KOLKATA: A day after the Central government withdrew seven companies of central forces from Darjeeling, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said the Centre is conspiring to divide Bengal and alleged that the decision was made to aid Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung, for whom the state government has launched a manhunt. Mamata wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Rajnath Singh Monday stating that they have to take responsibility if the situation in Darjeeling Hills worsens because of their decision to withdraw forces.
Only eight companies of central forces now remain in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts, where 12 people had died in firings and explosions over the past three months of agitation.
Speaking to the media after the conclusion of the third bilateral talks between the state and Gorkha parties at the secretariat Nabanna here, Mamata termed the decision to withdraw central forces as a ‘big insult to Bengal’.
“Bengal is being kept underprivileged as we are fighting a battle against BJP. The decision to withdraw central forces came after a report was submitted by state BJP president Dilip Ghosh. Darjeeling MP SS Ahluwalia also influenced Rajnath Singh. This decision is uncalled for at a time when we lost one of our best officers Amitava Malik and found a huge cache of arms originating from the northeast and have proof that Bimal Gurung’s camp has links with insurgents of the northeast and Maoists of Nepal. The Centre is undermining the presence of armed insurgents of Bimal Gurung at the strategic chicken’s neck corridor. It is a gateway to Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh and India’s link with the northeast,” she said.
The chief minister also drew comparisons with the deployment of central forces in other states.
“While BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh has 252 companies of central forces, Jharkhand has 144 companies; even a small state like Delhi has 40 companies. We were given 15 companies that too after being ordered by Calcutta High Court. Now, we are left with only eight. This is undemocratic and unconstitutional. Centre can’t act like this. It has to provide adequate central forces whenever any state needs them in emergency situations,” she added.
However, she said they are yet to decide whether to go to court against the Centre over the withdrawal of troops.Mamata also took potshots at the Sikkim administration, where Bimal Gurung is believed to be hiding.
“How can the Sikkim government support a fugitive who is linked with northeast militants and wanted under UAPA (Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act)? You would never know when your support backfires,” she added.
Eight paramilitary companies to stay in Darjeeling
NEW DELHI: Following a request from the West Bengal government, the Union Home Ministry Monday allowed continued deployment of eight companies (800 personnel) of the Central paramilitary forces in Darjeeling to maintain law and order in the hill district. The move comes a day after the Centre decided to withdraw 10 of the 15 companies of the Central forces in Darjeeling. However, the West Bengal government protested the move and sent a letter to the ministry urging it not to withdraw the forces from the hill district that has seen violent protests following shutdown calls by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in the last few months.
The Centre wanted to withdraw 10 companies from Darjeeling/Kalimpong for deployment in other states in the wake of the festival season, a Home Ministry official said. Following a request from the state government, a fresh assessment was done and a decision has been made to withdraw only seven companies and the remaining eight will continue to be attached with the state police for law and order duties in Darjeeling. The Central paramilitary forces are deployed to aid the state and the local police should take over as soon as the law and order situation improves on the ground, the official said.