If you were to visit Darjeeling or Kalimpong these days, you would think that the college students in these regions were not going to classes but to celebrate ethnic day in the campus.
Three times a week, you will see them trooping into colleges, sporting colourful ethnic costumes. The Bhutias and Tibetans in their chubas, ethnic Nepalis of the region in Daura-sural for men and Chaubandi Choli and Pharia for the girls and so on.
It’s all right if the ethnic Gorkhas of Darjeeling district want to flaunt their ethnicity by attiring themselves in garments that actually is the national dress of Nepal. Incidentally, the citizens of Nepal themselves don’t wear the national dress when they go to their offices, except on national events. That too is applicable only to the civil servants.
But the point is why impose such regulation, which is actually an offshoot of the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha’s (GJMM) political campaign for a separate homeland, on our Bhutanese students studying there when it is not applicable to students of other nationalities such as Bangladeshis and Thais?
This is politicising education, by imposing the dress code. If the Bhutanese are found not wearing Ghos and Kiras to college, they are not allowed to attend the classes by the volunteers of Gorkha Janmukti Vidarthy Morcha, a student wing of the GJMM.
In fact, the Bhutanese students thought that they didn’t have to comply with the regulation as they were foreigners just like the Bangadeshis and Thais. But no; the Yuva Morcha or the youth wing volunteers summoned the president and some executive members of Bhutanese Students Association to their office and warned them that they are not exempted.
What is the rational behind forcing only the Bhutanese to wear the national dress? Darjeeling district is not providing free education for our children. In fact, our children are contributing to the local economy by using educational facilities located in their region.
We like to send our children to schools and colleges there because we share similarities when it comes to climate, food habits and to some extent cultural life and language. The Bhutanese at one time used to go to Kaliphu and Dorjeeling more often than any other place in India for business. Our association goes a long way back.
But the recent belligerence displayed by GJMM to our students, away from their parents and home, is an uncalled-for act which almost gives the feeling that Bhutanese students have been singled out specifically from amongst other nationalities to deliberately hassle them.
Wearing the national dress may not pose that much of a problem. But forcing them to participate in GJMM’s rallies is political coercion and they have to take part out of fear for their life and limb.
The Royal Government had already had a first round of talks on this issue with the West Bengal government, following which the Bhutanese students were told by the home ministry not to wear the national dress for fear that they might come under attack from other disgruntled elements than the volunteers of the GJMM.
With the examinations looming ahead of them before the winter vacation, the Bhutanese students are in a dilemma. Perhaps the best solution would be not to send our children, no matter what, to Darjeeling region for studies in future.