Subhash Ghisingh

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The Times of India

Jan 30 2015

1936-2015 - Ghisingh, architect of Gorkhaland is dead.

Keshav Pradhan

For Subash Ghisingh, life was an endless struggle for the rights of his fellow Nepali-speaking Indians in their adopted homeland. What pushed the former bantamweight boxer from the Indian Army into the political arena was the fear of being called a foreigner in a country for which he and his forefathers had given their blood and sweat. His ideas and methods of struggle remained controversial till the end. He even sought help from the US, UK, France, Nepal and the UN. Ghisingh, who founded the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) and spearheaded the Gorkhaland movement in the 1980s, died in New Delhi on Thursday at the age of 78. Reports said he was suffering from liver ailments and cancer.

For almost 20 years since he quit the Army in 1966, Ghisingh moved from door to door explaining the need for a homeland and an Indian identity . He studied history, used it in his campaign, and sometimes even misinterpreted it to suit his argument. In the late sixties, he floated a party Neelo Jhanda (Blue Flag) that exhorted people to identify themselves as Nepali. He despised the word Gorkha as a symbol of slavery . For some time, he flirted with the Labour Congress and after Emergency , he joined Jagjivan Ram's Congress for Democracy .

It was in 1980 that Ghisingh turned radical. On April 7 that year, he founded the GNLF with the slogan “We can forgive a snake but not a person who opposes Gorkhaland“. He banned the use of Nepali as the name of the community , saying it would blur their distinction from Nepali nationals.

In its initial years, GNLF confined its agitation to election boycotts and street corner meetings. In 1986 Ghisingh launched an armed struggle to end the “genocide“ of the Nepalis. “Just as there will be no morning until the stars are gone, there will be no Gorkhaland until we do not become martyrs,“ he would often say as he plunged the Darjeeling hills and the Dooars into turmoil.He himself suffered serious injuries in an assassination bid on February 10, 2001.

As Bengal's Marxist government armed its Nepali cadres, the hills witnessed fratricidal war that led to the killing of more than 1,200 people, burning of thousands of homes and uprooting of nearly 1,00,000 citizens. Normalcy returned after 28 months on August 22, 1988, when GNLF, the Bengal government and the Centre signed a pact on the formation of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council. But reason and peace had deserted Darjeeling for good.

Born into a family of tea garden workers at Manju near the Nepal border on June 22, 1936, Ghisingh was an accomplished novelist and painter.

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