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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Delhi rules out others in talks - Pakhrin quits

Interlocutor says meetings on Gorkhaland will remain confined to three sides
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, April 20: The Centre has refused to include any other political outfit in the talks on Gorkhaland, squashing the demands of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad and the GNLF which had been clamouring for sometime to be made a party to the discussions.
Delhi has made it clear that the meetings will continue to be held between the Centre, state and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. The next round of political-level talks is expected before May 14.
Lt Gen. (retd) Vijay Madan, who has been appointed interlocutor for the tripartite talks after the third round of meeting, said over the phone from Calcutta: “The ongoing tripartite talks will only involve the representatives of the state, Centre and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. There should be no ambiguity on this stand.”
Madan’s statement comes after the Parishad demanded that the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes be involved in the coming rounds. “As the commission was formed through an amendment to the Constitution and has powers to work on issues associated with the tribals, it is necessary to include the panel in the parleys. This is because tribals are in a majority in the Terai and the Dooars,” said Tezkumar Toppo, the state general secretary of the Parishad.
The Morcha had strongly reacted to the Parishad’s demand had questioned its authority to represent the tribals from the Dooars. Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the spokesperson for the Morcha, had earlier told The Telegraph: “We no longer think that the Parishad is the sole body representing the rights of the tribals in the Dooars. This is largely because a lot of tribals are now with the Morcha in those areas. Who has given them the authority to speak on behalf of the entire tribal population in the Dooars?”
Madan’s clarification comes at a time when rumours are rife that the Centre is looking at getting an opinion from all other parties in the hills, including the GNLF, on the interim set-up that is being planned. The Morcha wants some parts of the Dooars and the Terai to be included in the territory that will come under the interim set-up. The interlocutor who met chief secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti and home secretary Ardhendu Sen in Calcutta yesterday described the interactions as routine. “My job is to speak to all the three parties,” said Madan. He is expected to arrive in Darjeeling soon to hold talks with the Morcha leadership.
The GNLF and the Parishad said the current stand of the Centre to limit the talks to the three existing sides would further complicate the issue.
“It would be wrong to perceive that the Morcha represents the entire hill populace. Other parties like us which are based in the hills should be invited to the talks to reach an early solution and expedite the restoration of normality in the hills,” said Rajen Mukhia, the convener of the GNLF’s Terai branch committee.
“Given the eroding support base of the Morcha, it might so happen that after signing an agreement, the people of the hills might oppose the decision. This would then lead to further tension,” he added.
Parishad leader Toppo iterated that it was wrong to keep the tribals out of the talks if discussions were on the inclusion of the Terai and Dooars in the new set-up for the hills.
The Morcha seems to be satisfied with the interlocutor’s statement. Party general secretary Roshan Giri said: “He is correct when he said we are the three stakeholders who have been involved in the talks from the very beginning.” 
GNLF leader quits post
TT, Siliguri, April 20: The president of the GNLF’s Kalimpong branch committee, Dawa Pakhrin, has resigned from his post, expressing “shock” over party chief Subash Ghisingh’s comment that the Sixth Schedule status was the only solution for Darjeeling.
“The GNLF was formed in the eighties to achieve Gorkhaland. We carried out the statehood movement and faced atrocities from the police and paramilitary forces. More than 1,200 supporters had laid down their lives for the cause,” Pakhrin said over the phone today. “Now I am shocked to hear that our president is in favour of Sixth Schedule status for the hills and not fighting for Gorkhaland any further. This has left me disappointed and so I decided to step down. I am, however, not deserting the party.”
A day after returning from a trip to Myanmar, Ghisingh said on Sunday that given the present state of affairs in the hills, the Sixth Schedule was the only solution for Darjeeling. His comments came close on the heels of the fifth round of talks between the Centre, state and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha when it became clear the governments were not ready to split Bengal.
Pakhrin said Ghisingh’s comments, which showed the party’s “change of stance”, would demoralise the supporters. “I feel the change of stance also amounts to injustice to the martyrs of the Gorkhaland movement led by us. All these issues have prompted me to send my resignation to the president by post yesterday.”
Other GNLF leaders, however, feel that Pakhrin has got Ghisingh’s statement wrong. “I think he (Pakhrin) has misinterpreted the statement. Ghisingh had said after getting the Sixth Schedule status, we can go ahead with the demand for separate state,” said Rajen Mukhia, the convener of the GNLF’s Terai branch.
Observers believe that Pakhrin’s resignation is bound to affect the GNLF activities. “Ghisingh has so long been silent, save for some comments now and then. It was Mukhia and Pakhrin who were instrumental in corresponding with the state and the Centre, and consolidating support of organisations based in other states,” a GNLF leader said. “Now that Pakhrin has stepped down, it is natural that there will be a negative effect on the GNLF activities.” 
Beaten to death for ‘sindoor’ bid 
TT, Malda, April 20: A mob today beat a 27-year-old youth to death after he allegedly tried to molest a girl before smearing her with vermilion or sindoor in a village in Chanchal this morning.
Police said the girl, who had appeared for her Higher Secondary examination this year, was going to offer puja at a Shiva temple in Malatipur village, 50km from here, when Jagannath Pramanik accosted her.
According to witnesses, the youth caught her from behind and rubbed vermilion on her hair parting.
The girl raised the alarm which drew the local people to the spot.
Nearly 50 people, armed with lathis, sickles and other sharp weapons, pounced on him. It was around 9am.
When the news reached Chanchal police station, a huge force arrived.
They rescued the youth who was bleeding profusely and was in an unconscious state. He was rushed to the Malatipur primary health centre. But he died on the way around 12 noon.
Kanan Saha and his wife Bharati said their daughter had no relationship with the youth.
“My daughter goes to the temple everyday. We rushed from home when we heard her cries for help. By that time other men of the locality also arrived and we brought our daughter back home,” said Bharati, whose husband is a farmer.
The lynched youth’s father Jaidev Pramanik, who is a peon at Malatipur post office, refused comment.
But elder sister Rumpa Das said: “My brother might have committed a crime. There is police and the administration to punish him. Why did the people take law into their hands? Whatever he had done, it does not justify the brutality meted out to him.”
She blamed the Sahas for provoking the local people. She also accused the police of coming late.
“If they had been prompt, my brother would have been alive.”
The general secretary of the Congress’s Chanchal block II, Aditya Narayan Das, alleged that Jagannath was infamous for his criminal acts. He had been in jail several times.
“Today’s incident is the expression of the anger of the people of the locality at the anti-socials and the indifferent police,” the Congress leader said
The inspector-in-charge of Chanchal police station, Sagar Saha, said they had started an inquiry. No one has been arrested so far.
The superintendent of police of Malda, Bhuban Mondol, said the Pramaniks had filed an FIR against the Sahas in the evening. He denied the allegation that the police were late in reaching the spot.

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