Thursday 24 November 2022


Herlihy Cup: A Heritage and Social Capital of Darjeeling

This time of the year, football enthusiasts, are for a treat in the region of Darjeeling hills. Everywhere some football tournament is held, to commemorate the independence of the country, and culminates with a grand scale celebration on 15th August, the independence day. In Kalimpong and Kurseong it was known as the Independence Cup. In Darjeeling, it is the Herlihy Cup, a tournament in memory of Ms Herlihy, who is buried along with her personal history, in the soil of Darjeeling. However, her memory lingers along with the celebration of independence day in a scale as evident, only in the hills of  Darjeeling.

Herlihy Cup started in the year 1917, the same year, when on 8th November the Hillmen’s Association submitted a refined version of the 1907 memorandum, to the Chief Secretary of the Government of Bengal demanding a ‘separate administrative unit’ comprising of the present day Darjeeling district with the Dooars areas of Jalpaiguri district. The Cup completes 100 years and is one of the oldest tournaments in the country, and so is the demand for Gorkhaland. It serves as a constant reminder of the number of years that have passed in the pursuit of Gorkhaland.

With colonialization of the India, like in many of other places, football also arrived. With the expansion of the Empire the popularity of football increased. In particular, it was after the ‘first war of Indian independence’ in 1857 that football began to assume wider social significance in the subcontinent (Burdsey 2007). Similarly, when the British first came to Darjeeling they introduced football to the inhabitants of the place. The initial football matches were played between army teams. The involvement of the army is also evident from the list of winners of the Herlihy Cup. Football gained recognition, in Darjeeling, when St. Paul’s School was transferred to Darjeeling from Calcutta in 1864. The physique of the Gorkhas was also favourable to the game of football and provided much-needed recreation and leisure (Sundas 2014). It is presumed that the natives learnt from informal kickabouts, it was likely that they would play in a way less constrained by rules, tactics or conventions. Many have narrated playing a game of football with a 'sangkhatra' as a ball and that too barefoot. I, myself, have witnessed playing with rags rolled into a shape of a ball. Playing the game of football was an accessible social activity for the young and hardy men (now it is gaining popularity even among women). It was a way of socializing with friends and community members in a recreational way and required the minimum of economic and social capital which facilitated the growth of the game (Sundas 2013).

Historiography of the region has not been reliable, moreover, there is no social history of the region which gives lucid accounts of people as well as other social activities of the region. The absence of historiography has led to the loss of the history of Herlihy Cup. Because football is and has been second only to religion for the people of the region (now this can be contested with the rise of cricket) the history of the Cup would have been able to reflect other spheres of people's lives. Unfortunately, only the names of the winners are there as remnants of history, and it does not say much of the region and people, apart from reflecting how dominant the army teams were in the sphere of football. Were there Gorkha people as part of the winning teams? Whether there were or not is not important an issue, but the impact it had on the sporting behaviour of the people is.

The tournament socialised the people to the game of football. It made people play the game which was most appropriate for them in terms of physicality as well as the economics associated with it. Traditionally, and not till the end of the 1980s Gorkhaland agitation, North Point College ground was the venue where most of the tournaments were held. Only with the Mahakal Cup did Lebong Ground, the present venue for the tournament, became popular. The former is an idyllic venue. The Himalayas in the background, the hill stand that people enjoyed, made it a special venue. The legendary goalkeeper of India, Bhaskar Ganguly has gone on record saying that the North Point Ground was one of the most picturesque he had ever played at and wanted to come year after year to this ground for this sake alone. Shyam Thapa, another legend of the game in India has said that the atmosphere on this ground was no less than any of the top venues of world football. The colourful clothes and umbrella that was a perennial part of the hill stand in the ground would make it a lovely sight for the eyes for anyone, whether football-loving or not (Sundas 2014).

The final of Herlihy Cup was the most awaited event in the calendar for the people of the place. Herlihy Cup is an event with which many from Darjeeling and the region can associate themselves with. Many young people watching games of the Cup took up football as a pursuit and it also helped in spreading the game to other parts of the region. The beautiful game became very popular among the masses and many from the region went on to win laurels.  Herlihy Cup inspired many to play and the region has produced some very talented players who have represented many big clubs of the country.

Darjeeling has always lacked the infrastructure for football but this did not become a deterrent in developing skills. There was always the scarcity of a proper playing field and players had to hone their skills on their own. (The grounds belonging to missionary schools were most of the time out of bounds for the locals). The culture of coaching the youngsters on the finer points of the art was perennially absent. However, as the adage goes ‘where there is a will, there is a way’ many from this region have been able to play the game at the highest level and carve a name for themselves. The greatest name that comes to mind when thinking of the superstars of Darjeeling football is none other than the legendary Chandan Singh Rawat. Though he was not born in Darjeeling and did not come till late in his life, contributed immensely to developing the game. He represented the country in numerous occasions and the highlight of his career was being part of the Asian Games Gold Winning team. He was the backbone of the national team of the 1950s and 60s.  He was part of the formidable North Point Team, coaching and playing, which won almost everything, including the Herlihy Cup. His forays and deeds on the football field are still talked about among the football-loving common people of his generation.

The other notable star of football in Darjeeling is Benu Subba. He was a feared striker. At the very tender age of 15, he went on to represent his battalion and later played for East Bengal as well. Another prominent name that comes to my mind while writing about the football legends of the hills is Suren Pakhrin of Ghoom. He represented Ghoom Jorbangla Sporting Club in the local tournaments and was a prolific scorer. He was good with both his legs and with his head. His feats in the local tournaments spread like wildfire and were soon called by Rajasthan Club of Calcutta. He was highly skilled and would make accurate passes with his outsteps and insteps which were at that time not seen in the football circuits of India. Many others like Dinesh Thapa, from Kurseong, dynamite in himself but only 4 feet 6 inches, Tarun Mukhia, a stopper back, went on to play in Calcutta. Many other prominent names who have done tremendously well in the sport hailing from the hills of Darjeeling are Raju Rai, a stocky goalkeeper from Kalimpong. He was invited by the Bhutanese government to represent the Bhutan Football Association. Keshav Pradhan from Gurbathan received the same prestige from the Bhutan Football Association. Among the host of players who were offered this prestige was Urgen Lama, popularly known as ‘Mini’ for his height. He was a highly versatile player. He represented Bhutan in numerous tournaments and has played the Santosh trophy for Sikkim a number of times.

 Many others like Mahendra Subba, Rajen Golay, Suman Tamang Ladup Lama, Subash (Pittaley ), Thendup Bhutia (a fine goalkeeper from Kalimpong) Ajay Tamang, Uday Subba, Uday Lama, Ugen Lama (from Kurseong), and many others could have played for the big clubs in the country but due to the lack of opportunities pushed them to oblivion.

In recent times many players from the hills of Darjeeling have done well. Crispen Chettri and Jiten Rai from Kurseong have represented the country at the under-19 level and represented numerous big clubs in the country. Dinker Chettri has represented East Bengal and humbly yours represented Eastern Railways in the Calcutta Super Division Football League.

The political situation of the hills in the 1980s led to the discontinuation of many tournaments and the Mahakal Cup initiated under the aegis of DGHC led to the lowering of the stature of Herlihy Cup and many other popular tournaments. This rendered many other popular tournaments like the RBGM tournament in Kurseong to disappear. However, Mahakal Cup did not survive though it received tremendous patronage from DGHC and favour from the cash-starved clubs of the region for the 2 lakh cash prize it offered to the winners. It only led to the diminishing of the sporting culture in general and football in particular. The local culture of sports is at present facing a lot of challenges being posed, not by intrinsic forces but rather extrinsic for its survival, sustainability and revival. Herlihy Cup has survived all the adverse environments and sustained itself. It is therefore very significant for us to save our heritage and social capital like the Herlihy Cup for restoring the sporting glory of the region. The winners of this year's competition will have a special place in the history of the Cup and I hope UKFC comes up triumphant in this hundredth edition.





Tuesday 21 July 2020

Darjeeling, Football and Politics

Sports has always been an arena for politics. Football especially, has been an effective tool for politics, simply because of the range of emotions it arouses among the masses. History shows that on the one hand sports has been appropriated by the powerful to reign in the powerless. Hitler used the Olympics to showcase his authority. On the other hand the powerless have also used it as a tool of resistance and dissent. Franco, the Spanish dictator was the patron of Real Madrid. Catalonia had held the longest against his coup. When he was successful he had killed unaccounted number of people. To oppose Franco and Spain, Barcelona club was used by the Catalonians. Barcelona for many years also did not advertise anything in their jersey, as the colour red and blue is a symbol of Catalonia, a colour that was inspired by the French revolution. When the design of the jersey was changed and the colour white was added in their jersey it was opposed because white was seen as the colour of Real Madrid, the club of Franco the military dictator patronized. Barcelona was thus the epicenter of resistance.
In Brazil when football was introduced, the natives were not allowed to come into physical contact with the white players. That’s how the native Brazilians developed their fantastic dribbling skills as a technique to avoid contact and any resultant punishment that might be given to them. As the natives developed their footballing skills and started winning matches, a policy was introduced which made it mandatory for the players to sign their names if they wanted to play. As most of the native players were illiterate a club, Vasco Da Gama came up with the idea of giving the players short nicknames so that they could at least sign. Today the Brazilian dribbling skills and nicknames that are known in almost every household were actually modes of resistance against racial discrimination. (Goldblatt 2014). The Black American Football players during the National Football League in 2017 expressed their dissent by not rising up when the national anthem was sung. President Trump tweeted this action as, “total disrespect for our great country.”Michealson wrote in the Daily Beast that “to respect –for whatever cause, left or right wing- is to make real the best ideals of America; freedom of speech, democracy, the rule of law. Protesting brings those ideals into reality. It is the opposite of disrespect and despair: It is to call our country to account and to say that we can do better” (2017). The Tibetans highlighted the chinese occupation of Tibet and their “Free Tibet” movement during the Beijing Olympics. Closer home, East Bengal Club was formed to protest against the treatment meted out to the Bengalis of East Bengal by those from West bengal. And Mohammedan Sporting Club came into existence to preserve the identity of the Muslim community.
Seen in this context of football as a political tool, the recent carnival in Darjeeling sponsored by the State and executed by its cronies can be seen a classic example of state exercising its control in the guise of a celebration. It could have been an opportunity for the people to rise to the occasion and express dissent against the atrocities of 2017/18 . It could have been a platform  to say that normalcy has not returned and will not return till our dreams are fulfilled. Football has always been the game of the common people, the proletariat, and throughout history it has been used as a tool of protest against the dictators and authoritarian leadership. The recent event in Darjeeling to celebrate football was ‘carni-evil-ish.’ The grandiosity of the celebration was astounding especially in the context of the terror that the people of the hills recently experienced. Football has fuelled numerous political movements, but in the case of Darjeeling it was used to douse any fire of freedom that may be alive inside the Gorkhas. The idea was to use the carnival as an opium to lull the people. The Arab Spring which changed the course of history in Egypt owes a lot to football fans. Truce between the fans of Cairo’s two arch rival football clubs, Al Ahli and Zamalek, was instrumental in fuelling the Egyptian revolution. “The Moslem brotherhood were joined” by these fans “who had agreed an unprecedented truce in order to express their opposition to the autocrats in elite positions of political power” (Dorsey 2011). Mubarak was ousted on February 2011 and football fans played their part (Duerden 2012). In the former Yugoslavia, ethnic groups have used their respective clubs to raise nationalism. Red Star “fans clubs played a pivotal role in the revival of Serbian nationalism- the idea that the Serbs are eternal victims of history who must fight to preserve a shred of their dignity” (Foer 2004) and Red Star fans consider themselves as agents of political change.  Barcelona Football Club has been the symbol of Catalan nationalism. Barcelona represents the Catalan way of life and also its desire to separate from Spain. Pep Guardiola has been a vociferous supporter of the Catalan movement and makes it a point to  participate in the demonstrations. Recently he wore the yellow badge in protest of the thousands of Catalan nationalists who have been jailed by the Spanish government. From Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia to many of the former Soviet republics football and fans have been instrumental in politics. Every victory for the Dutch over the Germans is considered as a revenge for the five years of occupancy of the former by the latter. The point here is that is football is intrinsically related with politics and can play a huge role in spreading and arousing nationalism and that the football lovers of Darjeeling missed the opportunity to dissent and resist the oppressive political authorities when an opportunity was provided in a platter.
The clamor surrounding the World Cup was just the opposite of what is happening to football at the local level. Even the presence of a fourth, of those ‘celebrating football’ in Chowrasta, at Lebong Stadium, to watch the local match would have been a ‘normal’. The plight of the local tournaments, clubs and players has been pathetic for quite some time now.  It all started after the GNLF came to power in 1988 after the signing of the DGHC Accord. Prior to this period football in Darjeeling was one of the most cherished games. Gold Cup was like a festival. But it all changed once DGHC came into existence. The zeal to show its authority and control over the hills the then dispensation introduced the Shahid Cup with 2 lakh prize money. The money was good for the clubs and the game itself, but its illogical and irrational way of implementation ruined all sports in the hills. The existing sports associations were rechristened and the officials with loads of experience to run the sports were replaced by the sycophants of the leadership. All the funds were diverted into the Shahid Cup thereby making all other tournaments redundant. (There are other factors as well but would be discussed separately). More importantly, the most prestigious of all, the local leagues were completely scrapped from the local calendar. Prestigious tournaments like Jasoda Giri, Harley Cup in Darjeeling did not take place for a long time. RBGM in Kurseong does not take place till now. These were tournaments were the best teams of the country would come and participate and the local players would get an opportunity to test their skills against better teams and players. In an amateur structure where people played for fun, the lack of tournaments destroyed the spirit and enthusiasm of the players as well as the spectators. The politician would strut on the ground, donate some money and demonstrate his control in the administration of the game. Had there been any ethical office bearer in the sports association, things would had been different. Similarly had there been anybody at Chowrasta to stand up to  the authorities, the endeavor to show that normalcy has returned to Darjeeling would had been unsuccessful and the rest of the country would have known that Darjeeling is not smiling and is still mourning the death of many. As a football player and a Gorkha I bemoan these lost opportunities.

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Of Brazil, Football and Discrimination

Of Brazil, Football and Discrimination
Have you ever wondered why the Brazilian football players are not known by their original names but rather by their sobriquets? Pelé, may be the one name most recognised in this world but not even half of those who can relate with the name Pele can say that he was born with the name Edson Arantes do Nascimento. Similarly, Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima is famous as Ronaldo, Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite is known as Kaká, Ronaldo de Assis Moreira is known as Ronaldinho and Rivaldo Vítor Borba Ferreira, is known as Rivaldo. There are too many with such pseudo names, these are just a few famous people. How many of you know the name of Garrincha? His name is Manual Francisco dos Santos and belonged to one of the many tribes of Brazil, importantly in an international career spanning a decade Brazil lost only once when he played for the national team.
Such a practice of using sobriquets is not just a happening but it is a result of a historical social process. Brazil abolished slavery in 1888 and was the last country in America to do so (Bellos 2014). This was the time when the country was undergoing tremendous social change. Football was introduced in the country by Charles Miller in 1894, who while returning from Southampton, had brought two footballs. Football arrived or was brought into the country when there was chaos and confusion after it had gained independence in 1889. It was period when the nation was struggling to establish its identity and social symbols. Football acted as a catalyst to form this identity albeit the racial discrimination and prejudice that existed. The whites played the game and  excluded the natives from participating. When mixed race players started to play for clubs, 'they were made to feel ashamed of their colours' (Bellos 2014;32). Authur Friedenreich, a son of a Brazilian German father and an Afro-Brazilian mother, 'was without question the highest scoring striker of his days and the darling of the press, who nicknamed him El Tigre ('The Tiger') in Uruguay and 'Golden Foot' in Brazil' (Goldblatt 2014;29). He had to flatten his hair, which resembled more of the native, with a turban (Bellos 2014) to look completely white. Another player, Carlos Alberto, is known to have used rice powder to colour his face white. Another important thing that is of interest, is the Brazilian footwork or in common  parlance, the act of dribbling, is also a product of discrimination. Bellos (2014) says that when the natives used to play along with the whites they had to avoid contact with the whites, to ensure that the whites were not hurt during such collision. In case of collision and the whites being hurt the natives were beaten  as punishment. To avoid such contact the natives started to dribble.
The genesis of discrimination and the sobriquets is found in the processes and evolution of Brazilian football and its structure. As has already been mentioned, it was not the natives who brought the beautiful game to Brazil.  As football started to connect with the people of Brazil clubs also started to be established. Initially the clubs were formed by the elites and the whites, who considered themselves to be superior to the natives. Because of this constructed racial supremacy the whites did not allow the natives and blacks to participate in football matches. Far from being allowed to play alongside, the natives had to watch the matches being played from a distance.
'Membership rules at the big clubs were essentially rules to keep the sport as white and upper class as possible. Football provided a justification to reconsolidate theories of white supremacy, which had been thrown into doubt by the abolition of slavery' (Bellos 2014;32).
Football had however, also caught the imagination of the natives, who were also playing the game on their own.  Once the clubs were formed competition among them started and championships also started taking place. However, the natives were barred from taking part in such competition. By blocking professionalism and advocating amateurism the whites were effective in maintaining social distance from the natives. The policy of amateurism demanded that the players needed to have an alternative sources of income, this was instrumental in creating an obstacle for the natives to represent any club, as they did not have any alternative sources of income.
The natives were inducted into competitive football by another discriminated group of people, the Portuguese. Vasco da Gama, popularly known as Vasco, was the club of the Portuguese people. They went against the set norms of the big clubs in Brazil by recruiting players not just from among themselves but the best from among the natives, who were playing their own leagues. They provided employment to these players in their shops and business to fulfil the criteria that the players needed to be employed and have alternative sources of income. The participation of the natives, in a short span of time altered the fortunes of Vasco. From mediocrity they became champions. This was not tolerable to the elite clubs who later formed a league of their own, which excluded Vasco. However, due to the popularity of the club, Vasco was invited again to participate but with other set of conditions. One of the conditions laid was that the players had to be able to write and sign their names. This was the strategy for exclusion of the native players who were generally illiterates. However, Vasco found a way to bend this rule. They started sending their players to learn to read and write their names and those with more complex names were given short names which were easier to write, thus the use of sobriquets among the native Brazilian players started.

On the other hand, professionalism in Europe had grown, which threatened to take away the great talents of Brazil. This necessitated professionalism in Brazilian football. Professionalism in Brazil football started in 1933 and this effectively led to the collapse of the class and racial prejudice and discrimination in the sphere of football in Brazil 

Saturday 2 April 2016

Understanding Revised by Revisiting 'List Relief for Harka'

A very interesting news story has been posted in titled "List relief for Harka." It states that the list of candidates declared by the TMC does not, anymore, mention Dr. Chettri of JAP as their candidate from Kalimpong constituency. However, in the same pages of the news portal you can also see how Mamata Banerjee seeks support for her party's candidates from Kurseong and Darjeeling and her party supported candidate from Kalimpong, Dr Chettri. What is to be drawn from this? Anyone who is politically aware and erudite can only understand that it is a different way of saying that Dr Chettri is the candidate for Mamata Banerjee from Kalimpong. It is not the question of JAP or Dr Chettri, but it is the question of do we support who supports our opponent, that is Dr Chettri/JAP, or who is supported by our opponent that again is Dr Chettri/JAP.
JAP is a classic example of the 'Foxes' of Pareto. I call them 'foxes' because one of the characteristic of the 'foxes' is the inability to take decisive action and decisions. This is precisely what is going to happen to those of JAP as they will be dictated by DIDI and every decision will have approval of DIDI. They will either take decisions only with the approval from DIDI or she will take all decisions on their behalf.  It will also be of interest to all the people of the hills to see if JAP will field its candidate in other constituencies against the TMC or will support those fielded by TMC. If they do not field their candidates against those of TMC then Dr Chettri's name being listed out of the list or included does not mean anything. It will be meaningless to the people, as it will be crystal clear to all, that JAP and TMC are playing a 'fixed' game to make sure that the party keeping alive the demand of Gorkhaland, GJMM, loses no matter what and also the demand. 
What is however, pertinent for the people of the hills and all the Gorkhaland lovers, is the fact that we have to understand the latent understanding that is there between JAP and TMC.  JAP and TMC have acquiesced to the fact that JAP will be supported by TMC till it does not raise the issue of Gorkhakand and in order to gain power JAP has avoided the term Gorkha even in the name of the party, knowing very well that this itself is going to hold back their relationship with the public. They have more importantly conceded to the demand of TMC not to further raise the issue of Gorkhaland.
The removal of the name of Dr Chettri from the list of candidates is further indication for all to witness that the two parties are hand in glove with each other. They, at any cost want to suppress, the voice of Gorkha for their rightful demand of Gorkhaland. And in doing so Dr Chettri and his party has agreed to be the means for TMC and DIDI to achieve their goals of suppressing the demand of Gorkhaland as well as the voice of the Gorkha. However, means are not selected without merit. It is selected and also determined by the environment. DIDI was very effective in selecting and calculating what would be her right means to dismantle the demand for Gorkhaland. She saw in her pawn a very 'fox' like character to do things which would lead it to power. Again the pawn, as a 'fox' in its endeavour to achieve power has innovated the means to reach its goal. It would had been acceptable to the people had it used the social conditions to its advantage in bringing about a change in the regime but what it did was choose the unacceptable, of supporting TMC and its dictates.
The party and more precisely its handful of supports declared itself to be party of intellectuals. Therefore these so called leaders are charismatic for them. However, it needs to be noted that when charismatic leadership is there it is supported by the subordinate members of the elite and the public plays a subservient role. The majority of the people in the hills are not political elites and therefore in this party of intellectuals the majority of the population in the hills will play a very subordinate role. The incumbent in power today in Darjeeling at least can associate himself with these unintelligent, irrational, apathetic masses and thereby understand what they go through in their daily affairs and show sympathy. This party of intellectuals will only work to fulfil the political necessities of its allies and thereby make the concerns of all the Gorkha, the creation of Gorkhaland as irrelevant as they have achieved by not mentioning the creation of Gorkhaland in their party's manifesto released in much fanfare and also keep at a distance the 'unintelligent public'.
Coming to the voters, there is much confusion and apathy, regarding the choice to be made. It is understandable that many have grievances against the ruling party as well. But what needs to be understood is the fact that they are swimming against the tide, and their own trusted lieutenants have at crucial periods betrayed the leadership and the party, as was done by the MLA who again is contesting for the same post with the benevolence of DIDI. He has ditched the issue of Gorkhaland and the interest of the party as well as the people once, so what guarantee is there that he would not do it again if it befits his personal ambitions and aspirations. 

As Mao Zedong once remarked it is not the time to sit on the fence, so let us show our resolve to achieve Gorkhaland and the tenacity to fight for the cause of Gorkha and Gorkhaland and also to support the party, GJMM, irrespective of its shortcomings and disadvantages, which has, if not anything kept alive the issue of Gorkhaland and thereby the aspirations of the people by voting all its candidates to victory in the coming election. 

This Election: Why GJM?

An interesting old video was posted today in my whatsapp, which shows Dr. H B Chettri addressing a meeting somewhere in the plains. He concludes his speech saying that we will work together, walk together and reach our destination together. Yes they have worked together as well as walked and is trying to walk together to reach the destination. But  the most salient question is what is their destination? To my mind only one answer seems apt that is to dislocate the demand of Gorkhaland and those who have aspiration for the creation of Gorkhaland.
This is a critical phase in the political sphere of the hills. This period will determine the future of the demand for Gorkhaland. GJM therefore becomes an important element for all the people who have dared to dream the realisation of Gorkhaland. There is a adage in Nepali taro ko deuta bhanda chau ko bhut kaam lagcha. GJM is the chau ko bhut and therefore we can count on them to keep alive our aspiration. Many have accused them that they have sold of the issue of Gorkhaland but what needs to be remembered is that they have not given up the issue and the right to demand for the separation of hills from Bengal. In the tripartite Memorandum of Agreement Between Government of India, Government of West Bengal and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha for creating an autonomous Body to be called Gorkhaland Territorial Administration they have vehemently reiterated that they would not give up the demand of Gorkhaland.  In the first page of the memorandum itself it says, 'Whereas after several rounds of tripartite meetings at the ministerial and at the official levels, the GJM, while not dropping their demand for a separate State of Gorkhaland has agreed to the setting up of an autnomous Body......'
What is important for all to understand is the fact that GJM has not given up the demand of Gorkhaland even when under pressure to sign this agreement, unlike the GNLF which surrendered the demand while signing the DGHC agreement. GNLF have forgotten their antecedence and is now again trying to attract the people of the hills into false consciousness. However, the stand of the GJM is acknowledged by both the Government of India and West Bengal, which makes the GJM very important for all the people of the hills. They did not succumb to the pressure created by the Government of West Bengal, which has now been accepted by the latter and have revised their strategy and is making use of ambitious 'party of intellectuals' as well as unsuccessful individuals and parties to weaken the tenacity of GJM and the people of the hills to demand Gorkhaland. Further, unlike GNLF, who completely failed the people and moreover let the Gorkha down by not keeping alive the demand of Gorkhaland in their zest to sign for DGHC, GJM have made the centre and the state governments realise that the demand for Gorkhaland and the struggle to achieve it will continue. The memorandum says 'Now, therefore, the Government of India, the Government of West Bengal and the GJM, keeping on record the demand of the GJM for a separate State of Gorkhaland agree as follows...' the creation of GTA.
The advantage we have with the GJM is the fact that they have not kept aside the demand of Gorkhaland and therefore we have to support them and make them victorious in this coming elections. If any other results follow then the authority of the GJM will be questioned by  both the governments and with that the legitimacy of the demand will also lose grounds, as they will have a point to prove that all the people of the hills do not support GJM and thereby the demand of Gorkhaland. Importantly this is what the West Bengal Government in general and TMC in particular wants to happen. What is there their strategy to make sure that such a calamity unfolds upon the people of the hills is to support JAP.
By now people of the hills have understood that JAP is in the 'front stage' only engaged in impression management. Their back stage needs to be understood. In the back stage, in reality, they are puppets in the hands of Mamata didi and their only objective is to see that they become 'Brutus' and stab the yearning of the people for Gorkhaland. Bimal Gurung has already been Julius Caesar and has already said 'et tu Brute' to the leadership of JAP when his direction to the party MLA to resign from the post of MLA was denied by none other than the face of JAP, Dr H B Chettri. Mamata Banerjee through JAP is only trying to create cleavages among the people of the hills and JAP have volunteered to be the instrument through which Mamata Banerjee can play her cards. Therefore, it becomes pertinent for the people of the hills to vote out JAP from the politics of hills. JAP has been further bolstered by the support of GNLF, another outfit who does not support the creation of Gorkhaland.
GNLF, has in the past, destroyed the hills. They were responsible for the death of many during the famed Gorkhaland agitation of the 1980s, the destruction of property and careers of many, only to achieve, constitutionally unrecognised DGHC. GNLF only was a fiefdom then, it is no better now. It is now in its lowest ebb, lacking in organisation, ideology, strategy, leadership and membership. They were dethroned by GJM and in its endeavour to take revenge on GJM it has compromised the wants and objective of the community. It has sided with TMC and JAP, two opponents of Gorkhaland. It has now become crystal clear that we have to fight together against the TMC, JAP and GNLF to uphold the glory of Gorkha community. This is a pivotal phase in our history, this election is not just another election for all the Gorkhas, it is the time to decide who we are, and what we cherish. It is the time to show all the opponents of Gorkhaland, that their false promises of development, district or for that matter anything is not going to distract us from our goal, Gorkhaland. Winning is not about proving the world wrong, but working together. So let us work together and ensure the victory of GJM in all the three constituencies and show the world that when it comes to the issue of Gorkhaland we stand united and no matter what the politics of the 'intellectuals' says we are behind GJM and those for Gorkhaland.

Sunday 14 February 2016

Politics of Emotions: A Requisite in Darjeeling Hills

Politics of Emotions: A Requisite in Darjeeling Hills
There is a video clip making round in WhatsApp, since a few days, which proclaims that the people of Darjeeling has been afflicted with politics which is not just wrong but also crude and dominating. It further urges the people of the hills to show their angst and defiance to such politics and assemble at Mela Ground, Kalimpong, on the 27th of January. It sustains its vitriolic attack on the politics of Darjeeling by pronouncing that we should stand up and support the politics propounded by the so called 'bidwans' (intellectuals) and give up the politics of emotions.
Yes, the basis of our political solidarity has been the politics of emotion. The politics in Darjeeling will become devoid of any substance and essence if this content of emotion is substituted by any other agenda. One of the leaders of this 'bidwan' group, Dr. H B Chettri recently reiterated that we should not be reacting to those who ask if we are going to Kakarivitta?. But let me remind him, will he be able to remain in inertia when he will be asked to go to Nepal because that is his home and country, which has been done time and again to many Gorkha, by some anti social and anti national elements belonging to different groups of the plains. The leaders of this group as well as those who are following this line of politics is in a state of false consciousness. They have a long way to understand the reality and the concerns of the people. If such is the case then in corollary it follows that their politics will not be of any benefit for the people of Darjeeling and its periphery. And there is no need to validate this statement as it is already there for everyone to perceive and experience. However, let me substantiate with some examples. He 'demanded'  (or was it a reward for his loyalty) for the district of Kalimpong in lieu of Gorkhaland, when the entire Gorkha population of the country is waiting for the creation of Gorkhaland to solve the numerous problems confronted everyday due to the issue of identity. Will Kalimpong as a district solve our identity problem? Will it help all those Gorkha living in minority in many parts of the country? It will definitely not. The able leader says that we should not indulge in politics of emotions and Gorkhaland is not the solution to our problems. Then let me ask him what is the solution to the concerns and problems we have or will Kalimpong as a district solve all the problems of Gorkhas? Gorkhaland is pertinent to all the Gorkhas, irrespective of their residence in any part of India. These leaders and their followers have understood the demand for Gorkhaland and the politics of GJM from very narrow spectrum. Gorkhaland means the well being of all the Gorkha in India.  
Secondly, the leader has been, lately, a vocal proponent of the policies advocated by the Government of West Bengal, and particularly by Ms Mamata Banerjee. Since the early 19th century we have raised the issue of being different from those of West Bengal on account of distinct linguistic and cultural heritage. Now, because his personal motives are being fulfilled, which the Bhutan Refugees issue could not do, does he want us to forget the historical legacy of our movement and support him, or should I say Mamata Banerjee. How can this be possible? Can the rational thinking people of the hills overturn the centuries of discrimination and exploitation faced at the hands of the successive governments of West Bengal and support such leaders who are literates but insensitive towards the wants and desires of the people. For once that the subsequent political parties have failed to fulfil the aspiration of the people but they did not give up the issue of Gorkhaland. This is where the support of the masses evolve from and if they understand this the earlier the better.
Let me question these makers of the video chip who are these 'bidwans'? Calling such opportunists  a 'bidwan' is a regressive way of looking and doing things and also it shows apathy on the part of these people towards the progress the community has made. There are many doctorate degree holders in our society, along with Professors and other professionals in the society. Please look around and you will find plenty of such people around you. Therefore the question of being bidwan or being led by bidwan does not arise. What is required is sincerity to uphold our century old movement and struggle. It is a different issue whether or not we achieve our goal, some earning and some not earning, but to completely give up the issue is to betray the people and the place. Do we want ourselves to be led by such people who have let us down?
If we want to be led by 'bidwans' then why would we chose such 'bidwans' who have not contributed in the advancement of knowledge, through which a bidwan is known, be it social, scientific, political or any form of knowledge. If you have to follow a 'bidwan' then i urge the people to follow other parties which have greater 'bidwans' than these unsuccessful people who are only trying to make use of the situation and fool us more. The adage goes aim for the stars and you will land in the trees.    So the people, those who want to be led by 'bidwans' and not by the demand for Gorkhaland should look up to parties like the Congress and BJP who are full of 'bidwans' and not up to those 'bidwan leaders' of the hills who have in regular intervals let the common people down due to their selfish motives.
It has become clearer that these 'bidwans' and their platoon wanted the people to be present at Mela Ground to witness a birth of a political party, a B-team of 'Team Mamata', the Jan Andolan Party. Jan Andolan translates into public revolution, so the question is why do you need a separate revolution when there is one already going on. And if we are not to do the politics of emotion, then why do the peace loving people of the hills need a revolution. The people of the hills are sober, honest, loyal and peace loving, therefore we do not need a revolution to fulfil external design of the Bengal Government through the newly formed Jan Andolan Party. But since the leaders are hand in glove with the West Bengal government and in conflict with the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha, do the leaders of this party demand us to be in a revolutionary mood with our own people. Further the video, doing the round, may be is hinting on the lack of education the present leader of the movement, Mr Bimal Gurung has, but it is apparent to all the people that he has at least, if not anything else, kept the issue of Gorkhaland alive, therefore we prefer him to the leaders of this newly formed party which is asking us to fight amongst ourselves, for their benefit and at the larger level the advantages of Mamata Banerjee and her legions. Thank you very much for your intellectualism and the call to join you.
Let us come out of this state of false consciousness and support our demand of Gorkhaland. This is the only issue which have been able to pull us together amidst the polarising politics of West Bengal. If this issue is diffused then we have no existence. The existence we have is already being threatened by the creation of development boards. The politics of development boards is to divide us and the only thread that has been able to bind us together is the demand for Gorkhaland. Therefore it becomes our moral duty to sabotage all the efforts of these vested interests to weaken our solidarity and demand for Gorkhaland.     

Saturday 16 August 2014

The English Premier League: The Divide Between the ‘Have’ and the ‘Have-nots’

The English Premier League has unfolded. The millions of fans across the globe have been impatient for the new season to unfurl. The almost three months break had been an anxious phase for them, analysing their clubs’ engagement and activities in the transfer market and scrutinising the impact, each buying and selling of a player could have on the fate of the club. Millions of dollars were exchanged along with players, where the loyalty of the players came into being questioned along with the aspiration and business acumen of the club owners, with the fans cherishing the buying of a superstar to moaning the departure of their beloved one. Some clubs have broken their record in buying players while others have profited on the talent of players to fill the club’s coffer. However, the EPL is a case of ‘have’ versus the ‘have-nots.’
Football today has become a market commodity influenced and affected by the market forces. The better you perform the better you are paid by the companies who line up to endorse their products. Professionalism has taken out the competitive character of football. The cliché level playing field no more exists. There was a time when 100 pounds was a record signing fee but today 40 million plus a pound cannot buy you a player. Some clubs are struggling to put a decent team together, some are on the cusp of being declared bankrupt while some are assembling a squad worth more than 500 million pounds. The market situation of different clubs are in variance and those who are better positioned in the market have the chances of reigning in success.
Football was in England a game of the masses as compared to cricket which represented the elites. It was a poor man’s sport. However, with the changing times the dimension of the game has changed. The tickets costs a fortune for somebody living in the ‘third world countries.’ The rise in communication technology has brought about this change in the character of football matches. There was a time when people would climb up trees and building tops to witness a game, but the satellite television has transformed the social character of the game.  Satellite television with its potential to reach each and every corner of the globe has transformed the game, raising its commercial stakes higher than one would have envisaged. This has brought more financial strengths to the clubs which are big, has a pedigree, and can boast of global fan following. This created financial gaps between different clubs, though in EPL the television rights and earnings are shared by all the 20 participating clubs unlikely in La Liga where the big clubs negotiate their own terms and conditions leaving the smaller clubs on their own and with less of bargaining power. However, with their earnings from televisions rights and the sale of merchandise at the global level the big clubs enjoys the surplus of funds for bringing superstars of the game to their clubs which further boasts their position in the hierarchy as the haves and thereby gives them the privilege to exploit the smaller ‘have nots’ clubs.
The smaller clubs, though they may have a bigger history than some of the financially better off clubs, struggles to train and produce their own players by investing time and money in their developmental programmes but once the finished product are there in the market the bigger ones at the opportune time catch them and alienate the smaller clubs from their product. The power of money becomes the key element in determining the stature of the clubs. History is witness to the likes of Nottingham Forest, Crystal Palace, Leeds United, Sheffield, both United and Wednesday being the darling of the English public before the advent of commercialisation of football in England. But with the petrodollars being invested in clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City, the former champion clubs have not been in the position lately to challenge the hegemony and dominance of the bigger clubs spending multiple times more than their budget and not allowing them a level playing field. This absence of level playing field has forced FIFA to bring in the Financial Fair play but this has not yet had the effect it was desired to have. 

The haves of EPL still are the favourites among the football pundits at the beginning of the season to win the championship. Chelsea, Manchester City are the front-runners to become the EPL champions, and two among Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool being the favourites to qualify alone with them for the very lucrative Champions League this year.   The crux of the matter however is, these are the clubs to have invested more and have made more profit than other clubs participating in the EPL. The divide between the haves and haves not is reflected by the fact that only Blackburn Rovers has won the EPL, when they had the most expensive player in Chris Sutton along with Alan Shearer, in its 22 years history dominated by Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and lately Manchester City some of the richest clubs in the world and history of football.