Mirik (West Bengal): Returning to the Darjeeling hills after a gap of three years, Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) supremo Subash Ghising has launched a blistering attack on the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) saying its movement for a separate Gorkhaland has failed.
Ghising, a former Armyman, led a prolonged violent struggle in the 1980s for a Gorkhaland state before signing an agreement on August 22, 1988 with the Central and West Bengal governments for creation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) - an autonomous governing body for the hills.
He has lived in exile from the hills after his GNLF was sidelined in early 2008 by the GJM that spearheads the movement now.
"Our movement was for identity of the Gorkhas. We got our identity after the 1986 hill accord was signed and the DGHC was formed," Ghising told his first meeting in the hills in over three years here on Saturday.
Over 8,000 GNLF supporters, who came in colourful processions, attended the meeting near the Mirik Lake under the Kurseong sub-division of Darjeeling district.
The Mirik area has remained a strong belt of the GNLF even after the erosion of the party`s base in the hills where the GJM now calls the shots.
Ghising said he launched the agitation for Gorkhaland in the 1980s, but switched over to the demand for grating the sixth schedule status for the hills after he realised that the Central and state governments would not yield to the demand for a separate state.
"Now that the GJM has failed in its movement to grant Gorkhaland, it is clear that my political line was correct. Only the sixth schedule status can solve the problems in the hills," he told the gathering.
Ghising also released the party manifesto for the coming state Assembly polls in which the GNLF has fielded candidates in the three hill seats - Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong. The GNLF had won the three seats in the 2006 Assembly polls.
Ghising had been forced to leave the hills July 26, 2008, by the GJM and was since staying at a rented house in neighbouring Jalpaiguri district in the plains.
He returned to his house at Zakir Hussain Road of the hill town of Darjeeling only on Friday. The Indian Reserve Battalion personnel have been deployed for his protection.
Ghising is slated to hold another meeting in Darjeeling on April 13, besides a road show in Kalimpong next week.
Political circles believe Ghising`s comeback could be a turning point for the hills ahead of the April 18 Assembly elections.
The fate of 38 candidates in six constituencies of Darjeeling district will be decided on April 18 in the first round of the six-phase elections for the 294-member West Bengal Assembly.
In the first phase, 54 seats in six North Bengal districts go to the hustings. Votes will be counted on May 13.