Darjeeling, Oct. 28: Nearly 25 GNLF leaders have decided to return to the hills en masse, prompting the Darjeeling police chief to ask the state government for more forces to ensure their security.
The announcement comes even as the GNLF steps up its offensive before the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha signs an agreement on the interim set-up for the hills. The Subash Ghisingh-led party had already started forming village committees and yesterday announced the formation of a unit in Darjeeling subdivision, almost three years after nearly 40 leaders were hounded out of the hills. It is not yet clear if Ghisingh will be part of the group that is planning the comeback after Diwali.
Darjeeling superintendent of police D.P. Singh said: “We have received letters from 25 GNLF leaders expressing desire to return home. I have written to the state government seeking additional forces to ensure their safety and security.” Singh said no intimation had come from Ghisingh, who had been forced to leave the hills in June 2008.
However, sources in the police said “before Dashain (Durga Puja) they had received information that Ghisingh, too, was planning a return”.
The GNLF, as part of the rival camp, is trying to take advantage of the fluid hill politics before the pact on the interim set-up is sealed with the Morcha. The ABGL, another Morcha rival, had yesterday said the hills would go up in flames if the deal was sealed as people wanted Gorkhaland and not any interim arrangement. In a tactical move, the ABGL while naming its former president Madan Tamang had also mentioned the names of Morcha supporters Pramila Sharma and Akbar Lama — all three were killed — as those who had sacrificed their lives for Gorkhaland and not for any interim set-up.
Ghisingh along with around 40 prominent party leaders were forced to leave the hills after a bullet fired from the house of a GNLF leader killed Morcha supporter Pramila in June 2008. Houses of many of the leaders were torched and vandalised allegedly by Morcha supporters who claimed that the general public had chased the GNLF leaders away.
The only GNLF leader who managed to enter the hills early this year is Dawa Pakhrin. He, however, came back only after resigning as the president of the GNLF’s Kalimpong branch committee. Even Shanta Chhetri, the GNLF MLA from Kurseong, has not been able to visit her constituency since 2008.
On March 4 this year, a National Human Rights Commission directive asked the state chief secretary and the director general of police to provide security to GNLF leaders wanting to return.
Observers believe that the GNLF leaders are confident that they can return home not because of the NHRC’s directive but also because of the “fluid political situation in the hills”.
“The GNLF and the ABGL have been able to make some inroads largely because of the fallout of the murder of ABGL leader Madan Tamang. The GNLF leaders perhaps believe that this is the right time to return home,” said an observer.