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Forces to be withdrawn

Darjeeling, July 23: The Centre has decided to withdraw 13 companies of central forces from north Bengal despite opposition from the state government, a decision that is being seen as a fallout of the strained relation between the BJP and Mamata Banerjee.

Five companies would be withdrawn tomorrow and the remaining eight would be withdrawn on July 31.

This evening, Akhilesh Chaturvedi, the Darjeeling district police chief, however, said he had not yet received any communication on the withdrawal of the forces.

Today, Derek O’ Brien, Trinamul chief whip in Rajya Sabha, raised the issue of force withdrawal in the hills during Zero Hour. Trinamul leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay also spoke on the matter in Lok Sabha. Excerpts of the speeches have been uploaded on Trinamul’s website www.aitmc.org.

Derek O’ Brien said: “The State Government wrote to the Central Government when the Ministry of Home Affairs wanted to remove those thirteen Companies on the 14th July. Sir, of these thirteen Companies, despite the State Government writing, sadly Sir, tomorrow morning at 10AM, around 20hrs from now, five of those Companies are being withdrawn and on the 31st July eight more will be withdrawn.”

Bandyopadhyay said this morning that he came to know about the decision only “one hour back”. While Derek cited the renewed activities by the KPP and KLP, Bandyopadhyay referred to the “long battle” with Maoists, Jangal Mahal, Darjeeling and international borders to object the Centre’s move. Derek said: “Sir, the area there itself is quite tense. In December there were killings in Jalpaiguri and the KPP and the KLO are operational in that area, Sir.”

Bandyopadhyaya said: “Bengal has become peaceful after a long battle with Maoists. Jangal Mahal is there, Darjeeling and international borders are also there...”

Addressing Rajnath Singh, he said: “I have been asked by the Chief Minister to communicate to you that you take an immediate decision and assure us that these companies of CRPF can only be withdrawn in consultation with the Chief Minister or the State Government. Otherwise a very chaotic situation will emerge in the State of West Bengal. I want a positive assurance from you...”

Paramilitary forces were deployed in Darjeeling in August 2013 after Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s Gorkhaland agitation following the Centre’s nod to create Telangana. Nine companies of the CPRF are posted in the three hill subdivisions and the rest are in the plains.

After BJP’s S.S. Ahluwalia, who was backed by the Morcha, won Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat, Bimal Gurung, GTA chief executive, wrote to Union home minister Rajnath Singh on June 2, 2014. Today, Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said in the letter, Gurung demanded the “withdrawal of paramilitary forces”.

Giri, a GTA Sabha member, added: “There is peace in Darjeeling and there is no need for paramilitary forces in the hills. We are happy with the Centre’s decision.”

Ahluwalia today said Trinamul was misguiding the Centre. “In the first week of July, Bandyopadhyay said the forces were being used to man Indo-Nepal border and stationed in Jungle Mahal. Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan borders are manned by SSB and Indo-Bangladesh border is manned by the BSF,” he said. “The CRPF is being stationed in police stations and being made to conduct raids. Mamata Banerjee has been claiming there is peace in Jungle Mahal and Darjeeling hence, there is no need of the forces.”