Gurkhas to declare independent state in India
India's Gurkhas are preparing to unilaterally declare independence in a separate "Gorkhaland" state in the area around Darjeeling.
They claim they have been forced to take the step by decades of misrule which has siphoned away millions of pounds of government funds earmarked for them. Despite the lucrative tea and tourism industries in the area, unemployment is high, electricity supply is sporadic and people are forced to travel for hours to the nearest proper hospital. Now Indian Gurkhas, who dominate the Darjeeling Hills in the country's north-east gateway, are becoming increasingly restive.
The Calcutta-based state government granted limited autonomy through the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council in 1988, but today's Gurkha leaders say it has no powers, and cannot even hire permanent staff. Its leaders wear tweed jackets and hold their meetings in an old British greasy spoon café over scrambled eggs. Earlier this week its 6,000 civil servants went on hunger strike over their casual status – teachers and senior administrators earn as little as £28 per month, less than rickshaw drivers. Now, Bimal Gurung, leader of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, the Gurkha nationalist party which dominates the Darjeeling Hills, has warned he will declare a separate state within the Indian union if ministers reject their demand to break away from West Bengal.
©The Telegraph Group London 2009