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Subhash Ghisingh, the fallen hero of Gorkhaland movement

Subhash Ghisingh, once the uncrowned king of Darjeeling who championed the cause of Gorkhaland, on Thursday passed away in oblivion in New Delhi, far away from his love -Darjeeling hills.

Kolkata: Subhash Ghisingh, once the uncrowned king of Darjeeling who championed the cause of Gorkhaland, on Thursday passed away in oblivion in New Delhi, far away from his love -Darjeeling hills.

The founder of Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) Ghisingh (78), died in a hospital today in New Delhi after suffering from liver ailments and cancer for last few years.

Born in 1936 in Darjeeling, Ghisingh joined the Indian Army at a young age of 18 in 1954, but left it in 1960 and worked as a teacher in a primary school in the hills.

The poor living conditions of the people of the hills attracted him towards Tarun Sangh, a social organisation, where he was baptized in the world of politics.

Ghisingh, after forming a political outfit "Nilo Jhanda", started organising political programs highlighting the cause of the people of the hills, which not only gained him popularity among the people in the hills but also helped him in expanding his mass base in Darjeeling.

Accusing the successive state governments of West Bengal and Centre of ignoring the cause of the people of the hills and just treating them as a vote bank, Ghisingh in April 1979, for the first time raised the demand for a separate state based on linguistic and ethnic lines.

With a demand for the separate state for the people of Darjeeling, Ghisingh coined the term "Gorkhaland" and launched a violent movement in Darjeeling in 1980 under the banner of GNLF, thus turning the queen of the hills into a battlefield where bloodshed and killings became an order of the day, leading to deaths of more than one thousand people till 1988.

After the intervention of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu, a historic tripartite agreement was signed between the Centre, state and Ghisingh, thus leading to the formation of an semi autonomous body, Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) in 1988.

Given his unchallenged popularity in the hills, Ghisingh was smoothly elected as the first chairman of the newly elected body in 1988. With supreme control over DGHC, Ghisingh started using it as a tool to corner his political opponents.

Such was his clout in the hills that Ghisingh remained an unchallenged supremo of both GNLF and the chairman of DGHC till 2004.

The Left Front regime in 2005 decided not to hold DGHC elections and make Ghisingh a sole caretaker administrator of the DGHC.

However, his post as sole caretaker administrator came with a price as he reached an understanding with the state government and signed a memorandum of Sixth Schedule Tribal Council called the Gorkha Hill Council in place of the DGHC.

The signing of the memorandum proved to be politically fatal for Ghisingh as other pro-Gorkhaland supporters along with his political opponents opposed the setting up of a Sixth Schedule Tribal Council as there was only minority tribal population in the DGHC area.

As resentment started brewing among the masses in the hills, one of his close aide Bimal Gurung broke away from Ghisingh.

Cashing on the resentment among the people over poor governance of DGHC, and allegations of Ghisingh siphoning off funds, Gurung started preparing ground to oust Ghisingh.

The mass protests followed by the controversy over Prashant Tamang, an Indian idol contestant in 2007, an identity politics of the Gorkhas started in the hills spearheaded by Gurung under the banner Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) which turned out to be a last nail in the political coffin of Ghisingh, who was not only forced to leave the hills but also led him to political oblivion from which he could never make a comeback.

Although with the help of the then Left regime, which tried to use it as a bait against Gurung who was then close to TMC, Ghisingh returned to the hills in 2011 to unsuccessfully contest three assembly seats.

After the humiliating defeat of GNLF candidates in the hands of GJM, Ghisingh, with his health falling, was forced to leave hills and settle in Siliguri, from where he could neither regain Darjeeling nor his political glory.