IN 2009, they were carefully selected and trained by former Army officers. A decade later, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) is set to revive the ‘Gorkhaland Personnel’ to strengthen its agitation for a separate state.
The move comes at a time when police has raided GJM chief Bimal Gurung’s residence and the party’s office. Following the raids, clashes broke out between the police and GJM supporters and the outfit gave a call for an indefinite bandh in the Hills. “We will revive the Gorkhaland Personnel. The call for Gorkhaland has been given, and there is no turning back. We will revive all our wings,” Bimal Gurung told The Indian Express.
Colonel (retd) Ramesh Alley, who headed the wing a decade ago, said, “The Gorkhaland Personnel were trained by former Army officers to maintain discipline among the protesters and to ensure that things do not go out of hand.”
“I have been receiving calls from the Gorkhaland Personnel members. They are ready to join the movement and are only waiting for a go-ahead. The state government made Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) a sham and took away its powers. It was a breach of trust,” said Alley, who was the sports minister in the GTA.
“We love our motherland and will never go against our country. Army officers like us were treated like aliens when we returned after retirement. All we are asking for is a separate state through democratic means,” said Alley.
In 2009, youths from different parts of Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong and other areas were chosen by GJM to set up a trained force. Physical fitness and a minimum education of up to Class VIII were the criteria for joining the unit. The unit was first named Gorkhaland Police, which was later changed to Gorkhaland Personnel.
Special camps were set up and nearly 10,000 youths underwent the training. The Gorkhaland Personnel played a crucial role during the agitation from 2009 to 2011 and were instrumental in enforcing long strikes in the Hills. In 2011, the Gorkhaland Territorial administration agreement was signed and GJM went on to win all the 45 seats in the 2012 GTA polls.
“The government promised that the youths will get an opportunity to join the police after the GTA agreement was signed. But that did not happen. Eventually, some of them got odd jobs under GTA through an agency. But later, the state government stopped paying them. They were not paid for months,” said Alley.
GJM sources said the party is on the backfoot following the raids on its office and Gurung’s residence and might be looking to counter the police with its trained force. “We were trained for a purpose. We maintained discipline in the party ranks and during protest rallies. We also helped impose bandhs. Now we are once again ready to serve the party and work for Gorkhaland. We will do what the party tells us to,” said a former Gorkhaland Personnel member.