22 June 1936|
Manju Tea Estate, Darjeeling, British India
29 January 2015 (aged 78)|
Subash Ghisingh was the leader of Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) which he founded in 1980. He was the chairman of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council in West Bengal, India from 1988 to 2008. He spearheaded the Gorkhaland movement in the 1980s.
The Gorkhaland movement grew from the demand of ethnic Gorkha (Nepali) living in Darjeeling District of West Bengal for a separate state. The Gorkhaland National Liberation Front led the movement, which disrupted the district with massive violence between 1986 and 1988. The issue was resolved, at least temporarily, in 1988 with the establishment of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council within West Bengal.
Subash Ghisingh was born on 22 June 1936 at Manju Tea Estate, near Mirik, in Darjeeling district. While a student of Class IX in St. Robert's High School, Darjeeling, his father died. As a result, he left school and joined the Gorkha Rifles of the Indian Army as a soldier in 1954. He completed his matriculation in 1959 while in the army, but quit the army in 1960 and returned to Darjeeling.
After working as a teacher in Tindharia Bangla Primary School for about a year, he enrolled at Kalimpong Junior BT College in 1961. As result of an altercation with the college principal, he left the college. He joined Darjeeling Government College and passed the Pre-University Arts degree in 1963.
While a second-year B.A. student, he was arrested for participating in a political agitation against the poor conditions of the hills. He then had to quit studies. He was then the general secretary of Tarun Sangh. It was the beginning of a long political career.
In 1968, Ghisingh became vocal on issues concerning the hills and formed a political outfit Nilo Jhanda (Blue Flag) to further the cause. On 22 April 1979, for the first time, he raised the demand for a separate state for the Nepali-speaking people of the Darjeeling hills. He was highly believed to be an agent of the Research and Analysis Wing. On 5 April 1980, he demanded the formation of Gorkhaland, a separate state for the Gorkhas within India. He formed the Gorkha National Liberation Front to achieve statehood. After a prolonged struggle marked by much bloodshed, on 22 August 1988, he signed an agreement with the state and the central governments for the creation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, a semi-autonomous body.
After a prolonged illness, Subhash Ghisingh died on 29 January 2015 at Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi. The hospital authorities released a statement stating that Subhash Ghisingh was suffering from pneumonia and liver cancer. Ghisingh's son Mohan Ghisingh was named the new party chief by the GNLF.
In 1986, the Gorkhaland National Liberation Front under the leadership of Subhash Ghisingh demanded a separate state of Gorkhaland within India. This statehood movement turned violent and was severely repressed by the West Bengal government. The disturbances almost totally shut down the Darjeeling district's economic mainstays of tea and tourism. The Left Front government of West Bengal, which earlier had supported some form of autonomy, now opposed it as "antinational". The state government claimed that Darjeeling district was no worse off than the state in general and was richer than many districts. However, GNLF spoke of discrimination from the West Bengal administration towards the Gorkhas.
After two years of violent agitation and the loss of at least 1200 lives, the government of West Bengal and the central government of India agreed on granting a semi-autonomous administrative body to Darjeeling hills. In July 1988, the GNLF gave up its demand for a separate state, and in August 1988, the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council came into being. Ghisingh became its chairman after winning the first council elections. The council had authority over some economic development programmes, tourism and culture. Ghisingh remained the chairman of the DGHC for 20 years with his GNLF party winning the DGHC elections three times.
Sixth Schedule and exile
The fourth DGHC elections were due in 2004. However, the government decided not to hold elections and instead made Subhash Ghisingh the sole caretaker of the DGHC till a Sixth Schedule tribal council was established in the Darjeeling hills. Most of the other political parties and organisations opposed the setting up of a Sixth Schedule tribal council as there was only a minority tribal population in the DGHC area. Resentment among the former councillors of DGHC also grew rapidly. Among them, Bimal Gurung, once the trusted aide of Ghisingh, decided to break away from the GNLF.  Riding on a mass support for Prashant Tamang, an Indian Idol candidate from Darjeeling in 2007, Bimal quickly capitalised on the public support he received for supporting Prashant, and was able to overthrow Ghisingh from the seat of power. Ghisingh resigned from the chairmanship of the DGHC in March 2008 and shifted residence to Jalpaiguri. GNLF lost most of its support and cadres to Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, a new party headed by Bimal Gurung.
West Bengal assembly elections 2011 and return from exile
After lying in political hibernation for three years, Subhash Ghisingh returned to Darjeeling on 8 April 2011 ahead of the West Bengal assembly elections. His party contested the state assembly elections held on 18 April 2011 from three constituencies in the Darjeeling hills but lost all the three seats that it had won in the earlier election. Ghisingh left the Darjeeling hills again on 16 May 2011 on yet another political hibernation. He later returned to Darjeeling ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 but remained politically inactive due to his poor health.
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- "Farewell, Voice of the Indian Gorkhas". Rediff.com. 3 February 2015.
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- "Subash Ghisingh's son Mohan becomes new GNLF chief". The Echo of India. Bagdogra. 30 January 2015. Archived from the original on 1 February 2015.
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