Paramilitary forces not to be withdrawn from Darjeeling

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West Bengal government and the Centre appear to be at loggerheads on the recent Darjeeling crackdown. Mamata Banerjee Government has accused the Centre for being governed by its personal political motives, rather than thinking about the ‘wellbeing’ of the state as the latter wanted to retreat 10 of its 15 Paramilitary Forces from the ‘protest torn Darjeeling’.

Queen of hills, Darjeeling, has seen much violence and protests this year. The disruption has been caused because Gorkhas, led by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) want to form a separate state out of Darjeeling, which will be known as Gorakhaland. Although Gorkhas have been demanding to form a separate state for quite a long time, the current outbreak is an aftermath of Mamata Banerjee’s decision to make Bengali a compulsory language in the state. Gorkhas want to protect their identity and one key player in doing so is the protection of their language. They feel that another language, that is, Bengali is being forced upon them. A separate state would mean an individual identity and recognition for Gorkhas.

The agitation soon broke out into violence and arson which lead to blocking of internet services since June 17. The protest gained momentum and as the tension heightened during indefinite strike by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), the Centre on June 12 had sent 10 paramilitary forces to Darjeeling. On High Court’s order 4 more Paramilitary forces were deployed in the region.

However, on October15, the Centre wanted to withdraw 10 of its 15 Paramilitary forces, which included 7 Companies of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and 3 companies of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB). The number, however, was later changed to 7. The Centre reasoned this withdrawal by saying that they needed the forces for duties during the upcoming elections and festivities.

The decision was met with stiff opposition by Mamata Banerjee government. The Chief Minister said that the Centre had deployed a foul play and deliberately wanted to withdraw their support from Darjeeling because they were their political rivals. She asked. “Are we paying the price only because we are politically opposed to them?”
On October 17, West Bengal Government challenged the withdrawal of troops in the Calcutta High Court and the withdrawal was put on hold. An Interim stay till October 27 has been levied.

In the wake of Darjeeling issue, it has become more than evident that the Centre and the West Bengal government have engaged in a blame game. However, we are still waiting for the D day when politics will set itself apart from personal benefits and for once think about the welfare of the nation and its people.

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