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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Gurung vetoes ‘political’ panel - Morcha wants tripartite talks to continue q Central forces deployed on NH31A & in Sukna

Darjeeling, Feb. 23: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today shot down the proposal of the cabinet committee on political affairs to set up a “political committee” to deliberate on the demand for Gorkhaland and to explore possible solutions to end the impasse in the hills.
Morcha president Bimal Gurung said he only believed in continuing with the tripartite meetings. “Tripartite meetings are taking place between the Centre, state and the Morcha and they should continue. There is no space for other political parties,” said Gurung, hinting that an all-party committee was not acceptable to the Morcha
Gurung said the Union home minister, the chief minister of Bengal and the Morcha leadership should attend the talks. “If they select second-rung ministers to represent the government at the meeting, we, too, will choose our delegation accordingly,” the Morcha leader said at a media conference in Singamari.
The Morcha president claimed that he had already told Delhi that he was not interested in a political committee.
During the CCPA meeting in New Delhi yesterday, the home ministry had been asked to request the major political parties in Bengal to name their representatives for the committee. It is believed that the committee is being formed following the realisation that the Gorkhaland issue could be solved only through political intervention.
Gurung was of the opinion that the CCPA had already fixed the date of the fifth round of tripartite meeting. “They are probably not announcing it…I think the date was finalised on February 9 itself,” said Gurung.
At the last tripartite meeting on December 21, it was agreed that the next round of talks would be held at the political level and that the Centre would get back to the Morcha with the date and the venue within 45 days. The 45-day period ended on February 6.
In a message to the people of the hills, the Morcha president said: “A few people are taking advantage of the situation. In Sukna, we have learnt that the police outpost was set on fire when residents were demonstrating outside…This is definitely a conspiracy of the CPM and the police. I ask the people to maintain peace.”
The peace appeal comes after a spurt in violence in Kurseong, Darjeeling and Sukna last week even though the Morcha has denied its involvement in any of these incidents. While MLA Shanta Chhetri’s house was set on fire, the police station ransacked and police vehicles torched in Kurseong on Thursday, a school owned by a former GNLF councillor was burnt down in Darjeeling the next day. In Sukna, a mob demanding the arrest of an alleged murder accused torched the police outpost on Sunday.
About the Kurseong arson, Gurung said the violence had erupted because people were emotional. “If a single minister from Bengal cannot offer garlands to the 24 EFR jawans from the hills who were killed (in the Shilda massacre), the people will definitely be emotional,” said Gurung.
The Morcha said it was not concerned with the deployment of the CRPF in the region. “They have come to do their job, let them do it. They will not go about killing anyone randomly. Our movement is peaceful and democratic.”
Youth supporters of Gorkhaland today demonstrated in front of police stations across the hills demanding a stop in “police atrocities” at Sukna. Eighteen people had been arrested for burning down the Sukna outpost. Two of them are college students.
Keeping in mind the board exams that have started, the Morcha has decided to suspend the indefinite relay hunger strike by students at Rangpo, Teesta and Sevoke (along NH31A) and Panchanadi (along NH55) from tomorrow.
“The hunger strike at Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong will continue as college students are taking part in the fast at these sites,” said Keshav Raj Pokhral, the general secretary of the Morcha student wing.
The hunger strike started on January 2 to demand a final date for the fifth round of talks.
CRPF patrols Sikkim lifeline

Feb. 23: Less than 24 hours after two companies of the CRPF arrived in Siliguri, they were deployed along NH31A to keep the lifeline to Sikkim free of blockades. The third company of the central force also arrived in Siliguri today.
In Sukna, on the outskirts of Siliguri, where one company is billeted at Pintail Village, the CRPF personnel patrolled the area which was deserted for the second day running after a mob set on fire the police outpost there on Sunday night. This led to police raids and 18 people were arrested.
Shops and establishments in Sukna were shut but traffic remained normal, much like yesterday.
The inspector-general of police, north Bengal. K.L. Tamta, said all three companies had been deployed at strategic points along NH31A. “Two of the companies have moved out to the Kalimpong subdivision and will be patrolling NH31A from the Coronation Bridge to Rangpo, the gateway to Sikkim. Their sole task would be to ensure that the highway remains open to traffic round-the-clock and will intervene if there are any blockades,” Tamta said.
He said the CRPF personnel marched through Sukna and the neighbouring area in the morning to ensure peace in the area.
According to senior police officers in Kalimpong, one of the companies had moved into a fisheries office complex at Reang village, 40km from Siliguri, around 4am today.
Another company went up to Kalimpong, as there was no suitable accommodation at Rangpo. The officer said the company posted at Reang will patrol NH31A from Coronation Bridge to 29 Mile, while the one in Kalimpong will look after the stretch between Teesta and Rangpo, a distance of 35km, the officer said.
The company in Kalimpong has put up at the state library hall near Thanadara and at the empty Birla House in Upper Cart Road.
The CRPF has been deployed on the basis of an order of the Supreme Court to the central and state governments to ensure that NH31A is not blocked to traffic during strikes called in the region. The court was acting on a petition filed by O.P. Bhandari, a Sikkim resident, who had complained that frequent blockades on the highway by pro and anti-Gorkhaland forces cut off the Himalayan state that had neither a rail or air link, save a helicopter service.

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