The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Sunday ordered the withdrawal of 10 of the 15 Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) companies deployed in the Darjeeling hills. However, after an upset Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called up Home Minister Rajnath Singh and asked why the decision was taken, the Centre decided to pull out only seven CAPF companies, said sources.
“The matter has been considered in this Ministry and it has been decided that out of 15 Coys of CAPFs… deployed in Darjeeling/ Kalimpong in West Bengal, 10 Coys of CAPFs (CRPF 07, including 03 Mahila Coys, and SSB 03) shall be de-attached with effect from 16.10.2017,” said the MHA’s communication to the West Bengal Chief Secretary, Home Secretary and DGP.
“However, deployment of remaining 05 Coys of CRPF is extended up to 20.10.2017 beyond 15.10.2017 for maintaining law and order,” it added. The communication was also marked to the IG (Ops) of CRPF and SSB “for information and necessary follow-up action.”
According to sources, Banerjee called up Singh and demanded answers. “She was furious because the situation at Darjeeling is still very volatile. She communicated the same to the Union Home Minister. After much discussion, it was finally decided that from Monday, seven companies will be de-attached instead of 10. The eight that will remain include 5 CRPF companies and 3 SSB companies,” said a Trinamool Congress source.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Banerjee said: “In a situation like this, how can the Centre take a decision to withdraw 10 company forces from the hills?” The MHA did not comment on the issue.
The decision to withdraw central forces came two days after a police sub-inspector was killed and several others injured as violence broke out in Darjeeling on Friday, after alleged supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) faction led by Bimal Gurung clashed with police. While the TMC alleged that the Centre’s tacit support for Gurung led to the violence, the BJP blamed the TMC government.
At the BJP’s state committee meeting in Kolkata on Saturday, questions were raised about the Centre’s continued support for Gurung. The meeting was attended by BJP state observer Kailash Vijayvargiya, national joint general secretary (organisation) Shiv Prakash and state president Dilip Ghosh.