Amit Valmiki
IJDTSW Vol.5, Issue 1, No.1, pp. 1 to 24, July 2018

Historisizing and Unravelling Cultural Expressions of the Balmiki Community Reflections On The Darjeeling Context

Published On: Saturday, August 4, 2018

Abstract

This paper aims at unravelling the culture of the Balmiki community and the processes of historical exclusion from a Balmiki perspective. The understanding of Balmiki community and their definition of culture is more of a traditional way of defining it which is based on the factors such as ethnicity and religious practices and beliefs. In fact, data which was collected and analyzed in itself was very negative in a sense that this group of population feel that since time they have been losing the essence of their cultural practices and hence leading to isolation of people within the community (among themselves). According to the respondents, Balmiki’s as migrants only have their distinct culture with them and the loss in the essence of it would mean the divergence of Balmiki population to other cultures thereby making it difficult to sustain in the alien land. Thus the changes and loss in cultural elements are not permissible for the Balmiki’s. The respondents also claim that the visible changes in the cultural practices of Balmiki community is more out of the high education level of the youths from the community as well as factors such as the modernization and modernity equally have played the role in the loss of importance of Balmiki culture. Though education is emancipatory to the struggles of the Balmiki community in Darjeeling hills but it also in certain contexts has negative impacts. The educated youths who were part of the emancipatory movement of the community after acquiring education have disregard towards their community and its rigid cultural practices. The educated youths are vulnerable to the social capital and relations outside their own Balmiki community and end up acquiring cultural traits of others at the cost of their own. The modernized and civilized culture of Darjeeling serves to be a fanaticized world for the Balmiki’s wherein they find their happiness.

EPISTEMOLOGICAL LOCATION:

I belong to the Balmiki community myself and have been socialised in its ways, worldviews and culture. I have through the years of socialization been a key observer of my own reality, reflecting on the lived and the social conditions of my peoples. I was privileged to study in a english school and i credit this as fundamental in breaking the cycle of thought process and the poverty that my community is trapped in.

A.FRAMING THE CONTEXT AND METHODOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS

Within the territory of India one another place of diversity is Darjeeling and the area that I have chosen for my study. Darjeeling from times has been a place of interest for different sections of people from within and outside the borders. Darjeeling, as is famously known “Queen of Hills” – located within the Lesser and Sub – Himalayan belts of the Eastern Himalayas in West Bengal serves home to many groups of people since its establishment as ‘dorje’ – ‘ling’ (Dorje meaning thunderbolt and ling meaning place) dated long back in the mid-19th century. With majority of its population as immigrants, Darjeeling can be considered as a place of “Super-diversity” with communal harmony – promoting multiculturalism and its exchange among different communities and religious sects of people. Darjeeling, since its establishment has witnessed diversified population composition covering all the socially created and accepted ‘caste’ and ‘class’ context.

Drawing and jotting down the history of Darjeeling, one can conceptualize that Darjeeling is a district cum city carved out of the deciduous Himalayan forest in the mid-19th Century exclusively by the British commercial interest and strategic importance. Originally Darjeeling belonged to the Kingdom of Sikkim with Lepchas inhabiting as the native tribes since the beginning of time. Later, in 1790’s the Gorkha Army of Nepal invaded Darjeeling against the handful indigenous Lepchas and Bhutia armies of Sikkim. This invasion annexed area up to Teesta River into Nepal. The Anglo-Gorkha war between the British and the Gorkhas of Nepal serves as an important event in the history of the formation of Darjeeling the way it is now. It is said to be that the Britisher’s were successful in defeating the Gorkhas which was followed by the Treaty of Sagauli (1815), handing over one-third of area (between Mechi and Teesta River) of Nepal to the British. This was followed by a tricky situation whereby treaty of Titalia was signed between British and the Sikkimese Chogyal on 10th Feb 1817. Under the provisions of the treaty the British again returned the same area to the Kingdom of Sikkim1.

The tension between Nepal and Sikkim regarding the borders aroused again in 1829. In order to resolve the existing issue the then Governor-General Lord William Bentinck sent two of the British Officers Captain George Alymer Lloyd and J. W. Grant. It is this point in time where these two officers after their stay in the Darjeeling proposed to Lord William Bentinck for the establishment of a military outpost and sanatorium in the Himalayan hill tract. Later British India acknowledging the fact and importance of the place and the strategic advantages as a military outpost and trading hub, accepted the proposal. This was one of the most important event in the history of Darjeeling. The British in negotiation with the Chogyal of Sikkim in 1835 acquired the land as a gift. This event in making had shaped the history of Darjeeling. Thus one can say that the sole motive of British was to establish a sanatorium and military outpost with strategic importance as watch tower commanding the entrance into Nepal and Bhutan and establishing trade with Tibet and also establishing a recreation on account of its cool climate, for the purpose of enabling the servants of its Government, suffering from sickness. As the Colonial power found that the climate of this particular place was quite similar to what they were comfortable with, they decided to build a plan for establishing a settlement of not more than 10,000 people at any stage.

The acquisition of Darjeeling by the British meant and facilitated the immigration of huge influxes of population from different parts of the country and abroad. The decision of British India to start plantation of tea in the hill tracts of Darjeeling in 1841 facilitated a huge influx of people from the surrounding areas of Sikkim and Nepal. The British encouraged migration to Darjeeling for the labour supply to tea industry as well as the construction workers in building roads. Subsequently, the establishment of Darjeeling Municipality in 1850’s facilitated migration of the so called scavengers from the northern part of the country to serve the British interest. Thus, can be traced the migration of Balmiki community to the hills.

With the inception of British rule in Darjeeling not only the above mentioned sections of people but a whole range of other groups started migrating for their self-interests. With the British policy during those times, favoring migration and providing all kinds of incentives to convert the Hilly tract to a district hill resort the migration of several business merchants from Nepalese community, Gujarati’s, Tibetans, Bhutia’s, Marwari’s, Bihari’s, Punjabi’s, Kashmiri merchants, Muslim’s, Bangladeshi Muslim’s and Bengalee’s was witnessed. Apart from the merchant communities, tribals like Oraon, Santhal and Munda also migrated to work in the plantation industry.

If we specifically classify the immigrants or migrants to Darjeeling during the British rule one can easily observe that all these migration was facilitated based on certain aspects of work of the British interest. The Nepalese (Gorkhas now2) community were specifically brought to the picture for working as labourers in plantation areas such as tea and cinchona plantations. They were also facilitated to work manually as construction workers for building the road. The first road however was build and connected to the plains in 1839. The other sections of people such as the Oraons, Santhal and Mundas were facilitated to work in plantations as well. One can articulate that the reason behind such ploy was that these sectors particularly required strong individuals. As the tribal groups and the Mongoloid origin Nepalese community are strongly build they were required to be engaged in the concerned sector. As the British were aware of the caste structure of Indian society and the entitlement of caste based occupation they fully utilized the readily available resource of scavengers. They facilitated the migration of Balmiki community who are said to be lowest among the low to serve as cleaners by performing the menial activity of cleaning the society that the British planned to establish.

The business communities or the merchant communities such as the Gujarati’s, the Bhutia’s, Tibetan’s, Marwari’s, Kashmiri’s, Bihari’s and Punjabi’s and Muslim’s were facilitated to migrate in order to establish business or trade and commerce of the place which would in near future help in the development of the place and also would serve as a source of revenue through trade for the British.

Among the Nepalese Community (Gorkhas) which migrated from the Sikkim and Nepal Himalayas there are several groups with diverse differences residing in Darjeeling since their migration. The social structure among these migrated Nepalese community itself is so diverse and multi-layered that it is very difficult to understand the interactions among them. Those migrated groups which form the Nepalese community or society of Darjeeling are Chettri, Rai, Gurung, Tamang, Limbu, Subba, Thapa, Pradhan, Mukhia, Sunuwar, Thami, Sarki, Sherpa, Biswakarma, Lepcha, Bhutia, Lohar, Kami, Damai etc. These groups have different cultural affiliations as well as religious beliefs (Hindus, Buddhists and Christians) with some of them embracing themselves under the caste hierarchy (Kami, Damai, Sunuwar, Lohar, Sarki, Biswakarma) while some others entitling themselves with the tribal group (Tamang, Lepcha, Bhutia, Subba). These groups again have their respective clans and sub-groups which define their origin and affiliations to the soil”3.

Almost all the societies or groups of people who migrated to Darjeeling since British era irrespective of their religious beliefs have different clan groups and some amount of differences among the same community as well. For instance the Muslims, Kashmiri Muslims, the Rajasthani’s, the Gujarati’s, Punjabi’s, Bihari’s etc have their own sub clans and layers of diversity which is hard to describe and understood. All have their own cultural importance and beliefs.

The Balmiki community as a migrant since the British era too have their own identity and uniqueness of culture and belief systems. The Balmiki community having been migrated from different locations have their own sub-group and clan linings. As the research is based on the same community it is important to cite once the clan linings of Balmiki’s who have a unique system of its own. The clans of sub-groups which form the Balmiki society in Darjeeling are Chawaria, Sarwan, Sharsar, Godiala, Boyat, Athwal, Piwal, Biwal, Ghoghalia, Gohar, Bagdi, Sangelia, Khairalia, Taank and Nindania4. These clan groups have their own system of beliefs and cultural practices which is different from one another. Thus, through this basic mapping of the society by addressing different groups one can conclude that Darjeeling is a place of Super-Diversity with diverse population composition and the interactions of different variables of analyzing the diversity. The existence of diverse cultural aspects of different groups has promoted the state of multiculturalism in Darjeeling with some amount of impact on the social life of the individuals.

Figure 1: Migration map witnessing the diverse influx of population in Darjeeling

Source: Self interpreted.

The Balmiki community having been incorporated into the caste hierarchy and placed lowest among the low have suffered a tremendous amount of suffering and atrocities since times. But on the other hand the practice of untouchability could not find its way in the social life of the diverse population of Darjeeling. Although the question of purity and pollution through one way or the other has occupied a space among the diverse population of hills. This question has indeed led to the exclusion of the Balmiki’s of Darjeeling from the rest of the so called super-diverse society somehow since times. This further has led to the formation of a neighborhood of the Balmiki’s in the outskirts of the society (in the dumping ground and near to the graveyard) limiting the opportunity and space for interaction with other diverse groups. This has surely resulted in impacting the culture and adaptability of Balmiki’s and their social life. Indeed, the perspectives of the community for the visible changes in their culture has always been negative for the question of Caste consciousness has always haunted the minds of the Balmikis’s. Thus, this study of mine would indeed focus on the distinct and unique cultural practices of Balmiki’s migrated from Northern India and the process of exclusion which facilitated the formation of neighborhood of the Balmiki community in the outskirts of the Darjeeling town. It also would focus and discuss upon the changes in the Balmikian cultural practices in Darjeeling.

The interrelationship among the diverse cultures in a super-diversified location like Darjeeling has paved the way for the promotion of multiculturalism and transcultural society. Nevertheless one must also take into consideration that it has some negative impacts among some groups. The Balmiki’s in Darjeeling believe that they are witnessing severe loss or harm to their cultural heritage. Various factors and variables together have pointed out or brought forward the harm or loss of Balmikian culture. One of the most important aspect of understanding is the consideration of the Balmiki ghetto formed in due course of time in relation to other groups of people. This is one of the most important reason for whatever the changes that have occurred in the cultural aspect of the Balmiki’s. The process of the formation of ghetto of Balmiki’s with minority in the outskirts of the mainland Darjeeling has in fact limited the scope of promoting their cultures among other groups. This does not mean that they are confined to their own, but the fact of the matter is that this has also encouraged the promotion of other cultures among the Balmikis. As the caste factor plays a vital role, this chuck or group of population being from lower caste are not accepted by other societies but on the other hand the Balmiki’s in race to compete with others have adopted traits of cultural change and adoption of the lifestyle pattern of the majority in Darjeeling (the Nepalese) in a considerable way. Thus various parameters and variables of cultural diversity has in return helped the change in the way Balmiki’s pretend to be. I began the process of unravelling the context by asking three questions; what are the impacts of formation of Neighborhood on the culture of Balmiki’s in Darjeeling? Are there any visible changes in the Balmikian cultural and traditional practices in due course of time? And If yes what are those and what are the reasons behind.

B. HISTORICIZING THE MIGRATION OF BALMIKI COMMUNITY TO DARJEELING-THE HARIZAN BARRACK AND THE GHETTOIZATION OF BALMIKIS

Caste is a rigid social system in which a social hierarchy is maintained generation after generation and allows little mobility out of the position to which a person is born5. The term is often applied to the hierarchical hereditary divisions established among the Hindus on the Indian subcontinent. The word Caste was first used by 16th-century Portuguese traders; it is derived from the Portuguese ‘casta’, denoting family strain, breed, or race. The term ‘Caste’ is often used interchangeably to refer to the Sanskrit terms Varna and Jati.

According to Manu, the traditional Indian Hindu society was divided into four ‘verna’- Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. All these were collectively known as Chaturvarna. Later some others scholars have brought to the forth sight that there exists a 5th verna known as the ‘Atishudra’ which included the so called “untouchables”. The present study attempts to explore one of such untouchable community i.e., the Balmiki community (also known as “Bhangi – meaning a person addicted of consuming bhang or marijuana leaves”6) in Darjeeling Hills. This community has ever since engaged themselves in the menial and filthy practice of manual scavenging. As such Balmiki community consists of the majority of manual scavengers in our society. They are still identified with the work and considered untouchable and stereotyped as the “Jamadar – a person who sweeps as livelihood option”7. In other words the community is stereotyped to belong and represent the category of sweepers, safaikaramcharis, Jamadar or sanitary workers. Given that experience they have always been marginalized and treated as outcasts socially, economically and culturally. With the introduction of septic latrines, the practice of carrying buckets of excrement on their heads is gone but they still work to clear blockages in sewers where they are half submerged in filth and hence the stigma still remains. The Balmiki community since times have been entitled with the status of Maha Dalit and hence have been subjugated or suppressed by the entire other sections of the society. Not only from the upper castes but the trend of suppression and inequality is prevalent even among the Dalits. Hence, this chunk of population are also known as the ‘lowest of the low’.

The understanding of Balmikian history in the contemporary times is an important area of interest to the emerging scholars and none the less a very difficult area of study. The projection and execution of the Balmiki community among the Dalit population on the other hand makes it a more difficult area of study as the lack of literature in the same field does not provide any concrete proof of the written history thereby somehow questioning the credibility and validity of the community. Thus in order to study and understand this portion of history the narratives and stories from within the community is of outmost importance. This chapter of historicizing the Balmiki community is mostly based on the understanding and perceptions from within the community.

We as a part of Balmiki community trace our ancestry in Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab”8states the respondent in his first sentence. Also it has been discussed in the introductory note of the present study that apart from the handful “Lepchas”9 all other population of Darjeeling constitutes of an influx of migration facilitated by the British Raj since long time back. Thus it can be analyzed that the Balmiki community having been migrated from the northern and north-western part of the Indian sub-continent are the immigrants and do not have permanent settlement of their own in Darjeeling. In order to understand the process of migration of Balmiki community it is necessary to seek into the history of the formation of Darjeeling. Although a bit of the history of Darjeeling has already been discussed in the introductory chapter it is the need of the situation of mentioning some of it again in this particular section.

The age old practice of caste has trapped the Balmiki community to its core since two thousand years and the entitlement as scavenging community has facilitated the migration of this particular community to different parts of the Indian sub-continent since the British rule in India. One such case is the migration of Balmiki community in Darjeeling Hills. Almost all the respondents in this study are of the opinion that the migration of Balmiki community to the Hills is a planned and parallel incident and a part of the British Colonial policy to expand its outreach. Thus the migration of Balmiki community has a close linkage with the British India wanting to acquire this particular place. The Balmiki community thus, are one of the key sections of population witnessing and involved in transforming the considerable area of Himalayan deciduous forest (Dorje – Ling), in due course of time into what we know today as the town of Darjeeling. The British Colonial interest of acquiring the separate Kingdom of Sikkim into British annexed empire started with a buildup of good and healthy relation with the Chogyal of Sikkim10. And later when the Gorkha army in 1790 invaded the parts of Sikkim Himalayas the British in assurance to the Chogyal of Sikkim regained the same area after defeating the Gorkha Army and forcing them to sign the Treaty of Sagauli in 1815. This was followed up by signing of another treaty between British and the Sikkimees Chogyal on 10th February 1817 returning the same area back to the Chogyal. These invents further build up the good relations of British with the Sikkimese Chogyal and paved the way of the idea of formation of Darjeeling thereby providing space and context of the migration of Balmiki community.

Under such situation, in 1829 two of the British officers came up with an idea of establishing the sanatorium and military outpost considering its location and cool climate suitable for the British army. According to a respondent if we look at the history “the main interest of the British behind the formation of Darjeeling was to establish a recreation and a military camp for its Government servants and soldiers suffering from sickness”11. This proposal in consideration to some more additional advantage to the British Empire such as strategic importance as watch tower commanding the entrance into Nepal and Bhutan and establishing trade with Tibet was further forwarded to the Chogyal of Sikkim. Thus, Chogyal of Sikkim on account of some annual remuneration and good relation gifted the entire hill tract to the British in 1835. Thus, started the influx of migration.

This incident paved the way and momentum for the idea of transforming the deciduous hill tract into a sanatorium and a hill station.

According to Secretary of Balmiki Harizan Sangh –

The idea soon turned out to establishing a settlement for not more than 10,000 individuals. For the British interest of establishing a hill station for recreation and generating some revenue out of it, it was necessary for the colonial power to utilize the local available resources and man power. Thus based on the interest and capabilities of the human resource the policy the British facilitated the migration of several sections of population from different parts of Indian sub-continent”

In between 1835 and 1839 a considerable amount of migration was witnessed but people rarely talk about that. For the researchers and scholars what is important is the year 1839 which witnessed a huge amount of population influx in the Hills when it was connected to the plains by constructing a road. For the same purpose the British Raj facilitated the migration of some of the Nepalese communities (Gorkhas12) from the neighboring nation Nepal keeping in mind the poverty driven situation there. Also the fact that for the construction purpose a strongly buildup human resource was required and the British were aware of the fact that the Nepalese trace their ancestry to the strongly build Mongoloid race. Another influx of the section of people from Nepal and Sikkim was witnessed in 1841 with the decision of British Empire to introduce the plantation industry which also required a huge labour. A huge chunk of population migrated since then to Darjeeling hills to work as plantation workers in both tea plantation and cinchona plantation. “If we consider the history of migration in Darjeeling the scholars and researchers have always focused on the Nepalese migration with almost no insight to the Balmiki community” – stated the high school teacher13. The lack of available literature on the Balmiki migration to Darjeeling also supports the argument brought forward by the respondent here.

Apart from this section of population the colonial power required other human resources in order to successfully meet the interest of establishing a hill town as well as a sanatorium. There comes the existence of the migration of business communities promoting the trade and commerce of Darjeeling thereby generating the revenue for the British. There was a diverse influx of population from across the sub-continent ranging from Muslims to the Punjabis (Sikhs).But these migration was much later.

The British in permanently setting up a place as a recreation and sanatorium and later the hill station which would serve of immense importance in the coming years required and yielded help from different section of the society.

According to the High School teacher – “the period from 1835 to 1839 witnessed some migration but has not been recorded and considered as an important event in the history. On the contrary, for us this period is very much important as it is in this period that we can trace the history of migration of Balmiki community to the Darjeeling Hills”.

The British in process of setting up the entire place felt the urgent need of manual workers for the cleaning of the hills. As caste system and its features was on its peak at the arrival of the British, they had managed to understand the social structure and hierarchy prevalent in the Indian Society. The idea of caste based occupation played a vital role in this context. British Empire’s understanding and awareness of the Balmiki community being engaged in the manual scavenging and other menial job provided them with the human resource for the same. The British Raj thus facilitated the Balmiki migration to Darjeeling from the northern and north-western region of the country which today is known by the names of Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. It is not that all the Balmiki migrants had immigrated to the Hills.

According to one of the Balmiki senior citizen14 – “the Balmiki migration since then can be witnessed across the Indian sub-continent. The migration was based, one out of the enforcing nature of the society where this particular section were subjected to work as manual scavengers or menial workers as entitled to them and the other out of poor economic condition of the same and hence the assurance to avail livelihood opportunity paved the way for the bulk of Balmiki migration”.

The Balmiki migration from all the above mentioned areas in due course of time has had a change in its trend and pattern. Initially, in the early phase of migration it was not that a huge bulk of Balmiki population migrated together at once. Only a handful individuals from this particular community had migrated to Darjeeling as compared to the majority migrating to some other locations.

According to the Secretary of Balmiki Harizan Sangh – “these handful workers for the first few years had to work as cleaners in the private residents of the British family. It was only with the establishment of Darjeeling Municipality in 1850 that a greater number of Balmiki migrants was witnessed”.

With the establishment of Darjeeling Municipality and the entire vacancy of sweepers and scavengers (Safaikaramcharis) opened to only this particular community the livelihood of Balmiki’s got secured. Thus the migration of the Balmiki’s from their native villages to the hill station of Darjeeling overlaps with the growth of the Municipal body post 1850s.15

The Balmiki population numbering 6,30016 in the entire Darjeeling district and 5,29,00017 in the entire state of West Bengal had witnessed such growth in its population after the independence period. Although the amount of migration during the period from 1850’s to the independence was considerable but was temporary. People completing their tenure of job and returned back to their homeland. But now a slight change in the trend of migration pattern has been witnessed with almost very less in ward migration and more of settling down in the available space with a scope of returning back to their homeland sometime in future. One another aspect in the change in trend of migration pattern is that the pre-independence period witnessed the migration of Balmiki individuals whereas the post-independence period witnessed the migration and settling of the Balmiki families and households.

Exclusion leading to Formation of the Balmiki Neighborhood

From the above discussion regarding the migration of the Balmiki’s it can be analyzed that the most important factor facilitating the migration of the concerned community was based and revolving around the caste factor all throughout this period. Had there been no caste structure or had the Balmiki’s been placed up higher in the caste ladder the stigma would not have been there. Although the British were the facilitator of the migration, it was still based on the stigma and occupation assigned according to the caste.

Those Balmiki’s who migrated from the Northern and North-Western parts of the country since times immemorial had suffered by the effects of the evil practice of caste. It is said that brutal untouchability was practiced during those times. According to the respondent – “however, the migration to Darjeeling disabled the brutal practice of untouchability and caste against the Balmiki’s. Nevertheless the migration of Balmiki’s brought with them the stigma of working as scavengers and menial workers. This however enabled the exclusionary process”18.

In order to understand the process of exclusion and the formation of the Balmiki neighborhood it is necessary to understand the social structure of the concerned location. The British during the process of establishment of Darjeeling formed the majority of the population and the royal of all. And the British policy to divide and rule the country was hence promoted through the facilitation of Balmiki migration to perform the menial jobs. In the beginning the Balmiki’s were compelled to work in the private British residents and the division of labour according to the caste was very much adopted and no Balmiki’s were allowed to work in any of the sectors other than as scavengers or safaikaramcharis. Thus the stigma of working as cleaners of human waste led to the exclusion of the Balmiki’s in the alien land.

Later on with the diverse influx of people from different locations with difference in religion and beliefs migrated to Darjeeling promoting interactions among diverse culture thereby promoting multiculturalism. However, this context of multiculturalism was emerging and laid on the foundation of exclusion. People migrating at those times belonged to mostly the Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Buddhists religious beliefs. Most of these religions in practice had and still have some hierarchy or inequality which laid the context for exclusion of the underprivileged Balmiki’s. Among the Hindus migrated in Darjeeling most of them belonged to the Nepalese community (Gorkhas now) as the State Nepal is mostly known for its being on Hindutva linings and based of extreme caste complexity. Thus this framework can be used in understanding the structure of the social life of Darjeeling since the migration of Balmiki’s.

Initially, the Balmiki individuals as migrants resided along roadside and dumping grounds. Our people had no place to stay to take shelter and a lot of individuals died out of the cold weather of Darjeeling as they belonged to place with high temperature and were not habituated to the cold weather, later on it was through the concerned efforts of British private residents we got shelters where we worked – narrated the oldest respondent. The migration of diverse population from different locations witnessed the formation of a society of diverse background. The Nepalese population (Gorkhas) in due course of time in close connection with the people from other clan groups as well as the religious groups successfully settled down. Though such close bonds were common among the population of Darjeeling on the contrary the Muslims had formed their neighborhoods in different locations. These were an unusual cases for the most deprived section of among the migrated population.

The establishment of Darjeeling Municipality in 1850 and taking in charge of all the civic administration did not mean that it gained momentum in its activities. It took a long time to settle and perform its activities as almost the entire population were migrants and it would have been very difficult to take in account of the entire thing. This concerned department was not able to provide shelter to its employees (the entire Balmiki population) till the early 20th century. It was only in 1910-1915 that the Darjeeling Municipality started constructing servant’s quarters but that were for the officials. Later on around 1920’s, with the pressure of holding back these scavenging population from diverting to other departments of work the Darjeeling Municipality constructed servant’s quarters for Balmiki’s. These servants’ quarters were constructed in minimum number and were constructed on the outskirts of the main town along the dumping ground and graveyard keeping in mind the stigma that the Balmiki community carries and is not acceptable in the so called larger society. This proves the fact that the Balmiki’s were provided the shelter excluded from the rest of the society. Other people who migrated from Nepal and elsewhere preferred to stay distant from the Balmiki residents.

The servant’s quarters that were constructed for the Balmiki’s in Darjeeling during 1920’s has facilitated the increase in the Balmiki population with the change in the trend of migration from the individual to the families and households. This group of people since the construction of the quarters have never been moved to any other places and still is in the same location thereby forming a neighborhood of their own. But one must understand the fact that the formation of this neighborhood was based on exclusion of the community in one way or the other. Since the formation of this neighborhood in the mid 1920’s till today there has been a slight change in the population composition of the Balmiki neighborhood. Previously what used to be the living space of Balmiki’s exclusively is now being joined in by some other mixed population mainly because of the lack of space for settlement in Darjeeling, for this place has encountered a huge population growth since independence period. This has now shifted the context of power in the hands of some minority population who are more economically sound and have linkages and resources on their side. If one is to analyze the present context or situation the Balmiki neighborhood is dominated by these minority populations enjoying the decision making power. In addition to this the concerned department who actually should take care of these scavenging community who work for the betterment of the society without any complaint do not provide enough benefits and facilities to them. Also the fact that whatever national schemes have been designed to benefit these people are not into proper implementation. The Department has provided a quarter to the family or Balmiki household in the name of the member who works as a servant in the Municipality but does not provide any additional benefits such as the toilets facility and also the fact that in one way or the other they are deprived of these facilities. On the question of construction of toilets by the Balmiki’s, the Department seems to be concerned that the servant’s quarter belongs to the government and constructing toilet inside it is an offence. Those Balmiki population who reside in these quarters are supposed to pay the light bill separately. The Municipality does not provide such facility. One of the most important fact is that these people do not have access to water in the quarters and have to pay for it or buy which altogether is an expensive question. The quarters cost up to ₹ 2000 per month whereas salary of daily wagers is ₹ 3000. Also the fact is that, these quarters since its construction in 1920’s have only been repaired twice or thrice till now and the condition of the quarter is so pathetic that the employees from the Balmiki community have invested in the repairing of the quarters in bulk of the cases. Another point of concern or one may call it exclusion is that as the Balmiki community mostly work in menial jobs and stigmatized condition with half submerged in the filth it is obvious that they may catch various harmful diseases. The Darjeeling Municipality on this account does not provide any medical insurances to this scavenging community. On top of that, the preventive measure to these is a far distant question to be addressed by the department. They do not feel necessary to provide masks and gloves to the workers who work to clear sewages and drains. Thus, has been the exclusion of the Balmiki community.

The formation of Balmiki neighborhood based on several aspects of exclusion since pre-independence era has witnessed changes to its connotation. The views of marginalization and exclusion among the non-Balmiki population has given way to different representation and names to the Balmiki Neighborhood. With the independence of the country from the Colonial rule in 1947, Darjeeling was merged into the state of West Bengal and several hilly towns like Kurseong, Kalimpong, Siliguri were formed. The Darjeeling town itself was carved out into 32 different wards19. The Balmiki Neighborhood which came to be known as the Harizan Barrack was located under the Ward No: 18. The interpretation to the Balmiki Neighborhood has been a point of concern as to people connote it with some derogatory entitled names. The most common name known to all masses of Darjeeling Hills is Harizan Barrack. Other names acquired by the Balmiki Neighborhood without any logic are the Bhangi Busty, Jamadar Line and Mehtar Line. The word Mehtar is a Persian word meaning Prince or a leader. Although all of these words are different in its meaning but even then the people residing in Darjeeling are so fanaticized that they tend to equate all these terms and give it the same derogatory meaning as – the village of the sweepers or the village of the scavengers (including Scheduled Caste). The irony here is that terms like Harizan and Mehtar have some kind of positive intuition with disregard to the caste but still the non-Balmiki society see it as derogatory. This has further led to the exclusion of the Balmiki’s from the larger society. The process of exclusion of the Balmiki’s from the larger society led to the formation of the Balmiki Neighborhood – Harizan Barrack which later facilitated the formation of Balmiki Harizan Sangh20 with a registration of 1948 and the oldest in Darjeeling. This measure was taken up by the community itself to bring about equality and justice to the diverse and multicultural paradigm of the Hills.

The political representation of Balmiki community is an abstract idea in the Hills. Almost all the other migrants to Darjeeling have a political stand and representation in the hills be it Marwari’s, Bihari’s or Bengalese. The Marwari community and the Bihari community in the Hills through its control of resources and politics has been constantly moving towards prosperity with its influence on the decision-making centers. Contrarily the Balmiki have been invisible in the socio-political-economic dynamics in Darjeeling. Not a single member of the community has been represented as Commissioners or Councillors in the Darjeeling Municipality.21

Thus, one can analyze that the caste factor played the most important role in the exclusion of the Balmiki community in the hills. One can even say that it is not out of direct untouchability but out of the question of purity and pollution based on the modes of occupation that this caste group were compelled to stay away from the larger society hence being excluded. It is upon these situations that the Balmiki Neighborhood has come into existence and does still exist.

C. UNDERSTANDING BALMIKIAN CULTURE AND EMERGING TREND:

The contemporary trend of understanding and defining culture has a very limited scope as this framework of defining culture is much more traditional and stuck with certain aspects. The traditional understanding of culture takes into consideration and aspects such as ethnicity and traditional practices of a particular group. It is much more religion orientated. We understand culture more by the religion. However, the definition of culture needs to be redefined and broadened thereby accepting more inclusive strategies.

The present chapter would deal with the understanding of the distinct Balmiki culture and the visible trend of change in the contemporary era. It would be more of the traditional way of understanding the culture from the perspective of the migrated Balmiki community. However the intention was to develop a newly redefined understanding of culture but was not possible as the kind of data available and the responses to which the respondents addressed were based on the traditional context of understanding the culture.

Tracing The Cultural Aspects And Changes Occurring

Culture is nothing but a virtual state of mind and behavior – if an individual is in a state of happiness without any external restrictions and boundaries he/she is culturally rich having been responding to the interactions of the rest of the society”22. On the account of Balmiki community being one of the earliest migrants to Darjeeling along with other diverse sections of populations they too have a distinct culture of their own. One must also note the fact that most of the religious cultural practices that the Hindus follow are all Aryan cultures and hence some of the practices of Balmiki’s are those infused by the Aryans23. Even though the Balmiki’s are one of the groups who have witnessed the evolution and formation of Darjeeling since long time back, they rarely have had an opportunity to inter-mingle with the other groups out of the exclusion that they have faced. This in return has paved the way for the formation of a separate neighborhood safeguarding their culture form the intervention of others. In order to specifically and exclusively understand the culture of Balmiki community one needs to understand the social life among them. The distinct cultural practices identified among the Balmiki’s social life may be discussed as under the following themes:

Culture in the Economic Context and the visible changes in it

The economic context of the Balmikian social life is by far the most important aspect to be discussed by anyone who engages in the study of Balmiki’s. This section provides more scope and relevance for the understanding to the changing trends in the Balmikian economic culture. One must take into consideration that here economic culture of Balmiki’s solely means in livelihood context. For that matter, it is clear to all that, since the formation of caste hierarchy and assigning of occupations based on the caste, the Balmiki’s as the lowest of the low have engaged in the most menial and stigmatized job of manual scavenging and cleaners or sweepers. This aspect never had a change as it is believed to be said that the caste structure cannot be altered or changed and hence the job assigned also cannot be changed. Once born is a low caste family means one is entitled to be suppressed and has to survive and sustain in the society. One must also remember the fact that sustenance here would mean sustenance based on no entitlements. Keeping this frame in mind, the Balmiki’s (across the country) since times immemorial have been engaging themselves in these menial jobs without any consciousness being developed in them. For them these jobs are an opportunity for livelihood and securing their future. Some of them even claim these works to be a hereditary and their right to acquire it even though it is not good. While for others it is a pride in having engaged in cleaning the society. According to the Secretary of Balmiki Harizan Sangh – “We were the only employees who were employed as Safai Karamchari under the influence of caste based employment because no others wanted to work in this sector. Now we feel proud that we are the real social workers irrespective of the fact that this division of caste based occupation”.

The Balmiki’s of Darjeeling too had migrated as scavenger’s long time back and still work in the same sector. Although the practice of carrying human excrement on their head is gone but the stigma still remains with these people as the lowest caste groups and working as sweepers who deal with cleaning the society and the drains and blockages and also the public and private toilets manually. Up till 1990’s the group D staffs of the Darjeeling Municipality accounted or constituted of 100% Balmiki employees. All the available vacancies of sweepers and Safaikaramcharis were filled by the Balmiki’s. Whereas on the other hand in the contemporary times (present) it is not only the Balmiki’s but people from other communities who are also engaged in this profession. This change in the trend of Balmiki’s acquiring the menial jobs hereditary is not out of the consciousness of the non-Balmiki’s but out of the need of capital and lack of employment opportunities in Darjeeling.

From the point of view of the Balmiki’s, this change in the trend is the result of the consciousness and awareness which has developed among them since 1990’s. According to the 2nd High School teacher – the fact of the matter is that the handful educated Balmiki’s of the 1980’s generation have provided the pathway for their successors. Although they were not as educated as other sections of the society (mostly passing 10th or 12th) they created enough space and awareness regarding importance of education among the Balmiki’s. Those handful educated individuals acquired some higher posts in different departments. This had a lot of impact among the Balmiki’s realizing that they can come out of the vicious circle of working in menial and stigmatized sectors. Since then the improvement in education of Balmiki’s is average in Darjeeling with maximum of the youths having qualified 10th and 12th standards. At present the youths of Darjeeling have indeed changed the trend of Balmiki’s involving in manual scavenging by getting more engaged in other sectors including teaching, Supervisors in Municipality, choosing the profession of driving, working in different shops, telecom companies, business and so on. These youths do not perceive the job of manual scavenging as hereditary. Thus, the introduction of education among the Balmiki’s in Darjeeling has played a vital in breaking down the shackles of caste based and assigned livelihood.

Lack of access to education and the visible changes in it

As it has already been discussed that being a low caste Hindu community, the Balmiki’s since ages were assigned with the stigma of serving the other sections of the society and had no rights to study or acquire knowledge. Same was the case with the Balmiki’s who migrated to form the core population of Darjeeling Hills. In the beginning they were not allowed to go to schools but were compelled to work as sweepers. It was through the kind efforts of the British concerned individuals who had made arrangements for providing education to the lower-caste sections. According to the 1st High School teacher – One must understand the fact that even during the British era also our people were not allowed to go to big missionary schools in Darjeeling. What they did was that simultaneously they started some primary schools here and there and we were allowed to go to access those. This was only applicable in a place like Darjeeling no other in mainland India were allowed to do so. Since then to the present context the Balmiki’s in Darjeeling have improved their educational status considerably. Although majority of the Balmiki community are not much educated and still work as sweepers and cleaners in different sectors, one must also consider that they now have become so much conscious and aware about the importance of education that they enroll their children to English Medium private and Christian Missionary schools and are willing to send them to the same until the schooling is completed. The trend among Balmiki’s is such that, now the educated youths strive to compete with the rest of the world with the knowledge and capabilities that they have. According to the President of Balmiki Harizan Sangh24 – “What is mention worthy here is that, those people who migrated to work as sweepers and cleaners have struggled so hard that their successors now do migrate to pursue higher education across the country and not in search of job as scavengers”. Education indeed has become emancipatory for the Balmiki’s of Darjeeling and especially the role of educational institutions of Darjeeling is highly appreciable for being inclusive and discrimination free space. Hence education has somehow or the other changed the life of the Balmiki’s in the Hill. Again the Right to Education Act of 2009 has helped those people from our community who out of some reason cannot afford to send their children to schools by accessing free and compulsory education up to 14 years of age. This Act has proven to be the helping hand to Balmiki’s who are economically backward. Education has impacted other aspects of Balmikian social life which may be discussed under different heads later.

Social and Religious aspects of Culture and the visible changes in it:

The social aspect of culture is one of the most important of all as far as Balmiki’s are concerned. History argues and proves that Balmiki’s as a Dalit community are one of those who were most disregarded and downtrodden in the society. Not only regular atrocities were witnessed against these groups but were also treated disrespectfully with no dignity. Thus the human rights of equality, liberty, dignity and respect to these vulnerable sections were curtailed. Still the Balmiki’s across the country have to face same kind of situation. According to the respondent25 – “when the Balmiki’s migrated to Darjeeling the situation was worst for them. They were excluded by the society. The situation remained the same until the Balmiki’s entered the door step of education which changed the whole complexion and scenario. Engaging in education proved to be the way forward. Now the situation is that our people have been able to establish themselves and compete with others after getting educated. The identity crisis which was striking the Balmiki’s before has now declined. Almost all other groups of Darjeeling consider Balmiki’s worth in the society even though they follow the caste norms. If not equality in the society but the dignity of life and respect has surely been gained by the Balmiki’s. Balmiki’s of Darjeeling are accepted and given equal opportunity in different sectors with some exception. Those groups now accept and consider the presence and importance of Balmiki’s as a separate and distinct cultural group in the multicultural society although the inter-mingling of those with Balmiki’s is yet to be achieved. Thus, education here also has indeed indirectly changed the perception of non-Balmiki’s and their attitude towards the Balmiki’s and for which the struggle of the Balmiki community is to be given the credit.

Another important aspect of culture which is very important to the life of an individual, at least in Indian context is the religious culture. Each and every religion has its own way of religious practice and way of perceiving culture. It is also known to almost all of us that the most stringent and extreme form of religious cultural practice is stored in the Hinduism. The Balmiki community in general, across the country follow Hinduism and are bestowed upon with lots of religious practices and traits which they have carried in to Darjeeling since long time. The traditional cultural practices equating to the religious aspect of the Balmiki’s are so much complicated that in the contemporary era it has led to disregard of the people towards. Also the fact that the promotion of other religion and ideologies in the public sphere across the world with some additional inputs and benefits has paved the way for adopting of such religious ideologies by the economically and socially stigmatized and discriminated groups and individuals. According to the respondent26 -“It is disheartening to say that our people do have the tendency to adopt other religious ideologies just because of the fact that our culture is complex and is expensive too. It is understandable that the marriages and other ceremonies are of Balmiki’s are expensive but it does not mean that one should give away with all the attachments with the culture that we born with”.

Darjeeling being a place of diversity with wide range of religion practiced historically serves a hub and scope for the propagation and promotion of religious ideology. “The Balmiki’s since independence have subjected to conversion with disregard to their own culture and the discrimination faced by them as Dalits. Almost one third of conversions which took place among the Balimiki’s in Darjeeling is towards Christianity with some exception as conversion to Islam. But the conversions to Islam have a different context for it is out of polygamy (marriages) that compelled the conversions”27.

Language and Dressing sense as culture and the visible changes in it

It is good to learn some alien languages but not worth enough by forgetting your own28

Language has always been an interest and a discourse of study among cultural anthropologists. It is an aspect of culture pertinent with diverse location. Every groups have their own language distinct to others. The diverse context of Darjeeling in terms of culture equally propagate diverse languages and dialects. Almost all of the communities residing in Darjeeling Hills have their own language and also all of those communities have a clan group which again have a distinct dialect. Language thus can be used as a parameter ofmeasuring the diversity. Language sometimes can be a barrier as well as the means to communicate subjected to the situation.

The Balmiki community residing in Darjeeling hills as have been migrants for more than a century from across the country have a distinct languages. The mother tongue of Balmiki’s is said to be Hindi but the dialects spoken among them may vary according to the location that they have migrated from. The Balmiki’s who migrated from different parts of Rajasthan speak Rajasthani and Jaipuri dialects. Those who migrated from Haryana prefer Haryanvi which is an Indo-Aryan Language. The Balmiki’s who migrated from Uttar Pradesh have their own language which they prefer to use named Braj Bhasa or Hindi. The Balmiki migrants from Punjab are distinctly characterized by Punjabi language29.

The Balmiki’s of Darjeeling since times have been using their respective languages (based on the location) as a means of communication. But the language acted as a barrier since their migration as on the one hand, there were British whose means of communication was far from any contact to the Balmiki’s and vice versa. On the other hand the migrants from other parts of the country too had their own language which was not understood to the Balmiki’s and vice versa. Under such circumstances with a lot of effort in the later years all of the communities learnt a common language which was Hindi. Apart from Hindi majority of the population in Darjeeling during those times were Nepalese (Gorkhas) and thus Nepali became the most common language. According to the President of the Balmiki Harizan Sangh – “Although the generation of Balmiki’s which migrated after a decade or two post-independence have still properly not mastered the Nepali language. Whereas the present generation of Balmiki youths have mastered the Nepali language. This simply is because of the fact that during our days we were engaged much with our culture and tradition rather than adopting other cultures and even we did have Nepalese friends as we were not that active in the society hence it was very difficult for us to learn the language. The Balmiki youths on the other hand are very much socially active with the Nepalese (Gorkhas) in different ways promoting and facilitating their friendship and also do welcome the adaptation of new traits in the culture”.

Balmiki community especially the youths of Darjeeling in the contemporary times have been exposed to different world views of culture and the civilized cultures. The introduction of the new idea such as the westernization and modernity have in between slightly gathered the attention of the Balmiki youths (both educated and uneducated). In pursuit of learning the new languages they have disregard to their own. The media tools such as the movies and songs (both Hindi and English) too have played a vital role in the shift focus from one language to others. According the 61 year respondent – “our youths are very much vulnerable to modern culture and modernization. This has indeed impacted our culture very negatively. The transmission of the language traits to these youths have been successfully done but the problem lies in the implementation. These youths seem to have forgotten to speak in their own language. They do not even speak their own language in their households rather they prefer to use Nepali language with all. It is good to learn some alien languages but not worth enough by forgetting your own”.

Apart from discussing about language the Balmiki traditional outfits or dresses are also unique and hence deserve much more importance light to be thrown upon. The traditional and cultural outfit of the Balmiki community who have migrated from across the country trace out to be based on the Rajasthani outfits. Traditionally the Balmiki men have been wearing white dhotis, kurta and pink turban whereas the women wearing the Ghagras. The Balmiki’s since the post-independence period have changed their way of living and taste of clothings thereby adopting other outfits. According to the Vice-President of Balmiki Harizan Sangh – now the Balmiki men prefers to wear pant and shirt whereas the women prefer kurtas and saris. The youths don’t even have an experience and taste of traditional Balmiki clothings. With the exposure of Balmiki’s to modernization of Darjeeling the loss of cultural heritage of the traditional outfits has been witnessed. In addition the media has also played a huge role in promoting the modern society with western and modern fancy clothes. The youths of Balmiki’s in accordance to the need the time have adopted the modern culture of clothing and are going with the flow.

Conclusion

The Balmiki community as one of the Dalit communities have had a vast history of their own which has been difficult to understand through times. This study on the Balmikian cultural aspect of the Balmiki’s in Darjeeling has been mainly based with the exploratory object as the study is one of the first of its kind. Discussing regarding the aspect which has never been discussed in the past is quite a difficult task to do as the responses from the field would be divergent in nature and hence the concluding remark in generalization of the cultural aspect into one understanding and discourse is difficult to be achieved.

Every individual is different from one another and hence the perspectives, understanding, ability to relate, ability it realize and analyze, ability to critic and present, ability to express may certainly differ. This journey of the study of Balmiki culture in Darjeeling hills has indeed brought forward many chapters to be discussed. This in depth study also has brought forward many such things which is necessary for the external world to know. It has given the opportunity to explore the realities and analyze the visible cultural elements in depth. The first point of discussion is that the Balmiki community being migrants to a highly diversified place like Darjeeling have failed to establish their identity even though they were one of the first external settlers. They still live with a notion that they are outsiders and have to return back someday or the soon. The fact that a diverse space in itself means the promotion of diverse culture without exclusion of any kind is a virtual statement as far as the Balmiki community of Darjeeling are concerned. These groups since their migration until now have felt isolated and excluded from the rest of the diverse population of Darjeeling and hence intermingling with others is a curse for them. They take intermingling with others in more negative sense and a threat to their own culture. Thus the caste factor and workers as scavengers and sweepers itself has proved to be a barrier thereby leading to exclusion.

This study focusing on the cultural practices of Balmiki’s has brought forward the understanding of the Balmikian Culture in depth through cultural elements and cultural expressions. The cultural element consists of the values, norms and linguistic feature of the Balmiki;s. Having been migrated from across the country Balmiki’s have their own kind of values, rules and regulations which binds the community and the language which helps them connected to each other. The cultural expression of the Balmiki community includes their own folklore of their cultural practice and beliefs, myths and worldview.

To conclude, it can be said that the Balmiki community’s understanding and perception towards culture is more traditional and critical towards intermingling with others and acquiring the cultural traits of others. The struggle of the Balmiki community for staying in the traditional social structure and preserve their culture is an old question and a new challenge. The cultural anthropology which states that the characteristic features of culture as that the cultures are either adaptive in nature or subjected to change. The Balmiki’s personally feel that the change in their cultural aspects or the impacts are closer to the second characteristics of culture i.e. subjected to change. As a part of that community the researcher’s perspective of understanding culture is wider and contrary to the traditional sense. In a place of diversity like Darjeeling Hills various cultural groups and communities have co-existed in harmony to others since long time back thereby promoting multiculturalism. It is obvious that in a modern and diverse multicultural society some traditional practices and beliefs are ought to be given less importance in consideration to its relevance in the contemporary times. Not only loss in cultural traits but multiculturalism also sometimes promotes acquiring of new cultural traits. Thus the multicultural society considers both loss and acquiring of cultural traits. And the fact of the matter is that in a situation where the Balmiki community being critical of acquiring other cultures, where do they place themselves in the struggle to preserve their culture keeping in mind the importance and need of multiculturalism. Also the fact that Balmiki’s who believe B.R. Ambedkar as their idol and hero have not lived up to the thoughts and philosophy of this great personality where by the stated that if one is to come out of the caste hierarchy in Hinduism the intermingling or mixing of the blood is very important. Thus the framework of promotion of inter-caste marriages as stated by Ambedkar fails as these people still thrive on endogamy with a clear no to the mixing of blood. This, indeed would not help at any cost in dismantling the question of purity and pollution and caste hierarchy

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ENDNOTES

1 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Darjeeling)

2 The Nepalese migrants to Darjeeling now claim to be entitled and called as the Gorkhas not the Nepalese. This is the contemporary debate among the academicians in the literature and writings in the context of identity and assertion.

3 Responses from the two respondents of Nepalese community who are pursuing their Master’s Degree.

4 Response from the oldest respondent from the community aged 67 years, regarding the clan groups of Balmiki community in Darjeeling.

5 Tumin, Melvin M. (1992). Social Stratification: The Forms and Functions of Inequality. New Delhi: Prentice-Hall of India Private Limited.

6Bhangi”, is another widely used Hindi term to denote the ‘Balmiki’ meaning ‘one addicted to drinking bhang’ (a drink made from marijuana leaves). See, Lekhraj Balmiki. (2011). “The Balmiki Community in Darjeeling: Caste Consciousness.” in Terence Mukhia (Ed.). A Multi-Disciplinary Perusal. Darjeeling: Kalpa Griha Publications.

7 Rai, R.B. “Jiten Mitra: Sab Bhanda Youge Purano Commissioner”, in Gurung, Madan Kr., & Bhutia, Passang. (Ed.). (2000). Souvenir. Darjeeling Municipality 1850-2000. Darjeeling: Darjeeling Municipality. Pp.41. also see Lekhraj Balmiki. (2011). “The Balmiki Community in Darjeeling: Caste Consciousness.” in Terence Mukhia (Ed.). A Multi-Disciplinary Perusal. Darjeeling: Kalpa Griha Publications.

8 The statement made by the respondent – Secretary of the Balmiki Harizan Sangh

9 Lepchas – the native tribe population were the original inhabitants of Darjeeling which then belonged to the Kingdom of Sikkim.

10 Chogyal was the then independent King of the Kingdom of Sikkim from the Lepcha community.

11 A respondent aged 67 years from the Balmiki community responding to the question of reason British interest for establishing Darjeeling. The oldest respondent of all.

12 The Nepalese migrants to Darjeeling now claim to be entitled and called as the Gorkhas not the Nepalese. This is the contemporary debate among the academicians in the literature and writings in the context of identity and assertion.

13 High school teacher as a respondent from within the community.

14Another respondent from the Balmiki neighborhood aged 64 years articulating the response.

15Balmiki, Lekhraj. (2012). ‘The Second Wave of Gorkhaland Movement and the Marginalized: A case study of Balmiki Community in their Diaspora’.

16People-In-India Profile. http://www.joshuaproject.net/south-asia-districts.php?rog5=IN2801 Accessed: 31.08.2015.

17 People-In-IndiaProfile.http://www.joshuaproject.net/peopleprofile.php?peo3=16399&rog3=IN Accessed: 31.08.2015.

18 The 67 year oldest respondent from the Balmiki community.

20 Balmiki Harizan Sangh is a union of formed by Balmiki community for the welfare of the same.

21 Gurung, Madan Kr., & Bhutia, Passang. (Ed.). (2000). Souvenir: Darjeeling Municipality 1850-2000. Darjeeling: Darjeeling Municipality. pp. 87-90.

22 Culture defined by the 1st high school teacher as a respondent

23 A statement made by an older Balmiki citizen aged 61 years.

24 President of the Balmiki Harizan Sangh addressing on education as an emancipatory tools for the Balmiki’s.

25 A 65 year old respondent from the Balmiki community

26 The same 65 year old respondent.

27 The Secretary of Balmiki Harizan Sangh responding to the conversions in terms of religion among Balmiki’s.

28 The quote referred to by the 61 year old respondent to narrate the condition of native language of the Balmiki’s.

29 All these languages discussed above are Indo-Aryan Languages and mainly spoken in northern India.

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