The Centre on Monday allowed 800 paramilitary forces to continue to be deployed in Darjeeling in West Bengal to maintain law and order in the hill areas, PTI reported. Currently, 15 companies are stationed in the region.
On Sunday, the Home Affairs Ministry had decided to withdraw 10 companies comprising 1,000 personnel after the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha called off its indefinite strike in Darjeeling on September 26, 104 days after the group revived its agitation in the hills for a separate state of Gorkhaland. The ministry had wanted to deploy the troopers at other places during the festival season.
However, as the West Bengal government had sought to have the forces stationed in Darjeeling for longer, the Centre withdrew only seven companies, a Home Ministry official told PTI, adding that the state police must take over as the situation had been brought under control. “Central forces cannot be converted into the local police,” the official was quoted as saying.
Besides, with state elections coming up in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, and festivals around the corner, other states have also requested for the central forces, the official said.
The turmoil in the Darjeeling Hills began in June, after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced her decision to make Bengali compulsory in state-run schools. While she had clarified that hill districts would be exempted from the rule, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha began an agitation that soon revived the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland