Walk downhill

Published : Apr 11, 2008 00:00 IST

Subash Ghising after meeting West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in Kolkata on February 23.-SUSHANTA PATRONOBISH

Subash Ghising after meeting West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in Kolkata on February 23.-SUSHANTA PATRONOBISH

SUBASH Ghisings resignation as Administrator of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) marked the end of an era in West Bengals hill politics. True to his word, the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) supremo handed over his resignation to Darjeeling District Magistrate Rajesh Pandey in Siliguri on March 10. It was accepted by West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

News of Ghisings resignation sparked off celebrations in the hills and the streets of Darjeeling in particular. The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) a breakaway group of the GNLF, which was instrumental in Ghisings ouster acknowledged his departure as a positive step towards a separate State (Gorkhaland). Ghising was the Chairman of the DGHC and subsequently its Administrator since its establishment in 1988.

Jalpaiguri Divisional Commissioner B.L. Meena has been appointed DGHC Administrator. Speaking to the press, Meena said that his immediate task would be to complete important projects. We are thinking of concentrating on schemes associated with drinking water, roads, power, rural electrification, education and tourism, he said. On March 14, Meena held his first meeting with the heads of DGHCs various departments at its headquarters, Lal Kothi, in Darjeeling.

The GJM, in a letter to Bhattacharjee, demanded an investigation by a high-powered commission into corruption in the DGHC during Ghisings tenure. Meanwhile, Asok Bhattacharya, State Urban Development Minister and political heavyweight of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in north Bengal, recommended that elections to the DGHC be held at the earliest in order to restore peace in the region.

He invited GJM President Bimal Gurungs support to bring normalcy back to the troubled Darjeeling hills.

Ghising, who reigned supreme in the hills since he called for Gorkhaland in 1986, has in a matter of months found himself in political isolation. His demand for Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling Hills was rejected by the people, and the Gorkhaland movement was snatched away from him by his protege Bimal Gurung. Gurung formed the GJM in October 2007.

Ghising, who single-handedly ruled the hills for 22 years, left Darjeeling on February 6 to plead with the Centre for the Sixth Schedule Amendment. He returned on February 18, only to find himself unable even to enter his home turf. Gurung had made it clear that Ghising could return to Darjeeling only after he resigned from the post of DGHC Administrator.

On March 10, after Ghising tendered his resignation, GJM general secretary Roshan Giri said, Now that he has resigned he can, if he so wishes, return here. But it will not be our responsibility if the people continue to stop him from doing so.

The GNLF chiefs quiet return to the hills on March 16 was a far cry from his triumphant returns earlier. With only a handful of supporters to greet him and hardly any GNLF flags in sight, it was almost certain that his days as a peoples leader were over, at least for the time being. Like his homecoming, his return to the demand for Gorkhaland too, has met with a cold response.

Gurung believes that Ghising will not have much of a role to play in the agitation for Gorkhaland. He already betrayed the cause in 1988 [when the DGHC was established], so how can one expect the people to trust a betrayer? he reportedly said. Gurung has maintained that his organisation will have no truck with Ghising on the demand for statehood.

By Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay
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