Subash Ghisingh

Also in categories of Politician, Soldier, Author

Subhash Gishing was the chairman of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council in West Bengal, India. He spearheaded the Gorkhaland movement in the 1980s and till the late 80's the movement had gained tremendous momemtum.

The Gorkhaland movement grew from the demand of Nepalis living in Darjeeling District of West Bengal for a separate state for themselves. The Gorkhaland National Liberation Front led the movement, which disrupted the district with massive violence between 1986 and 1988. The issue was resolved, at least temporarily, in 1988 with the establishment of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council within West Bengal.

Life

He was born on 22 June 1936 at Manju Tea Estate in Darjeeling. While a student of class IX in St. Robert’s High School, Darjeeling, his father died. As a result, he left school and joined the Gorkha Rifles of Indian Army as a soldier in 1954. He completed his matriculation in 1959, while working but quit the army in 1960 and returned to Darjeeling.[1]

After working as a teacher in Tindharia Bangla Primary School for about a year, he enrolled in Kalimpong Junior BT College in 1961. As result of an altercation with the college principal he left the college. He joined Darjeeling Government College and passed Pre-University Arts in 1963.[1]

While a second year B.A. student he was arrested for participating in a political agitation against the poor condition of the hills. He had to quit studies. He was then general secretary of Tarun Sangha, it was the beginning of a long political career.[1]

In 1968, Ghisingh was vocal on issues concerning the hills and formed a political outfit, Nili Jhanda, to further the cause. On 22 April 1979, for the first time, he raised the demand for a separate state for the Nepali-speaking people of the Darjeeling hills. On 5 April 1980 he demanded the formation of Gorkhaland. He formed the Gorkha National Liberation Front to achieve statehood. After a prolonged struggle marked by much bloodshed, on 22 August 1988, he signed an agreement with the state and the Centre for creation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, an autonomous body.[1]

Demonstration

In 1986 the Gorkhaland National Liberation Front, having failed to obtain a separate regional administrative identity from Parliament, again demanded a separate state of Gorkhaland. The party's leader, Subhash Ghising, highly believed to be an agent of the Research and Analysis Wing, headed a demonstration that turned violent and was severely repressed by the state government. The disturbances almost totally shut down the districts' economic mainstays of tea, tourism, and timber. The Left Front government of West Bengal, which earlier had supported some form of autonomy, now opposed it as "antinational." The state government claimed that Darjiling was no worse off than the state in general and was richer than many districts. Ghising made lavish promises to his followers, including the recruitment of 40,000 Indian Gorkhas into the army and paying Rs100,000 for every Gorkha writer. After two years of fighting and the loss of at least 200 lives, the government of West Bengal and the central government finally agreed on an autonomous hill district. In July 1988, the Gorkhaland National Liberation Front gave up the demand for a separate state, and in August the Darjiling Gorkha Hill Council came into being with Ghising as chairman. The council had authority over economic development programs, education, and culture.

However, difficulties soon arose over the panchayat elections. Ghising wanted the hill council excluded from the national law on panchayat elections. Rajiv Gandhi's government was initially favorable to his request and introduced a constitutional amendment in 1989 to exclude the Darjiling Gorkha Hill Council, along with several other northeast hill states and regions (Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and the hill regions of Manipur), but it did not pass. However, in 1992 Parliament passed the Seventy-third Amendment, which seemed to show a newly serious commitment to the idea of local self-government by panchayats . The amendment excluded all the hill areas just mentioned except Darjiling. Ghising insisted this omission was a machination of West Bengal and threatened to revive militant agitation for a Gorkhaland state. He also said the Gorkhaland National Liberation Front would boycott the village panchayat elections mandated by the amendment. A large portion of his party, however, refused to accept the boycott and split off under the leadership of Chiten Sherpa to form the All India Gorkha League, which won a sizable number of panchayat seats.

In 1995 it was unclear whether the region would remain content with autonomy rather than statehood. In August 1995, Sherpa complained to the state government that Ghising's government had misused hill council funds, and West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu promised to investigate. Both Gorkha parties showed willingness to use general shutdowns to forward their ends. The fact that so many people were willing to follow Sherpa instead of the hitherto unchallenged Ghising may indicate that they will be satisfied with regional autonomy.


References

1. Paul, Bappaditya. "‘Gorkhaland is my monkey’". Perspective. The Statesman, 12 January 2007.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 License.