Calcutta HC stays withdrawal of central forces from Darjeeling hills

Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday ordered an interim stay on the withdrawal of central armed police forces from Darjeeling hills in West Bengal.

A Division Bench of Justices Harish Tandon and Debangshu Basak asked the Home Affairs Ministry to cite appropriate reasons for withdrawing the forces deployed in the Darjeeling hills and directed them to keep all 15 companies of central forces in the region until the next hearing on October 27.

On Sunday, the MHA had ordered the withdrawal of 10 of the 15 Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) companies from the hills, stating that these needed to be deployed in other states due to impending festive season and coming elections.

However, after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee raised objections and called up Home Minister Rajnath Singh, the Centre decided to pull out seven companies.

Banerjee termed the Centre’s decision as “unfortunate and unilateral” and wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Rajnath Singh, claiming the move was a violation of a High Court order.

She said that at a time when the state government was trying to restore normalcy and peace in the hills, withdrawing central forces runs contrary to common sense and poses threat to national security and integrity as Darjeeling was strategically located.

Hailing the High Court’s decision on Tuesday, Tourism Minister Gautam Deb said it proves that the central government’s decision to withdraw the forces was parochial and undemocratic.