Choosing the Gorkha: At the crossroads of class and ethnicity in the Darjeeling Hills

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Abstract

The Darjeeling hills in northern West Bengal, India are being demanded as a homeland for the Gorkha community living in India. While the origin of Darjeeling is steeped in the imperial legacy of the British Raj, the Gorkha, a colonial construct is ironically used as a means to challenge the contemporary political regression and neo-colonisation of Darjeeling. Although the Gorkha identity is deemed as representative of the Nepali community residing in India, it acquires special meaning and importance in the Darjeeling hills, where majority of the people suffer low wages, unemployment, underdevelopment and poverty. In spite of a large working force in the tea estates, economic underdevelopment and political disempowerment is voiced through the assertion of ethnic rather than a class-based identity. Through an examination of the interaction between class and ethnicity, the Gorkha identity will highlight the malleability of ethnicity to extend itself to any situation and the emergence of an ethnic identity from class relations and grievances.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-308
JournalAsian Ethnicity
Volume14
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

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