West Bengal ‘monitors’ GJM decision to form volunteer force

June 20th, 2008 - 7:24 pm ICT by IANS  

By Soudhriti Bhabani
Darjeeling (West Bengal), June 20 (IANS) The West Bengal government was Friday monitoring the situation following the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha’s (GJM) decision to form its own voluntary force in the Darjeeling Hills. The GJM, fighting for a separate Gorkhaland state, Thursday announced it would initiate the enrolment process for recruiting members of the Gorkha Land Personnel (GLP) from June 22. It said it would monitor the overall law and order situation and help the police maintain peace, but the cadres would not be given arms training.

“We have no official comments on the GJM’s decision to form the GLP. The entire issue is being monitored by the state home department. And Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee himself is in charge of the ministry,” Asok Bhattacharya, state Municipal Affairs Minister and a frontline leader of the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), told IANS.

Bhattacharya is the party’s official spokesperson on the Gorkhaland issue.

Darjeeling district police superintendent Rahul Srivastava said he had sent a detailed report to his higher authority in Kolkata on the development.

“Yes, I have heard their decision of forming the GLP. I have sent a detailed report to my bosses in Kolkata, and now I’m awaiting instructions,” Srivastava said.

“There is a certain set of rules for forming such organisations. We are monitoring the situation. I will act according to the instructions given by my superiors.”

Asked whether a political party was empowered to raise a voluntary force for facilitating the police, Srivastava said: “There is a thin line (between what can be done and what cannot be done).”

GJM spokesperson Binoy Tamang said Wednesday: “The idea to form the voluntary force was conceptualised four months back when we started our movement. Now it has finally taken shape as we have decided to initiate the enrolment process for recruitment from June 22 this year.”

He said the GLP would monitor the overall law and order situation in Darjeeling and help the police in maintaining the administration.

The 2,000-strong force will keep a hawk’s eye on unlawful activities like extortion, and natural calamities like landslides during heavy monsoon, besides helping the police in ensuring a smooth traffic flow during political rallies and agitations, he said.

The force will take care of tourists as well as locals during the crisis period and ensure that tourists are not harassed and charged excessively by transport operators.

“We will recruit 1,300 male and 700 female members, and deploy this force across the proposed Gorkhaland areas. We have divided the proposed Gorkhaland into five divisions -Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong, Siliguri and Dooars. The training will be given in seven weeks, including one week for passing out parade,” Tamang said.

He added the training would comprise physical exercises, medical test, lessons in law, and upgrading linguistic skills in English, Bengali and Hindi. “But we will not give arms training to the GLP members.” he stressed.

The colour of the uniform will be green.

There will be a 12-member recruiting team comprising eight retired Gorkha army officers. There will also be legal advisors in the recruitment board.

“The recruitment will be done following the army pattern. We are hopeful of making the GLP ready by October - the peak tourist season in the hills - this year,” Tamang said, adding that a monthly incentive would be given to all GLP members by the GJM.

The voluntary force, to be modelled on the lines of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), will also provide security to the party’s central committee leaders.

“The GLP will perform the functions for the GJM, just like RSS functions for the BJP. But the force will not have any training in arms or lathis,” he said.

“We will soon get the registration done for this force,” Tamang said.

The Bimal Gurung-led GJM, which is spearheading the ongoing indefinite strike in the hills, has been leading the movement for a separate state, besides opposing the Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling district that ensures greater autonomy to the district’s governing body Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.

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