By B. Khaling
[This is the last part of Mr. Khaling’s eye-witness account of the brutal killing of innocent Gorkhas on 27 July, 1986, at the peak of Gorkhaland agitation. The incident occurred at Kalimpong Mela Ground. Here are Part-I & Part-II of the narrative.]
The first attack, perhaps a deliberate one, was made on the D.I.G., and the circumstances leading to this unfortunate happening is, indeed, baffling. The whole thing, the entire gamut is shrouded in mystery. The episode as it happened is deeply regretted. According to informed sources (and there are many with as many versions), the alleged attack was made while the D.I.G. was standing on the verandah of the Frontier Office, busy talking over the walkie-talkie, while in the midst of violent commotion and confusion of shooting and running, that were going around in the vicinity of the Kalimpong P.S. The alleged attack was made with a kukri, a number of assaults, as they say, by a single attacker; and the attacker, without being captured or shot at, simply dissolved into the crowd.
It was, perhaps, destiny again that masterminded the strangest drama of the day. How else can the episode be explained – the entire gamut of sequence from the first sudden attack, attack going unimpeded, and the final vanishing act. As if the whole thing was a carefully constructed plot, which it definitely was not. After all, the D.I.G., as the head of the entire operation and the proceedings of the day, must have had his personal security guards, letting aside other officials like the SDO, SDPO, and the CRP commandant. He could not have be standing there all alone, speaking over the walkie-talkie to his girlfriend! …
As the wounded DIG was being rushed to the Military Hospital, two jeepful of CRP jawans that followed the DIG’s jeep ahead, were shooting away at random as the jeep carrying there were running at a break-neck speed. It must be truthfully mentioned here that no single bullet hit a human target though the road between the Municipality building and the Kalimpong PS was almost choked with masses of people gripped in varying degree of emotional trauma as the three jeeps shot through the crowd in their way to the Military Hospital.
By 4.00 p.m., the tide of cold-blooded violence perpetrated by the CRP jawans began to ebb, as groups of young men mounted their counter-attack over a wide area. One young man, Sri Subodh Subba, a Black Belt in karate, went down fighting bare-handed in an attempt to save young children in the age group of 6 to 8 years, when CRP’s rifle bullets began to whistle past in the vicinity of the Central Bank and Gompu’s. His karate attack laid out three jawans while the fourth jawan shot Shri Subba through his left eye blowing off the back of his head as the bullet propelled out through the other side leaving a gory, gapring hole in the back of his head…
Suddenly, to these young men, death lost its terrifying meaning – that stamp of utter finality which all mortals dread. Instead, it was normal, inevitable fact of life to be accepted, even embraced bravely, as their fallen friends and comrades had done before them the same day. Almost blinded by tears in their eyes, these young men with naked kukris in their hands, went on a rampage that left many CRP jawans mortally wounded and felled; many of them making hasty retreat to find shelter in the safety of private homes. By 4.45 p.m., the retaliation was so complete that not one single shot was fired by the now whimpering CRP jawans on the battle-charged Gorkhas completely gone berserk. The attack on the CRP jawans were immediately withdrawn, once their rifles became silent. Right in front of the rifle-toting CRP jawans, four state buses were set on fire and pushed down into the ditch. Totally subdued and demoralized, the entire rank and file of the CRP jawans with rifles in their trembling hands, stood witness to the entire carnage of destruction. At that moment, if they had done some shooting to prevent the destruction of public properties, that was the time to do it, when their action would have been fully justified. What a travesty of human failure, indeed!!!
The general consensus of the media reporting on the shooting that took place on the 27th July, reflects the same old run-of-the-mill types of fracas that our brave CRP jawans normally involved in the cities of this sub-continent. For instance, “There was a communal riot in such and such place, that led to the senseless killings, the burning of shops and destruction of public properties. Then the CRP jawans intervened by first using tear-gas canisters followed by lathi charges. Then the inevitable happened – the shooting and the ruthless killings.” …
By 5.30 p.m., the ugly mob of battle-charged young Gorkhas became almost uncontrollable, with platoons of CRP jawans completely subdued and tamed even with rifles, the Army had to be called in to restore the fast deteriorating law and order situation in the town. As the clock struck six, the Army jawans in their battle-dress took over from the Police Station point to spread out over the town in systematic, machine-like precision. But as the Army jawans took over the situation in hand, their systematic presence all over the key points of disturbances was, one of security and reassurance that all was well. The unconcerned looks that were almost friendly and understanding, as they patrolled the town area exduded confidence and hope that almost renewed our faith in the institution we had always believed in. with the advent of the Army jawans in the panic-torn town of Kalimpong, the Centre, with its message of the government of the people, by the people and for the people had, at last, intervened.
This short narrative would be incomplete without mentioning the stellar role played by that section and category of humanity in which love and compassion for the fellow-beings in distress almost inevitably rouse in them their inborn capacity to rise to the occasion to serve them, irrespective of the circumstances and situation that might summon them to their calling…
In spite of the Curfew clamped since 6.00 p.m. in the evening of the 27th, groups of self-appointed volunteers took up in respective duties in the hospital. Emergency funds were raised (there was no dearth of contributions) to the meet the expenses for medicines, special food, vitamin and tonics required for the wounded. No stones were left unturned to forge a bond of comradeship amongst volunteers who stood to the respective posts assigned to them, so that the injured and the suffering kith and kin could feel a deep sense of security in the selfless service of those wonderful young people who rendered it.
The spirit of sacrifice displayed in the face of personal risk and danger, when those wonderful people went about their job of collecting the wounded; the selfless service of those volunteers who tended to the needs of the sick and the sufferings in the hospital are glimpses of sparks divine in man that help to revive and restore one’s faith in the goodness of human race…
Mr. Jyoti Basu, the Ho’ble Chief Minister of West Bengal, in his leaner days as a rising Communist leader had the courage to tell Mr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, the then Chief Minister, as well as a towering personality of the time, that the hill district of Darjeeling had all the makings for the grant and award of statehood. That was way back in 1955.
But as a towering figure himself now in today’s Bengal holding the august office of the Chief Minister, Mr. Jyoti Basu lacks the courage to accept and implement what he himself propounded – the honorable fulfillment of the very cause he so courageously championed in favor of the people of the hills of Darjeeling some three decades ago…
Resigned to their fate and yet with smiling faces, the Gorkhas of Darjeeling Hills have endured with saintly patience everything that was dished out to them, without a whimper.
But the ominous handwriting on the wall which appeared with the expulsion of more than ten thousand Gorkhas from Meghalaya, who were driven out right across the borders of two states, Assam and West Bengal, and dumped across Kakari Bhitta in Nepal. As act committed in flagrant violation of the text of the 7th Article of the Indo-Nepal Treaty of 1950. It just went down the drain. And the Nepal government took the beating without a whimper. And again the slogan that ‘Assam for Assamese’, and the ‘Punjab for Punjabis’ and not even the Hindu Punjabis began to be heard in rising crescendo, the Gorkhas residing in India seemed to have got the message. Now, all we want is the acceptance in spirit and deed, the identity of the Gorkhas as an entity standing at par, vis-à-vis their Indian counterparts in a country we so dearly loved and served. And, what’s wrong with that utterly human aspiration?!!!
Today, there is a big question – as large as life itself – that looms uppermost in the mind of each Gorkha who has been living in India since generations: Should the Gorkhas living in India as domiciled second rate citizens be asked to shed their blood on the battle front and die for India as mere ‘MERCENARIES’ as Gorkhas have always done on battle fields all over the world?
B. Khaling: Unfortunately, we have no information on Mr. Khaling. Even when we asked people in the hills, no one seemed to know. If you happen to know, please inform us. We will update the bio.
[Cafe Dissensus Blog is the blog of Cafe Dissensus Magazine.]