identity.”
Another rally participant was Urbashi Limbu, who was brought up in Darjeeling but has lived in Hong Kong for six years.
“The Gurkhas felt there was enough of bullying by the [West Bengal] authorities – both neglect and discrimination,” she said.
The assembly was peaceful. Chants of “Jai Gorkha”, or “long live the Gurkhas”, were the loudest part of the rally.