Mamata wins, Calcutta HC stays Centre’s plan to pull out forces from Darjeeling
Judge says Union government has not been able to give a convincing explanation for pulling back CRPF, SSB men from region crippled by Gorkhaland strikeUpdated: Oct 17, 2017 21:49 IST
The Calcutta high court temporarily restrained the Union government on Tuesday from withdrawing paramilitary reinforcements from the north Bengal hills, where the situation is yet to return to normal after a summer-long unrest triggered by the Gorkhaland secessionist movement.
Judge Harish Tandon said the reinforcements – roughly 20 companies of the Central Reserve Police (CRPF) Force and the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) in all — will remain in place till the next hearing which will take place after the court vacation ends.
The Union home ministry had earlier informed the state that 15 of the 20 companies will be withdrawn, beginning with 7 this week. The decision triggered anger from the state government, which saw a political motive in the pull-out.
Darjeeling, in the northern hills of Bengal, has been on edge since June 8 when protests by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) — an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — flared. The unrest has killed 13 people, including civilians and police.
Much of the region was in a shut down for four months, with the situation brought under control with the help of massive paramilitary reinforcements along with state police.
On Sunday, the Union government said 10 of the 15 companies will be withdrawn since the situation was camp and the men were needed for election duty in Himachal Pradesh.
“The decision was unfortunate, unethical, undemocratic and unconstitutional,” Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said on Monday, after which the centre pared back the withdrawal to 7 companies.
Each company has 100 personnel.
Hearing a petition by the state government, justice Tandon said the Centre could not cite sufficient reason for withdrawal of the forces.
He also observed that the deployment of the central forces was done by an order from the Supreme Court.
The judge clarified that the order is an interim stay, and the matter will be heard when the court resumes after vacation.
In a separate development, the state government announced its decision to release an additional Rs 500 crore for the hills to partly compensate for the losses incurred there due to the indefinite bandh.
“According to our estimates the loss on account of the strike has been around Rs 1,000 crore. So an additional amount of Rs 500 crore will be disbursed by the state government so that the losses can be compensated,” said an official.
First Published: Oct 17, 2017 17:34 IST