After nearly three years, riding the Election Commission's assurances of a level playing field for all, Subash Ghising finally returned to the Darjeeling hills to reclaim his lost territory.
Brimming with confidence Ghising, president of the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), demanded that both the state government and the central government honour the Memorandum of Settlement (MOS) signed with him on the December 6, 2005, for the upgradation of the present Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) and to provide it with a constitutional guarantee under the 6th Schedule of the constitution.
"The government has to pass the pending Bill of the New Gorkha Hill Council immediately in the Parliament. It will provide protection to the customs and culture of the entire Gorkha community along with upgrading the DGHC from the present 19 departments to 45 departments. There will be legislative powers also," stated Ghising.
In the mid 1986 Ghising had launched a violent agitation for a separate state of Gorkhaland. The 28 month long agitation finally paved way for the formation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) in 1988.
On October 7, 2007 dissident GNLF leader Bimal Gurung broke away from the GNLF and floated the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) launching a neo agitation for a separate state. Initially the GJM took on to themselves the task of ousting Ghising and the GNLF from the Hills.
Ghising was compelled to leave Darjeeling on July 27, 2008, following angry GJM supporters going on arson and vandalizing spree prompted by the death of a GJM supporter Pramila Sharma from a shot allegedly fired from the inside the residence of Deepak Gurung, a GNLF leader in Darjeeling. Since then Ghising has been living in Jalpaiguri town in the plains.
The biggest blow to Ghising's morale was when the GJM prevented him from bring back the deadbody of his wife (as per her wish) to Darjeeling for cremation in August 2008. Dhan Kumari, his wife, had to be cremated down in the plains of Siliguri.
However the GNLF for the past few months have been on a resurrection path, reorganizing and strengthening their organisation in the Hills, forming village and town committees. The GNLF has also fielded candidates in all three Hill seats namely Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong for the forth coming State Assembly elections.
The GNLF have been organising rallies all over the Hills with many a GNLF leader returning back to the party fold. However the party supporters had been eagerly waiting for Supremo Ghising's return. The GNLF feel that a single public speech by Ghising would definitely turn the tide in favour of the party. The return of Ghising has definitely boosted the morale of the green brigade.
Exactly at 7:40am Ghising escorted by security vehicles, arrived at the gates of his residence on Dr Zakir Hussain Road in Darjeeling.
Ghising was seen waving from the front seat of a silver-grey Scorpio (shattering the popular belief that he would be arriving dead at night to escape any blockage attempts by the GJM.) state police and CRPF personnel cordoned of the area.
Not naming the GJM, Ghising remarked "They were raising questions as to whether I would be able to come up or not. I have arrived. It is as easy for me to drive up as it is easy for me to drive down (implying that he can come and go at will.)"
Ghising will be releasing the GNLF party election manifesto at Mirik on Saturday. He is also expected to address the public in Darjeeling town on April 13.
GNLF supporters arrived at his gates, offering him "Khadas" (traditional scarves) expressing solidarity.The GNLF also held a rally in Sukhiapokhari, 22km from Darjeeling town.
"There is a possibility of us winning all three seats" remarked a plucky 75 year old Ghising. However much would depend on how much Ghising and his party men can capitalize on the pro- change undercurrent, prevalent in the Hills, feel political observers.