In the 1980s, a saying was popular in Darjeeling — “Upar Mahakal and niche Subhas Ghising (God is up there and down here we have Subhas Ghising)”.
Such was the popularity and command of Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) founder Subhas Ghising, who died in New Delhi Thursday at the age of 78. He was suffering from liver ailments and cancer and breathed his last at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.
“He was admitted to the hospital five days ago and was diagnosed for cirrhosis of the liver and cancer. He died around 10.30 am,” a hospital source said.
Ghising, who spearheaded the Gorkhaland movement in the 1980s, articulated the feelings, sentiments and emotion of the common Gorkha, became the mouthpiece of the downtrodden and sold the dream of a separate state of Gorkhaland to his people.
The same Ghising, who after the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) came to rule the roost in the hills in 2011, became a fall guy, as he was unable to realise the dream he sold to his people.
Born on June 22, 1936 at Manju Tea Estate in Darjeeling, Ghising went to St Robert’s High School where he studied up to Class IX. As his father died, he dropped out of school and joined the Army in 1954. He quit the Army in 1960 and returned to Darjeeling.
He worked as a teacher in Tindharia Bangla Primary School for about a year and then went to study at Kalimpong Junior BT College in 1961. While a second-year BA student, he was arrested for participating in an agitation against the poor conditions of the hills. Thus, started Ghising’s political career.
In 1968, Ghising set up a political outfit, Nilo Jhanda, to espouse the cause of the hill people. During an agitation on April 22, 1979 — for the first time — he raised the demand for a separate state for the Nepali-speaking people of the Darjeeling hills.
In 1980, he formed the GNLF to achieve his mission. After a prolonged struggle marked by much bloodshed and a loss of 1,200 lives, on August 22, 1988, he signed an agreement with the state and the central governments for the creation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) — a semi-autonomous body.
Ghising quit the chairmanship of DGHC in March 2008 and moved to Jalpaiguri. The GNLF lost most of its support and cadres to the GJM, a new party headed by Gurung.
On Thursday, GJM Secretary Roshan Giri said: “He was a Gorkha leader, our condolences to his family and his party members. I and our GJM president, Bimal Gurung, went to visit him after we came to know about his illness. But we were not allowed to meet him.”
The Left Front too condoled Ghising’s death saying he was a leader with profound knowledge of grassroots reality.