“New Gorkha Hill Council with Sixth Schedule status for region needed”
In political limbo after being virtually forced to leave Darjeeling in the face of attacks on his supporters more than two-and-a-half years ago, Subhas Ghising, whose supremacy in the hills had remained undisputed for more than two decades, made a rather quiet return to his residence in the hill-town amid tight security on Friday evening.
The home-coming of Mr. Ghising, president of the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), is being considered as a major development in the region as it could have a crucial impact on the political future of the Darjeeling hills.
It was not yet dawn when he left for the hills from Jalpaiguri where he has been staying since his departure from Darjeeling in July 2008. The GNLF chief, who was the first to have raised, in the mid-1980s, the demand for a separate State to be carved out in the region and had launched a movement for it, was also the former chairman of the now almost defunct Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, which he helped to set up. The statehood demand was subsequently revived by his one-time protégé and now president of the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM), Bimal Gurung.
On his arrival, Mr. Ghising spoke of the need for the creation of a “new Gorkha Hill Council” with Sixth Schedule status for the region, as distinct from the GJM's demand for a separate “Gorkhaland.”
“The Bill for a new Gorkha Hill Council under the Sixth Schedule should be immediately passed by Parliament… It will have 45 departments,” he said.
The GJM, whose supporters had been threatening to prevent Mr. Ghising's return to the hills ever since his departure, made no attempt to stop him from doing so on his journey up the hills. The model code of conduct that is in place in view of the coming Assembly polls surely was reassuring to the GNLF supremo.
The GJM leadership dismissed Mr. Ghising's return as “inconsequential.” “It will make no difference in a place where he has already been rejected by the people,” GJM general secretary Roshan Giri told The Hindu over telephone from Darjeeling.
Mr. Ghising's return is aimed at pepping up before the polls supporters of a party which has been severely marginalised ever since the GJM became the principal force in the hills shortly after it was formed in October 2007.
The GNLF has set up candidates in all the hill seats of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong and is likely to be the main challenger to the GJM in the Assembly polls.