Centre yields to Mamata's pressure, keeps 8 companies of CRPF in hills

Withdrawal of force part of design to destabilise state, alleges CM
Report by: 
EOI CORRESPONDENT
Kolkata
16 Oct 2017

Faced with fierce opposition from the West Bengal government, the Centre today allowed continued deployment of eight companies of paramilitary personnel in Darjeeling to maintain law and order in the hill areas.

As of now, 15 companies of paramilitary forces were deployed in Darjeeling and the Union government wanted to withdraw 10 of them for deployment in other places for duties during festival season, a home ministry official said. However, as the state government opposed the move vehemently with chief minister Mamata Banerjee writing to both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and union Home minister Rajnath Singh requesting them to reconsider the move, the MHA after a fresh assessment, decided to withdraw just seven companies and allowed the remaining eight companies to remain in the hill areas. A company of paramilitary comprises around 100 personnel.

As the situation has become relatively calm, the local police should take over, the official said. He said there were demands from other states also as festivals are coming up and there will be elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. "The central forces cannot be converted into local police," he said.
On Sunday, the home ministry had ordered withdrawal of 1,000 paramilitary personnel, including 300 women, deployed in Darjeeling.  The situation in Darjeeling has improved in the past few weeks, another official said. The Mamata Banerjee government had last month formed a nine-member board of administrators, headed by Binay Tamang, instead of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) to look into the development works in Darjeeling and Kalimpong.

Earlier in the day the chief minister who presided over an all-party meeting to solve the Darjeeling problem said withdrawal of forces was part of the Centre's designs to destabilise the state. "I wrote to the prime minister and the home minister and asked them not to withdraw the forces from the hills," she said at a press conference at the state secretariat here after the all-party meeting held at Nabanna.
Describing the decision of the withdrawal as unilateral and unfortunate, Mamata said, "The Central government is being run from the BJP party office. It is really unfortunate that the Central government has taken such a bad decision unilaterally to withdraw forces from the hills".

She also accused the Centre and BJP of hatching a conspiracy to destabilise the hills as well as the state. "They are conspiring to destabilise Bengal so that violence keeps on occurring. It is unfortunate," Mamata stated. "Union home minister Rajnath Singh told me seven companies would be withdrawn. I want to ask why this step- motherly attitude towards Bengal when huge numbers of Central forces are deployed in other states," she said. Accusing BJP's Darjeeling MP S S Ahluwalia of helping fugitive GJM supremo Bimal Gurung foment trouble in the region, she said the BJP was allowing the hills to "burn for the sake of a seat". The all-party meeting decided to work together for the restoration of peace in the hills. It was attended by several hill parties excluding the Jan Andolan Party headed by Harka Bahadur Chhetri.
Said Chhetri:  “We won’t join any other meeting convened by the state government further as we feel that the real issue has been diverted. The state government now only looks for the welfare of Binoy Tamang without looking at the demands for all the hill parties. On 29 September the first all party meeting was held and there we have decided that our demand for Gorkhaland will continue , but after that we saw that Tamang has been made the chairman of the board of administrator to run GTA and we are unaware about such developments . State government should have taken a unanimous decision by consulting all the hill parties before taking such a major decision”.