Darjeeling Hills

Subash Ghising welcome to return

Print edition : January 10, 2014

GNLF supremo Subhas Ghising arrives in Siliguri in July 2008 after the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha ordered him to leave Darjeeling. Photo: PTI

Nearly six years after his unceremonious ouster from the Darjeeling Hills in North Bengal, Subash Ghising, the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) supremo, has been offered a safe passage back by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM), the organisation responsible for his exit.

Addressing a press conference at Jamuni near Darjeeling on December 15, the GJM chief Bimal Gurung said, “Despite our political differences, we have blood ties as he [Ghising] is also a hill man. He has now grown old and may need the help of the hill people…. I am now welcoming him back on humanitarian grounds.” However, Gurung made it clear that Ghising should not try to make a political comeback. “I would appeal to him to stay away from politics,” he said.

Ghising had ruled the Darjeeling Hills for 22 years from 1986 while spearheading the movement for a separate Gorkhaland state. He was politically dethroned by Gurung, his former protege, in early 2008 and was practically hounded out of the hills and the movement itself. The GJM assumed complete control of the hills with a renewed call for a separate state, rejecting the GNLF’s proposal for a Sixth Schedule Status for the region.

The 78-year-old Ghising has apparently been living the life of a recluse in Siliguri in the foothills for the past few years, occasionally making day trips to the hills.

The GJM leadership felt that with the Bills meant to grant Sixth Schedule Status to the Darjeeling Hills lapsing in the Lok Sabha, Ghising’s political ambitions in the region had come to an end. “He [Ghising] has no political agenda any more. I now welcome Subash Ghising to the hills,” Gurung said at the conference. However, the GJM chief’s reconciliatory gesture has come as a surprise, particularly at a time when the GNLF is trying to regroup politically. Gurung’s comment that the GNLF is finished in the hills may be premature, especially when the latter has made its presence felt in recent times much to the GJM’s consternation.

The GJM still remains the strongest political force in the hills, but its dominance is not what it once was, and the re-emergence of its political rivals, including the GNLF and the ruling Trinamool Congress, is evidence of that.

In fact, according to certain political sources in the hills, Gurung’s sudden change of heart towards his mentor-turned-bitter-political-rival may have reasons other than the professed “humanitarian” one.

The GJM’s softening of stand days before a proposed visit by Ghising to the hills may also reflect a diminishing of its undisputed hold in the region. “This was more of a face-saver for Gurung. The GJM does not wield the power it once had to prevent Ghising from coming to the hills. On the other hand, Ghising’s uninvited visit would have exposed the party’s weakness,” an informed source in the hills told Frontline.

Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay

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