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Darjeeling : Heat in the Hills


The attempt on the life of Subash Ghisingh, the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) leader and chairman of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), has the makings of a whodunnit. Initially all political parties and the state CID investigating the attack were convinced that it was the work of the Gorkha Liberation Organisation (GLO), the GNLF's principal rival, led by Chhatre Subba, a one-time comrade of Ghisingh. But with the arrest of two persons, one an outsider from Doda in Jammu, the police are in a quandary. Meanwhile, because of the indefinite 'bandh' called by GNLF cadres in protest against the attack, Darjeeling and the hill districts wear the forlorn look of the 1980s, the initial period of the Gorkhaland struggle. Similar bandhs were an important part of the GNLF's campaign then for a separate Gorkhaland state.

Ghisingh has always had his fair share of enemies. Even as the demand for Gorkhaland was diluted by the tripartite accord signed in 1988 between the centre, West Bengal government and GNLF for the formation of the DGHC, some of the latter's cadres had protested against what they saw as Ghisingh's caving in. Among them was Chhatre Subba, then heading the militant wing of the GNLF. These elements have since surfaced under the banner of the GLO and are believed to get moral and material support from the Naga militants. There are rival protagonists of Gorkhaland, united in their opposition to Ghisingh. These include the All-Gorkha Students Union, Gorkhaland Sanjukta Morcha and United Democratic Front, with the Gorkha Peoples' War Group, comprising another group of erstwhile GNLF militants, as the newest entrant. Their opposition is linked to the increased militancy seen in the entire north-east, fuelled by the long-running Naga insurgent movement and by the ULFA, though the GNLF too must own its share of the blame, non-performance having been the hallmark of its over 12-year domination of the DGHC.

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