Politics

Calcutta High Court Stays Withdrawal of Central Forces from Darjeeling After West Bengal Plea

The Union home ministry had ordered ten of the 15 Central Armed Police Forces companies deployed in the hills to pull out despite the situation remaining volatile.

Gorkhaland supporters burned copies of the GTA Act and GTA agreement at Chowkbazar in Darjeeling on 27 June. Credit: The Wire/Vivek Singh

New Delhi: The Calcutta high court today stayed the removal of central forces from Darjeeling, ANI reported, directing the Centre to file an affidavit on the matter by October 23.

According to the Indian Express, West Bengal has been ordered to file its reply on October 26, a day before the next hearing of the case.

The court’s order came in response to the West Bengal government’s challenge to the Centre’s order for forces to withdraw. The Union home ministry had ordered ten of the 15 Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) companies deployed in the hills to pull out, apparently to press them on duties in other cities for the festival season, Indian Express reported.

However, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee contacted Union home minister Rajnath Singh to demand reasons for the decision since the situation in Darjeeling is still very volatile.

“In a situation like this, how can the Centre take a decision to withdraw ten company forces from the hills?” Banerjee had said while speaking to the Indian Express.

“I don’t think it (the decision) was taken by Rajnath Singh, who is a good man. It must have been taken in the headquarters of the BJP just because we oppose the party,” she had added.

According to an NDTV report, when the court asked for reasons for troop withdrawal, the Centre’s legal team said the forces were needed for maintaining security in states where assembly elections will be held shortly.

Justice Harish Tandon, representing the state, argued that there was only one election due at the moment in Himachal Pradesh and the pullout of forces from Darjeeling was not called for, NDTV reported.

The orders of the withdrawal of central forces currently present in the hills came two days after a police sub-inspector was killed in clashes between a police raid team and alleged supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) party chief Bimal Gurung.

Over the last few months, Darjeeling has been rocked by protests by the GJM. The violence peaked on June 12 after which paramilitary forces were deployed in the hills.

Clashes erupted in Darjeeling in June when GJM supporters set fire to several police vehicles, a government bus and attacked the police with stones and bottles to protest against the state government’s decision to make Bengali a compulsory language in schools.