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Gorkha History of North India

Himachal Pradesh
The settlement of the Gorkhas in Himanchal Pradesh has a history of nearly 250 years. Between 1803 and 1814, the Gorkha Empire included the swathe from Kangra to Srinagar. After nearly 12 years of rule here, under the treaty of Sugauli in 1815, Nepal had to cede Simla, Kumaun, Garhwal and all the low lands lying between the Chenab and the Sunkosh, north of the river Ganga. The majority of the Gorkhas settled in the district of Kangra, Dharamshala and Bakloh, near Dalhousie in Chamba district. These people cannot be categorized as migrants in any way since they merged into India with the lands they lived on. The 1st Gorkha Rifles was raised at Sabathu near Simla in 1815 and it was given a permanent location at Dharamshala.

The first regular settlement of the Gorkhas in Dharmashala is known to have taken place some time between 1879 and 1882. Gorkha army pensioners lived in Chilghari.At present, they have settled in many villages, such as Ramnagar, Shyamnagar, Dan, Sidh Ban, Sadar Ghaniyara, Yol, Dal, Tota Rani, Chandmani and Chani. About the earliest settlement of Gorkhas in Kangra district, it is said that some families settled in the village of Sahaura near Kangra during the seizure of the Kangra fort from 1805 to 1809. Many Gorkha families settled down in villages around Malaun fort after its fall, and one of the prominent families was that of the forefathers of Arjun Singh Bista, a former legislator from Nalagarh.

One of the oldest associations of Gorkhas in Dharamshala is the Himachal Punjab Gorkha Association, established in 1916. The main objective of the association was to render financial help to widows, orphans and destitutes, stipend to poor students, preservation of the Gorkha’s language and culture and seeking government assistance to benefit and create employment for the Gorkha pensioners.

The history of Gorkha settlement in Uttaranchal, the erstwhile northern Uttar Pradesh, is as old as that of Himachal Pradesh.The districts of Kumaun and Garhwal fell under the Gorkha kingdom between 1790 and 1815. Dehradun valley was captured by Balbhadra Kunwar in 1803. General Amar Singh Thapa was in charge of Kumaun and Garhwal, whereas Balbhadra Kunwar was the administrator of the Dehradun valley. Srinagar and Simla were under the charge of Bahadur Bhandari and Dasharath Khatri. Ranjor Thapa, the son of Amar Singh Thapa, was entrusted with Sirmoor in Himachal Pradesh. After the Anglo­Gorkha War, when these lands were ceded to British India, the soldiers and the settlers of these places became de facto subject of India.

After the treaty of 1815, the 2nd GR and the 3rd GR were raised in Sirmoor and Almora respectively. The retired soldiers of these regiments were later rehabilitated by the British, who set up colonies and provided lands in Nalapani, Raipur, Killagarh, Gorapur Estate, Navada, Garhi, Dakra Bazar, Lachhiwala, Vizpur, Anarwala, Ghuchukpani, Chandrabani, Parade Ground, Paltan Bazar and Phaltu Line.The people resident in these areas, which now make up parts of Uttarakhand, have done well in many spheres. Their intellect and intrepidity have also blazed a trail in the annals of the Indian Gorkhas.

It was Dehradun that established the All India Gorkha League in 1925. Thakur Chandan Singh was its founder president. The League, a socio­political organisation, fought for the rights of the Gorkhas through its two Nepali journals, Gorkha Sansar (1926) and Tarun Gorkha (1928). Chandan Singh also edited the Great Himalayan, an English journal from 1926. The All India Gorkha League came to a halt after 1934, succumbing to pressures from the British administration. Again, it is Dehradun that raised the first voice for the recognition of Nepali language in the Indian constitution. Anand Singh Thapa, the editor of Jagrat Gorkha, wrote a memorandum to the President of India to this end in 1956, a call that was later taken up by other establishments there and in other parts of India.

Poet Gumani Panta of Almora (1790­-1887), lyrist Bahadur Singh Baral of Kangra (b.1893), music maestro Mitrasen Thapa of Dharamshala (1892­-1947), national poet Gopal Singh Nepali (1911­-64), et al, hailed from Uttarakhand. Being the land of Amar Singh Thapa and Veer Balbhadra, innumerable soldiers born here have served the country. Martyrs like Major Durga Malla and Captain Dalbahadur Thapa of the INA belonged to this region. The first Gorkha General, Omkar Singh Bhandari, Param Vir Chakra winner Dhansingh Thapa and a host of gallantry award recipients have done the Indian Army proud.

Gorkhas settled in JK in the 18th century and a majority of them were soldiers and families that had fought in the ranks of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab. Gulab Singh, a landlord of Jammu was his commander in chief. After the defeat of the Sikhs in their march into JK after the Afghan wars, Gulab Singh purchased Kashmir Valley for Rs 36 lakh and became maharaja of JK. It was Maharaja Ranbir Singh, the ruler who succeeded Gulab Singh, who organized the army in JK and enlisted Gorkhas. Notable among these were Brigadier (General Staff) Bhagat Bir Thapa, his son Brigadier Bhagwan Singh Thapa and General Khadak Bahadur of the Nepal Army, who migrated to JK and was rewarded with the post of General Officer. Major Badri Nar Singh showed outstanding valour in the battle of Chitra (now in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) and was awarded the IOM.

Gorkha troops also fought shoulder to shoulder with Dogra troops in the conquest of Chitral, Hunza, Nagar and Haveli (now in POK). A familiar story is recalled of a Gorkha woman who swan across the Indus river and informed the headquarters of the presence and concentration of a large force of enemy troops. The time reinforcement of troops saved the situation. The woman was nickenamed “Bhutni” (ghost) because of her daring courage in crossing the Indus at night. The Gorkhas of JK took part in World War I (1914-18) and excelled in the battle of Beho Beho and Kilimanjaro in East Africa. Colonel (later General) Durga Singh received a gallantry awards and a jagir with the honour of “Sardar Bahadur”, OBE, IOM for showing extraordinary courage against the Germans.

The Gorkhas of JK faced the worst of communal violence in 1947-48. At the time, the Gorkha regiment of JK had mixed troops and a class composition with Mirpuri Muslims and Dogra troops in the ranks. The communal frenzy and the situation prevailing with the partition of India in 1947 made them enemies overnight. The misguided Muslim troops, who joined the Pakistan Army with their arms and ammunition, trained their guns on the Gorkha soldiers and almost wiped them out. Capt Prem Singh Bist was brutally murdered at Ban Bridge (now on the commercial route opened for trade with Pakistan) and another officer, Major Ram Saran Karki, was also killed while escorting Hindu refugees from Mirpur, now in POK. There were hardly any Gorkha survivors to tell their tale of valour and woe.

During the J&K Op in 1947-48, Brigadier (then Major) Sher Jang thapa fought bravely for six months with this troops besieged inside Skardu fort in POK and he was awarded the Mahavir Chakra. In 1962, during the Indo-China war, Havildar Sire Thapa put up a brave fight with is machine gun at Rio Bridge in Subansiri Division and met a heroic death. The Chinese buried his body on the spot and left a written note appreciating his courage and fighting skills.The bravery of Gorkhas is sung about by street singers of Kashmir and the old cantonment (now the J&K Police Lines and Headquarters) was named Magar Mall Bagh . Gorkha Nagar in Jammu also came into existence on the bank of River Tawi in the early 1950s. The Gorkhas have had to toil hard and clear the dense forest to turn the area into a small township, a symbol of identity for Gorkhas in JK.

Though the Gorkhas have made supreme sacrifices for the integrity of India and the safety of JK, their miseries have increased manifold since independence. They are economically, socially and educationally backward. They face big hurdles in getting the Permanent Residence Certificate (PRC) or state subject certification of JK, without which young Gorkha boys and girls cannot get a good job or admission into educational institutes. They are kept away from the mainstream. No politician or any mainstream political party or administration cares for them. Their population numbers around one lakh and is spread across JK, including Kashmir Valley. The JK Government should take steps to grant them the PRC because most of the families who don’t own land or homes due to their economic condition are considered foreigners/non‐state subjects. Where will they go?
( Credits - Deepak Rai , Lt Col (retd) V K Sharma & Gokul Sinha, M.A. Ph.D)

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