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STAY UNITED

Public figures in independent India often make comments without realising the consequences of their utterances. The Bharatiya Janata Party leader and member of parliament from Darjeeling, Jaswant Singh, recently demanded that Darjeeling be accorded Union territory status. He declared, “It is very important for the authorities in Delhi and Kolkata to recognise that the inhabitants of Darjeeling are in no fashion and in no way Bengalis and you can't keep them permanently tied to Bengal....”

If one were to go by the logic in Singh’s statement, then one should ask why he chose to contest elections from a Darjeeling seat, since he, too, technically does not have anything in common with the people of the state. Did he take up his responsibility as an MP from Bengal because of his love for the state and its people? If so, then why are his comments against the interests of the state? Singh may have fallen prey to the lure of the politics of minority appeasement.

Singh also claimed to understand the “the psychology that Bengal has about this term ‘Banga bhanga’ (division of Bengal)”— he added that since there was a partition during the time of Lord Curzon and then again in 1947, “... Bengal has lost territory and that has influenced Bengal.” As an MP, Singh should know that Bengalis constitute the second largest linguistic group in India, after the Hindi-speaking population.

Most people tend to forget, or conveniently ignore, the territory-building designs harboured by India’s neighbour, China. In August 2009, a leading Chinese think tank, called the China International Institute for Strategic Studies, had suggested on its website that China should break India into 20-30 independent states with the help of ‘friendly countries’ like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. The article was written by Zhan Lue and was titled, “If China takes a little action, the so-called Great Indian Federation can be broken up”.

Come together

It was further suggested that modernization could not be achieved in India owing to it being a “Hindu religious state”. Hence, “China in its own interest and the progress of Asia, should join forces with different nationalities like the Assamese, Tamils, and Kashmiris and support the latter in establishing independent nation-States of their own, out of India. In particular, the ULFA (United Liberation Front of Asom) in Assam, a territory neighboring China, can be helped by China so that Assam realises its national independence.” Further, the article states that “China can give political support to Bangladesh enabling the latter to encourage ethnic Bengalis in India to get rid of Indian control and unite with Bangladesh as one Bengali nation; if the same is not possible, [the] creation of at least another free Bengali nation state as a friendly neighbour of Bangladesh, would be desirable, for the purpose of weakening India’s expansion...” With these divisive measures, China could hope to “recover the 90,000 sq km territory in southern Tibet” which Beijing claims as its own.

The geographical unity of India is already threatened by external forces. Therefore, the Darjeeling MP should understand that making suggestions of further divisions within the country will not help matters.

Singh should understand that the inhabitants of Darjeeling and Bengalis have much more in common than he thinks. It takes years to understand and appreciate the composite, rich cultural heritage of the people of Bengal. The state does not need the upheavals of another geographical division. What the people need is better governance by leaders who do good work instead of just making damaging comments. As an MP, Singh should be thinking about unity and good governance instead of divisive politics.