The gathering at the GNLF meet at Simulbari on Friday. Picture by Kudan Yolmo
Simulbari (Kurseong), Dec. 6: Over 5,000 GNLF supporters who had come to listen to Subash Ghisingh for the first time in two years here today were disappointed when they came to know that he couldn’t make it to the venue because of illness.
The GNLF chief was scheduled to attend the meeting to celebrate the anniversary of signing of an agreement with the Central and state governments to bring the Darjeeling hills under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
Simulbari’s surrounding areas had witnessed the revival of the GNLF in recent months with hundreds of people rejoining the party. Simulbari, 20km from Siliguri, is located in the plains of the Kurseong subdivision.
GNLF leaders who spoke at the meeting didn’t announce the reason for Ghisingh’s absence. Many party workers approached the leaders and were told that Ghisingh had gastric problems and that was why he couldn’t make it to the venue.
The absence of the 76-year-old leader has upset the party workers who thronged the ground next to the Simulbari Tea Estate around 11am.
“We understand that he is ill and has stomach ailments. We are also aware that he was treated at a private nursing home in Siliguri and visited Chennai for medication,” said N.B. Limbu, a GNLF supporter from Mirik.
“Even then, we were hopeful that he would come here today and speak at the meeting as its been years since we heard him,” he added.
Ghisingh had made his last public appearance in the hills ahead of the Assembly polls in 2011.
Radha Chhetri, a resident of Gayabari, said: “We were enthusiastic to hear that Ghisingh would come. But on reaching at the venue, we learnt that he would not. Although other leaders spoke, we are sad that we couldn’t see him today. Today being the anniversary of the signing of the Sixth Schedule agreement, it would have been a different experience altogether.”
The agreement was signed on December 6, 2005.
Ghisingh stays at a rented house in Matigara, Siliguri, at present.
The GNLF leaders sought to portray the presence of a “huge number of people” at the meeting as their endorsement of the Sixth Schedule status for the hills.
“We could gather a huge number of people at today’s meeting, which reconfirms that people across the hills are still keen on the Sixth Schedule status. It was Subash Ghisingh who raised the demand eight years back and is still rooting for it,” said Nima Lama, the convenor of the GNLF’s Kurseong branch committee.
Lama asked the state government to “realise the aspirations of the hill people and give a second thought to the proposal of the Sixth Schedule status”.