Gurkhas in Hong Kong show solidarity as part of global march for separate state in India
Decision to make Bengali a compulsory school subject is trigger for the latest Gorkhaland agitation
At least 200 Gurkhas and Nepali speakers staged a rally in Central on Sunday as part of a global campaign for a separate state in Darjeeling, eastern India.
The Global Gorkhaland Unity March was held in over 100 towns and cities across the world, including Perth, Pittsburgh and Edinburgh. It aimed to pay 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 Gurkhas within the borders of India.
Darjeeling is currently part of West Bengal state.
“It’s extremely important for us to have a separate state,” said Subash Thapa, president of the United Gorkha Community of India – Hong Kong, which organised the local rally.
“If we get our own land, when people ask where we from, we can always say we are from Gorkhaland in India. That’s the pride we must have. But so far we don’t have that kind of pride.”
Participants, mostly dressed in black, gathered in Chater Garden at around 12.30pm. They said it was their duty to support their compatriots fighting for a separate state.
Shakchat Thapa, 26, whose mother is a Hong Kong-born Indian, said he was not happy because the state government had been “sweeping the culture of Gurkhas away”.
A decision by the West Bengal government in May to make the Bengali language a compulsory school subject was strongly opposed by Gurkhas in India, the majority of whom live in the Darjeeling hills and use Nepali. That was the trigger for the latest Gorkhaland agitation.
“Imagine a different language is forcefully imposed on you and you have to learn that in order to be the part of the country,” Shakchat Thapa said. “It’s not something that is justifiable.
“Because we have a community here from Darjeeling, who represent the Nepali people of India, so of course, it’s our duty and responsibility to stand up and show solidarity.”
Sabitri Chhetri, who is in her 30s and moved to Hong Kong 3½ years ago because of work, believed the rally here would have a great impact back in India “because we are the voices of the people who are actually on the field, taking bullets and starving. Their voices are not reaching out to other countries”.
She added: “Maybe we don’t have the courage to give up our jobs here and go back, but we can at least send our love and support by holding this rally.”