CRPF jawans patrol a street in the hills. File picture
Calcutta, Dec. 8: The Centre has extended for a month the presence of the CRPF in the Darjeeling hills following a request from the state government that claimed that the situation “remains volatile” in the region.
The state has sought the extension of the deployment of the central forces, citing a police report that said supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha were disillusioned with the party’s decision to suspend the agitation for statehood.
Eleven companies of the CRPF had been deployed in the three subdivisions of the hills in August following the renewal of agitation for Gorkhaland.
In a recent letter sent by home secretary Basudeb Banerjee to the ministry of home affairs, he detailed how the situation in the hills was still far from normal and unrest could erupt at any moment.
Banerjee sent the letter earlier this month, soon after the tenure of the CRPF’s presence had ended in November. After the request reached the Centre, senior North Block officials immediately cleared the proposal for the extension for a month.
“The extension has been granted for a month following a request by the Bengal government. The Centre would take the next call (whether to keep the forces in the hills beyond a month) after analysing the prevailing situation,” a senior official in the internal security wing of the MHA told The Telegraph.
Sources said Banerjee’s letter to the Centre was based on a report prepared by Kunal Agarwal, the Darjeeling superintendent of police. The report explained how there was simmering tension in the hills, warranting the continuation of the CRPF’s deployment.
The report spelt out that discontent was brewing among a section of Morcha supporters because of the party leadership’s decision to go along with the GTA Sabha and suspend the agitation. Realising the prevailing mood of frustration, some of the top Morcha leaders were raising the demand for separate statehood again, fuelling tension in the hills, the SP’s report stated.
“Addressing a recent Morcha meeting at Sitong in Kurseong subdivision, Bimal Gurung said the party’s only goal was to achieve Gorkhaland. Citing the Telangana example, he said the party’s aim was to ensure the welfare of the downtrodden in the regions across Darjeeling, Terai and Dooars,” reads the SP’s report.
Banerjee's letter, sources said, cited how “disillusioned” youth and women supporters of the Morcha were planning to re-align themselves to spread the word about the party's “betrayal” across the hills. It also mentioned how the GNLF, taking advantage of this situation, was trying to claw its way back to the hills, even though its leader Subash Ghisingh was battling ill health.
“...In the backdrop of political developments stated above in the hills, situations remains volatile,” reads the home secretary’s letter.
Senior GNLF leaders, including Pasang Tamang, have often said Gorkhaland cannot be achieved through the GTA.
As the head of the district intelligence branch, Agarwal also said in his report that GNLF and CPRM could raise the pitch ahead of Lok Sabha polls, resulting in the deterioration of law and order situation and hence, it was necessary to retain the 11 companies of CRPF.
Reacting to the extension of the CRPF”s presence, Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said: “The hills are peaceful at the moment and the central forces have no work here. We do not think that there is any need for extending their stay in the hills.”
However, the GNLF and the Darjeeling Dooars Terai United Development Foundation, have welcomed the Centre’s decision. The Foundation was launched to mobilise support for educationist Mahendra P. Lama, who declared himself as an Independent from Darjeeling constituency in the next Lok Sabha polls.
M.G. Subba, Darjeeling convener of the GNLF, said: “The stay of the CPRF in the hills is a must. We do not think that the situation is normal for all political parties to carry on with its activities in the hills.”
Lama, said: “I think it is good if the paramilitary forces stay in the hills unless they cause any social problem. There is some semblance of democracy in the hills now.”