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17 Jun 2017

Centre flips on forces - Delhi links hill reinforcements to report from state; state decides to manage by state police

A child rides a tricycle as paramilitary personnel stand guard during
an indefinite strike called by the GJM in Darjeeling on Friday. (AFP)
Imran Ahmed Siddiqui and Pranesh Sarkar, TT, New Delhi, June 16: The Centre today did a U-turn on Bengal's request for four additional paramilitary companies in Darjeeling and said it would send the forces only after receiving a situation report that officials accused the state government of delaying.
Unofficially, Union home ministry sources said the change of heart may have had a political reason.
The sources listed a timeline, suggesting the sequence of events speaks for itself.
• Around 1pm on Thursday, the Bengal government had sent a message requesting additional forces.
• At 4.45pm, the Union home ministry spokesperson said the request was being considered and later an official said four companies were being rushed to Darjeeling.
• Around 6pm, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri, along with Darjeeling MP and BJP leader S.S. Ahluwalia, met home minister Rajnath Singh. The Morcha and the BJP are allies.
• On Friday, a home ministry spokesperson announced that "we will take a decision on sending additional paramilitary forces only when we make an assessment of the prevailing situation in Darjeeling. It is possible only when we receive a report from the state government."
Sources said the Morcha leadership requested Rajnath not to dispatch any more central forces to avoid antagonising Darjeeling's voters. The BJP has been grappling with a dilemma as overt support to the Gorkhaland cause is expected to exact a price in the plains.
The U-turn by the Centre suggests it has taken a baby step to address the Morcha's concerns. Clues to how far Delhi, which has vowed to crush stone-throwers in Kashmir with an iron hand, will go to placate the Morcha are expected to be available from the response once Bengal sends the report.
At Nabanna, a senior official said Bengal was regularly sending "control room-to-control room" reports to the Centre and would send the "special report sought from the state home secretary soon, probably tomorrow".
"But it will be a shock if the report is linked to the deployment of additional forces," he added. "How can a precondition be set for sending central forces, especially when we have mentioned the reason?"
"If the Centre doesn't want to send more forces, we'll manage the situation by mobilising more police," he added.

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