Melting pot: How Gorkha community in the city plans to re-establish their identity

The Gorkha population, residing in various northern and north-eastern states, has also settled in Mumbai for over five decades.

Written by Sadaf Modak | Mumbai | Updated: September 5, 2016 1:49 am
Gorkha community, Gorkha community mumbai, Gorkha, Gorkha mumbai, mumbai news Not many are aware that a Treaty of Sugauli was signed between the East India Company and the King of Nepal in 1815-16, which had led to one-third of Nepalese-controlled territory to be given to the British, and which continues to remain part of Indian territory.

FOR THE Gorkha community in Mumbai, a recent portrayal of its members as watchmen in an e-commerce website advertisement was a reminder of how often their identity is reduced to a ‘caricature’.

“Due to our physical appearance, Gorkhas are easily identified and misconceived to be from the neighbouring country of Nepal. There is a misconception that all are Nepali citizens who have migrated to India. Many are Indians but are made to feel like foreigners due to lack of knowledge,” said Dhruva Pradhan, chairman of the Bhartiya Gorkha Ekta Sangh in Mumbai.

He says not many are aware that a Treaty of Sugauli was signed between the East India Company and the King of Nepal in 1815-16, which had led to one-third of Nepalese-controlled territory to be given to the British, and which continues to remain part of Indian territory.

The Gorkha population, residing in various northern and north-eastern states, has also settled in Mumbai for over five decades. The Ekta Sangh was formed as a socio-cultural welfare organisation in 2002 with an approximate number of over a lakh Gorkhas who currently live in Mumbai.

Rohit Pradhan, the secretary of the Ekta Sangh, says that on the streets of the city, Gorkhas are often asked if they are from Nepal. “This could be due to ignorance or lack of geographical knowledge. But, when it is done by established entities in popular culture like the recent advertisement, it seems like a deliberate attempt,” he said. The members are now in the process of preparing a blueprint to be distributed to television, film and advertisement production houses, political parties and government organisations elaborating on the history of the community in India and its contribution to various fields including the economy, sports and the defence of the country.

The members also organise annual cultural programmes and celebration of Dashain (Dussehra) and Tihar (Diwali) in the city to ensure that the younger generation does not lose touch with their culture.

Another issue that the community faces is the lack of a shelter for members coming from other states to the city for medical care.

“When I first came to the city in 1989, I did not know anyone from the community. Many Gorkhas from Darjeeling would come to the city to Tata Memorial Hospital for cancer treatment. They would have nowhere to stay. Some states have their own bhavans like Assam Bhavan, Meghalaya Bhavan, where first timers coming to the city for medical care, education, employment can stay. No such facility exists for Gorkhas,” Dhruva said.

He said that for a year now the community has set up a centre in Kurla for cancer patients coming to the city for treatment but they have not kept it limited to Gorkhas alone.

The members plan to approach state government authorities for a Gorkha Bhavan or an allotment of land for its construction.

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  1. M
    Madhu
    Dec 4, 2017 at 2:50 pm
    "Some states have their own bhavans like Assam Bhavan, Meghalaya Bhavan, where first-timers coming to the city for medical care, education, employment can stay. No such facility exists for Gorkhas,” Dhruva said." -> Needless to say, since the community forms a part of the state of West Bengal, they may avail facilities of the said State Bhawan. Besides, the aforementioned gripe comes across as self-serving to the cause of Gor nd state as opposed to a genuine need of a segment of society. Because don't we know that communities/biradaris have been pooling resources to form dharamshalas/lodges/bhavans for members since pre-British times?
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    1. B
      bishal
      Sep 5, 2016 at 9:42 am
      Jai Hind! Jai Gorkha!
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      1. R
        Rani
        Sep 6, 2016 at 10:55 am
        Discourse is a powerful tool in constructing reality and can have major socio-political consequences. I am, therefore disappointed that a media outlet of IE’s stature has chosen to run with certain aspects of the article, which give me the distinct impression of lazy and superficial reportage.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Let me be more specific. Refer to the mention of the Treaty of Singauli. The fact is that, expansionism, war and annexation were strategy du jour in the pre-Modern and Modern era. The large, modernized and vastly superior army of (Kingdom) of Nepal annexed parts of independent kingdoms of Garhwal and Kumaon (current Indian state of Uttarakhand) in the early 19th century. Large parts of the Kingdom of Sikkim on Nepal’s eastern front had also been overrun by the army of the (Kingdom of) Nepal. These kingdoms sought the istance of the British to regain their hold on their territories. The situation fit into the British imperialistic designs and its China policy of the day. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;The Treaty of Sugauli was an agreement between (Kingdom of) Nepal and the British that ended the Anglo-Nepalese War by which Nepal renounced all claim to the disputed Terai, and ceded its conquests west of the Kali River (present day Uttarakhand) and extending to the Sutlej River (parts of present day Himachal Pradesh). The annexed Kingdoms were returned to their rulers and/or handed over to the British.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Here is my grievance; the article has failed in its understanding of the complexity and context of the situation that predated the Treaty. The mention of the Treaty here without the preamble, could suggest to the reader that the Republic of India holds parts of the current Republic of Nepal. This is historically inaccurate and most certainly, not the understanding of the indigenous people of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh who did not consider themselves Nepali despite the decade or so of Nepali annexation in the early 19th century.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Having said that, the potion of contemporary Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, includes people of Nepali heritage. The state of Sikkim has by now, Nepali speaking poce as its majority. Our Nepali speaking people have been most visible in their invaluable contribution to the Indian army as also, Indian sport. Lest, we forget. And I hope that they will continue to flourish in contemporary India and break every stereotype, discrimination and caricature that they encounter.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;I understand that the article has its heart in the right place, but I wish that the article had verified context of the Treaty and had been able to bring out these nuances to the fore.
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