There is no denial that development of Darjeeling largely took place due to the East India Company and subsequently as a result of the British colonial settlement in India. It was the British who first realized that the place could be turned into a health resort or a sanitarium. But it didn't happen overnight. There is a long history associated with Darjeeling and its development.
Till early 1700s, the whole of Darjeeling district was part of Sikkim and under the administration of Raja (or the Chogyal) of Sikkim. In 1706 however, the present Kalimpong district was taken over by the Bhutanese. Sikkim was also continuously invaded by the Gorkhas from Nepal. In 1780, the Gorkhas actually captured Sikkim.
And over the next 30years, the Gorkhas kept on conquering areas towards east as far as Teesta river bank and even captured the Terai area (i.e. the lower plains). But in their spree to capture land after land, they unwittingly stepped into the toes of the British East India Company. And soon a war broke out between the two (the Anglo-Nepalese war of 1814-1816) which the British won.
Having lost the war, the King of Nepal was forced to sign the Treaty of Sugauli with the British on 2nd December 1815 (which was later ratified on 4th March 1816). Under this treaty, Nepal had to concede some of its captured territory to the British including the Kingdom of Sikkim & Darjeeling. The treaty also allowed the British to recruit Gorkhas for military service.
Subsequently in 1817 the Treaty of Titaliya was signed between the British East India Company and the Chogyal (King) of Sikkim in which the British returned the whole of Sikkim (including Darjeeling that was then part of Sikkim) back to the Raja and guaranteed him of his sovereignty. However this treaty required that Raja refers all foreign disputes and incursions in the area to the British Government for arbitration. By its location, Sikkim also acted as a buffer land between Nepal and Bhutan.
10 years later (i.e. in 1827) again a dispute arose between Sikkim and Nepal, which was then referred to the British Governor General as per the terms of the treaty. Two officers - Captain Lloyd and Mr. Grant were sent to handle the dispute in 1828. It was during this period Captain Lloyd spent few days in February 1829 in Darjeeling. The place was then known as the 'Old Gorkha station of Darjeeling'. It was a deserted area of mountains with dense forests.
During his stay Captain Lloyd realized the potential of the place to become a great sanitarium (or a health resort). He accordingly asked Mr. Grant to send a proposal to Governor General Lord William Bentinck detailing the numerous advantages of the place. The proposal was later approved.
By now Captain Lloyd had become General Lloyd. He was asked to negotiate with Raja of Sikkim to carve out Darjeeling, which he did successfully in 1835. Raja signed a deed which stated that Darjeeling was given as a gift to East India Company as a friendly gesture, and in return the company granted an annual allowance of Rs. 3,000 to Raja. This allowance was subsequently increased to Rs. 6,000 per year. It was considered a huge sum of money in those days.
In 1839 Dr. Archibald Campbell, a British resident in Nepal was brought in as Superintendent of Darjeeling. He was in charge of administration and also for handling the political relationship with Sikkim. Dr. Campbell is known to be the person largely responsible for the initial development of Darjeeling. He encouraged immigrant cultivators and the population rose rapidly from only 100 to 10,000 in just 10 years (between 1839 to 1849). He introduced roads, established Hill Corps to maintain law & order, and also abolished bonded slavery in Darjeeling.
Meanwhile relationship with Sikkim started to deteriorate. Development in Darjeeling was a source of loss for the leading business community in Sikkim which was headed by Dewan Namguay. They enjoyed monopoly in trade in Sikkim thus far.
But with flourishing developments in Darjeeling, much trade shifted and many slaves from Sikkim fled to live free life in Darjeeling under the British administration. The relationship soured so much that in November 1849, Dr. Campbell and Sir Joseph Hooker who were travelling in Sikkim, were arrested and made prisoners. Sikkimese made various demands against the release of the two men, but finally had to release them on 24th December 1849 unconditionally under a lot of pressure.
After this incident the British took several punitive measures against Sikkim. First the annual allowance of Rs. 6,000/- was discontinued. Second, some part of the Sikkim was taken over and the Terai (i.e. the plains) area which was already with the British were joined with Darjeeling.
The total new area annexed measured some 640 square miles. As a result, Sikkim Raja now got completely isolated and could not access the plains without passing through British territory. Some years passed and conflicts continued off and on.
By now Sikkim Raja had become an old man. He was in his 80s. He retired and handed over the administration to Dewan Namguay (the person responsible for the arrest of Dr. Campbell). After this, conflicts started taking serious shape. British workers were abducted and sold as slaves in Sikkim. All negotiations and talks failed. The British then decided to capture another core part of Sikkim.
Sir Ashley Eden and Colonel Gawler led a force of 2600 men equipped with artillery, triumphed and entered the capital of Sikkim in March 1861. Dewan Namguay fled, the son of Raja was enthroned on 28th March and a treaty was signed which finally ended all cross border troubles. It finally enabled free trade between Darjeeling and Sikkim.
But Kalimpong was still under the Captivity of Bhutanese who kept plundering properties in the area and were killing innocent people. However in 1865 a treaty was signed between the British and the Bhutanese which allowed possession of Kalimpong by the British in return of an annual subsidy. In 1866, Kalimpong too was transferred to the district of Darjeeling. This was the last addition of land to Darjeeling district. Finally Darjeeling was on its way for rapid development with more certainty.
Development in Darjeeling
Since 1866, peace was established in Darjeeling which paved the way for all round development in the hills. In agriculture, three areas saw significant development. First, large forested areas were brought under cultivation. Second, the primitive agricultural method known as Jhuming was replaced with modern method of terracing, ploughing and irrigation.
In Jhuming method, a part of the forest would be burnt down and the cleared land would be then used to grow crops. But soon the soil would get barren and within a year or two another part of forest would be targeted. The third major development in agriculture was the introduction of new crops like the cinchona, orange, cardamom, potatoes and most importantly the Darjeeling Tea
While some parts of the forest were cleared for agricultural purpose, the remaining forested areas were conserved to prevent soil erosion and protect timbers.
Another major progress was made in the area of communication. Steady flow of fund was invested to build roads in the mountains. In 1881, the famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
was introduced that provided key rail communications in the hills. Access to Darjeeling from the plains was made increasingly convenient and comfortable.
The first Hydro-Electrical power plant in India was built in Darjeeling. It's another matter that such power system was never developed for any use other than catering to Darjeeling's own local requirements. Darjeeling also became a center for European education. Number of schools came up in Darjeeling town, Kurseong and Kalimpong. Many of them are very highly rated schools even today and offer boarding facilities.
With all such development taking place, population in Darjeeling started growing rapidly, many came here as permanent residents and others for seasonal retreats.
Political Development in Darjeeling
In the provisions of 1935 Act of Government of India, Darjeeling hill area was declared as the 'Partially excluded area' and therefore one seat was allotted for a member to be elected for the Provincial Legislature of Bengal. In 1937 the first election took place in Darjeeling.
After independence when the first parliamentary election took place in India, no hill leader participated. However in the second parliamentary election in 1957, Darjeeling district was considered as a separate constituency and a single lok sabha seat was allocated for it. The same arrangement continues till today.
Over the years Darjeeling has gone through several other elections like assembly elections as well as local elections that included municipality, panchayat, erstwhile Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) etc.
Share your experience or stories.