Though the show of strength by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) was there along with GJM President Bimal Gurung displaying his best smile and Daura Suruwal (traditional Gorkha male attire) the signing ceremony to pave way for the formation of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) that had taken place at Pintail Village in North Bengal on Monday, lacked the adventurous uncertainty and unpredictability that witnesses of the “Historic 1988 Accord” event swear by, even to this day.
After a 28 month long bloody agitation, Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) led by Subash Ghising had signed an accord with the Centre and the State on August 22, 1988 for the creation of an administrative arrangement dubbed the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC)
Subash Ghising, the maverick leader of the Hills had left no stone unturned to create a historic event. After having agreed to the formation of DGHC in a tripartite meeting with chief minister Jyoti Basu and union home minister Buta Singh, the date for the signing of the DGHC Accord had initially been fixed on August 20, 1988.
A veteran journalist who had covered the event, talking to HT stated “The date had to be postponed to August 22 owing to a major earthquake that rocked the Hills on that day.” Ghising left for Kolkata accompanied by his trusted lieutenants CK Pradhan, Chiten Sherpa, Hangu Subba. He had been gifted a new pen by a tea planter’s wife to sign the equally new Accord.
A huge crowd had turned up on that eventful day in front of the Governor’s house in Kolkata to witness the historic event. The signing ceremony started off with a major ruckus in the Jawahar Hall, with Ghising refusing to sign. Ghising at that point of time claimed that he had been promised more area in the plains (to be included in the DGHC.) However the matter was put to rest with re-assurances from chief minister Jyoti Basu and union home minister Buta Singh.
Exactly at 10.30am, dressed in a trouser, formal shirt and a tie, Ghising inked the agreement along with union home secretary C Somaiya, West Bengal chief secretary Rathin Sengupta with Governor Nurul Hassan and interlocutor Indra Jit Khullar as witnesses, in the presence of the Basu-Singh duo.
“Ghising after signing the agreement seemed quite casual yet philosophical. He had told me “Koornu thiyo, koori diye” (I was to sign and so I have signed)” stated the veteran journalist. From Kolkata Ghising rushed to Delhi to sign the “Citizen’s Accord” on August 23. Ghising later claimed that the Citizen’s Accord had bestowed the true identity of the Indian Gorkhas.
From Delhi Ghising returned back to Bagdogra Airport near Siliguri. “From Bagdogra he was to arrive at the Lebong Army Helipad in Darjeeling by a chopper. The chopper took off but could not land owing to heavy rains and low visibility. Hence he was forced to return back. Many a prejudiced had prophesied the DGHC would be doomed as Ghising had been forced by nature to return from Darjeeling” stated Nayan Subba a local historian.
“Ghising then came up by road. Welcome gates were constructed, thousands had lined the roads to catch a glimpse of Ghising. As it was the first time that a historic agreement had been inked, the air was charged with enthusiasm.” stated 75 year old DP Sharma, a veteran journalist from Darjeeling.