A force left without a purpose
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In 1987, when she was eight, Anuja Tamang saw a severed head hanging from a post near her house in Monsong village of Kalimpong. The murdered man was a neighbour who had refused to join Subhas Ghisingh's GNLF. For many years more, she would see much violence in her village amid the movement for Gorkhaland. When the Ghisingh era ended in 2007 and Bimal Gurung took over the movement, his approach captured Anuja's imagination.
In 2008, Anuja saw an advertisement in a local newspaper inviting volunteers to join Gorkhaland Personnel, a force raised by Gurung to "maintain law and order and control violent activities" in rural Darjeeling. She did not think twice.
Today, she is captain of a girl's camp at Jamuni village on the banks of the Chhota Rangit in Darjeeling. She is one of the 1,500 women in a 5,000-strong force living in camps in remote areas, including jungles, of the Darjeeling hills. Some of the 35 camps are housed in government guesthouses, health centres and tourism bungalows that had been forcibly captured by Gurung's men.
But now the force has outlived its utility. The movement has culminated in the creation of the Gorkha Territorial Administration and Gurung does not know what to do with his personnel. At the August 4 function where he was sworn in as GTA chief executive, Gurung urged both West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde to accommodate the Gorkhaland Personnel cadre in the police, paramilitary forces or other services. He pleaded for special changes in the eligibility criteria for the armed forces of the state and the Centre to absorb them. Senior Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leaders agree the force is now a "burning problem".
The name was initially Gorkhaland Police but was changed when the authorities objected. After Gurung formed the community volunteer force in 2008, it was initially engaged in controlling alcoholism in villages and rendering social services. Eventually it grew into a moral policing force that could, at a moment's notice, be deployed from their camps in any situation: blockading a road, enforcing a shutdowns, forcing residents not to pay government taxes, or facing police bullets by marching in prohibited areas of the Dooars and Terai regions.
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