In a resounding slap in the face of the communal-chauvinist forces determined to tear apart Assam’s diverse socio-cultural fabric, Gorkhas hailing from the state have decided not to defend their citizenship before foreigners’ tribunals, calling the process an insult to their identity as Indians.
On September 22, the Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangha (BGP) that claims to represent over 10.5 million members of the Gorkha community across 22 Indian states, announced that they have decided to boycott the process laid down for people left out of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The organisation’s president Sukhman Moktan said, “The NRC guidelines say the gorkhas whose citizenship has been challenged need to go to the Foreigners’ Tribunals despite a notification of exemption by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). This is an attempt of a few vested interests within the system to disrespect Indian gorkhas who are actually original inhabitants as is proved by our historically and mythologically recorded presence since centuries.” He added, “The gorkhas of Assam will not go to the Foreigners’ Tribunals to prove their citizenship, as being tried in such tribunals is an insult to their identity as Indians. We can file defamation cases against the system of challenging the citizenship of gorkhas and Nepali-speaking people.”
When the final draft of the NRC was published on July 30, 2018, over 1 lakh Gorkhas were left out. The number came down slightly in the final NRC published on August 31, 2019 when approximately 85,000 Gurkhas were excluded. The BGP estimates that out of the 25 lakh Gorkhas residing in Assam over 22,000 people have also been arbitrarily marked D Voter, thus disenfranchising them. The group has now asked the Assam government to form an empowered committee comprising MHA officials to dispose of cases of Gorkhas excluded from the NRC.
Gorkhas are Nepali speaking Indians. There is great diversity even within the community and each sub-group has its own language from either the Tibeto-Burman or Indo-Aryan language families. The Gorkha community is known for their valour and excellence in the battle field, traits that led to the creation of the Gorkha Regiment by the British back in 1815. The regiment later became a part of the army of independent India and today there are 39 battalions serving under 7 Gorkha regiments in the Indian Army.
It remains to be seen how this brave act of defiance will take the community in its quest for justice and restoration of its dignity.