Asymmetrical Federalism : Gorkha Territorial Administration, The Land of Gorkhas

Megha Rana
Megha Rana
Megha Rana is a third year student pursuing BA Prog from Jesus and Mary College. She is a researcher in the Indigenous. She belong to the Gorkha community. She is passionate about diplomacy and international relations.

The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) is a 45-member semi-autonomous council for the Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts of West Bengal state in India.  The GTA was formed in 2012 from a tri-partite agreement among the Union Government of India, the West Bengal Government, and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, the political upholder at that time.  1

GTA is the successor of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, which was formed in 1988 and administered the Darjeeling Hills for 23 years.

GTA presently consists of three hill subdivisions: Darjeeling, Kurseong, and Mirik; some areas of Siliguri subdivision (Lohagarh Tea Garden, Lohagarh Forest, Rangmohan, Barachenga, Panighata, etc.); and Darjeeling district and the whole of Kalimpong district under its authority.2

From where does it derive its power? 

Unlike the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, which instills regional autonomy in the administrations of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram, GTA derives its autonomy through legislation.  3 

The GTA has administrative, executive, and financial powers but no legislative powers. constituting  agriculture, education, tea gardens, and tourism, the economic backbones of the Darjeeling Hills, etc., for social, economic, educational, and cultural advancement. The need for an autonomous region arises for the protection and promotion of certain communities and tribes and works within the framework of welfarism.  

Therefore, GTA stands true to Indian Gorkhas. The people of Nepali-speaking Indian Gorkha ethnic origin on the northern part of West Bengal demand a state called "Gorkhaland" on the basis of their cultural identity, which is very different from Bengali culture. In addition to an identity crisis, there is also an issue of poverty, underdevelopment, and politicization of the issue.

The Seat for Gorkhaland Movement 
The term "Gorkhaland" was coined recently, in the 1980s, by Subhash Ghising, the founder of the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF). But the demand for Darjeeling as a separate administrative region dates back to 1909.

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-colonization of Darjeeling. Although the Gorkha identity is deemed representative of the Nepali community residing in India, it acquires special meaning and importance in the Darjeeling Hills, where the majority of the people suffer low wages, unemployment, underdevelopment, and poverty. Despite a large labor force on the tea estates, economic underdevelopment and political disempowerment are expressed through ethnic, rather than class-based, identity. 
The Darjeeling Hills in northern West Bengal, India, are being demanded as a homeland for the Gorkha community living in India. 6


Timeline for Gorkhaland demand-



The demand for a separate administrative unit in Darjeeling was raised for the first time by the Hillmen’s Association of Darjeeling in the Morley-Minto Reforms.


Darjeeling must be removed from Bengal and made a chief commissioner's province.

The undivided Communist Party of India, 1947, submitted a memorandum to the Constituent Assembly demanding the formation of Gorkhasthan, which consisted of Darjeeling district and Sikkim.



The Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL) meets with Prime Minister Modi and demands independence from Bengal.

1977- 81

The West Bengal government passes a unanimous resolution supporting the creation of an autonomous district council consisting of Darjeeling and related areas.


Subhash Ghising forms the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF). The GNLF launched the most violent agitation in Gorkhaland movement history in 1986. 7


A Darjeeling-Gorkha Hill Council accord is signed by the GNLF, the state of Bengal, and the Center. Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council came into action. GNLF drops the demand for a separate state. 8


The same parties signed an in-principle memorandum of settlement to include Darjeeling in the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which addresses the administration of tribal areas.


Calling 'the Sixth Schedule solution' a betrayal to Gorkhaland, Bimal Gurung launched Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) in 2007.   The same year witnessed a rise in agitations for the separate Gorkhaland demand. 9


The memorandum of agreement for the formation of a Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), a semi-autonomous administrative body for Darjeeling, was passed by the West Bengal legislative assembly to calm the GJM.


The Gorkhaland agitation was reignited as a result of the state's adoption of compulsory Bengali. 10


GTA elections were held, with the Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM) emerging victorious. 11

Gorkha Territorial Administration invests in Gorkhas by providing them with political-ethnic recognition, a platform, and a driving force for their concrete identity as Indians. With most of the population being in the armed forces of India, the construct of colonialism, the Darjeeling Hills’ polity, and politics bestow and stimulate the magnification of this identity to be pan-Indian with promising nourishment of land, economy, and society.



1. Outlook. Gorkhaland Territorial Administration Agreement Signed. Kolkata, West Bengal, India, Territorial Administration Agreement signed" .

2. ("GTAACT 2011")GTAACT 2011 | Darjeeling District, Government of West Bengal | India 2020092985.pdf (

3. Ministry of External Affairs. SIXTH SCHEDULE. S6.pdf (

4. ("GTAACT 2011") GTAACT 2011 | Darjeeling District, Government of West Bengal | India 2020092985.pdf (

5. "Interview with Subhash Ghisingh". Darjeeling Times. 11 January 2008. Archived from the original on 12 March 2012

6. Mona Chettri (2013) Choosing the Gorkha: at the crossroads of class and ethnicity in the Darjeeling hills, Asian Ethnicity, 14:3, 293-308, DOI: 10.1080/14631369.2013.764763 Choosing the Gorkha: at the crossroads of class and ethnicity in the Darjeeling hills: Asian Ethnicity:Vol 14, No 3 (

7. "Interview with Subhash Ghisingh". Darjeeling Times. 11 January 2008. Archived from the original on 12 March 2012

8. History of Darjeeling | Darjeeling District, Government of West Bengal | India 

9. "GJM leader Bimal Gurung". The Hindu. 3 June 2010.

10. 2017: The year when Darjeeling hills simmered in Gorkhaland movement". The New Indian Express. 26 December 2017

11. ("Fledgling Gorkha party wins GTA polls in Darjeeling, TMC bags five seats") West Bengal: Fledgling Gorkha party wins GTA polls in Darjeeling, Trinamool CongressMamata Banerjee's TMC bags five seats | News | Zee News (