10 out of 15 companies of Central Armed Police Force to be withdrawn from Darjeeling and Kalimpong
Darjeeling: A day before the bipartite meeting between Hill political outfits and the West Bengal Government in Kolkata, the union Government, the Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi has decided to withdraw 10 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) out of the 15 presently deployed in the Hills of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts of North Bengal. The process of withdrawal will commence from October 16.
The Fax message to the Chief Secretary, Government of West Bengal states "It has been decided that out of the 15 companies of CAPFs (CRPF -12 including 3 Mahila companies and SSB - 3 companies) deployed in Darjeeling/ Kalimpong, West Bengal, 10 companies of CAPF (CRPF -07 including 3 Mahila companies and SSB 3companies) shall be de-attached with effect from 16.10.2017. However deployment of remaining 5 companies of CRPF is extended upto 20.10.2017 beyond 15.10.2017 for maintaining Law and order."
Copies have been sent to Home Secretary and Director General of Police, West Bengal.
The State Government has raised vehement objection to this decision stating that they had not been consulted before the decision was taken. It is a unilateral decision.
The State had written to the Union Home Ministry last week stating that the situation in the Hills is highly volatile and does not permit the withdrawal of even a single company and sought extension for the deployment.
Police Top Brass state that it will be difficult to tackle the situation with only 5 companies of CAPF specially at the point when the Government is trying to restore normality after the 104 days long bandh.
A high level meeting with take place at the State Secretariat "Nabannya" on Monday to access the situation and to chalk out future course of action. The Director General of Police, West Bengal, is also scheduled to visit the Hills this week.
Initially there were 11 companies of CAPF in the Hills. With the State Government and the Union locking horns over the West Bengal Government requesting additional deployment, the Calcutta High Court on July 14 had ordered for immediate deployment of additional forces. Following this, 4 companies were rushed to the Hills.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has welcomed the move. A letter to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh from Lopsang Lama, GJM Central committee member thanked the Minister for his "prompt action in withdrawing" the CAPF. "As I had briefed you in my earlier letter the West Bengal Government has been using central forces against the GJM. There is a deep conspiracy to finish the GJM politically wherin the West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC leadership is using everything at their disposal including police to attack the GJM" stated the letter.
The withdrawal of CAPF is being seen as the BJP led Center's strategy to provide leverage to Gurung and the GJM - an ally of the NDA, at a time when the West Bengal Government has been quite successful in isolating Gurung and his supporters.
The West Bengal Government will hold talks with Hill parties at Nabannya at 3pm on Monday. Jan Andolan Party (JAP) will not be attending talks.
Harka Bahadur Chettri, President, JAP stated that the whole essence of the meeting has been diluted with the CM having already sat in a meeting with GJM representatives.
"It will just be a farce where we will be made to endorse the decisions already taken. So we have decided not to attend" stated Chettri.
Meanwhile representatives of the Board of Administrators, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) met the West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi in Kolkata on Sunday. The team comprised of Chairman Binay Tamang and Vice Chairman Anit Thapa.
"We demanded that Tripartite talks should immediately be initiated for Gorkhaland. The Governor assured us that he will communicate our demands to the Centre" claimed Tamang.
Tamang dubbed their meeting with the Governor and earlier with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as a courtesy call following the formation of Board of Administrators for the GTA.
The GJM has suffered a vertical split with one faction owing allegiance to Gurung and the other to Binay Tamang and Anit Thapa.