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Friday, April 23, 2010

GNLF supporter murdered..Only territory talks: Morcha -

TT, Darjeeling, April 22: A 30-year-old GNLF supporter was pulled out of a jeep and hacked to death near the Sallabari division of the Chungtung tea garden this evening.
Pushpa Jung Thapa, a resident of Chungtung, about 30km from here, was returning from Siliguri when he was murdered by a group of five to six youths around 6pm, said police sources.
Thapa had been arrested, along with 13 other GNLF supporters, after Pramila Sharma, a Gorkha Janmukti Morcha activist, had been shot dead here on July 25, 2008.
Those arrested in connection with Pramila’s death are out on bail.
Kunal Agrawal, additional superintendent of police, Darjeeling, said: “Two police officers have already reached the garden. It is too early to say if the murder was politically motivated.” 
Hill party refuses to discuss other demands with interlocutor
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, April 22: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has told the Centre that it will not discuss any other subject in the tripartite talks, either at the bureaucratic or at the political level, till the tangle over the territorial jurisdiction of the interim set-up for the hills is sorted out.
The party’s stand was conveyed to Lt Gen. (retd) Vijay Madan, the Centre-appointed interlocutor for the talks on Gorkhaland, during a meeting yesterday.
“The interlocutor did try to talk about the functions, powers and other demands made by the party regarding the interim set-up,” said a Morcha source. “However, our chief Bimal Gurung refused to discuss these issues and made it clear that these can be taken up only after the tangle over the territorial jurisdiction is sorted out.”
The Morcha has been demanding the inclusion of the entire Darjeeling district and parts of the Dooars in the interim set-up, while the state and the Centre want it limited to the three subdivisions of Kurseong, Kalimpong and Darjeeling.
Initially, the Morcha had wanted the entire Dooars to be included in the interim set-up. But, last year the Morcha sent a “secret proposal” to Delhi saying that it had redrawn the map of Gorkhaland that it wants and included only those parts of the Dooars in it where there is a substantial Nepali population.
Gurung, while discussing the territorial jurisdiction of the interim set-up yesterday, also made it clear to Madan that the Dooars and Siliguri could not be separated but would have to be treated as a “single block” and made an “integral part” of the set-up.
Morcha sources said what the party actually wants in the set-up is the Nepali-dominated areas of the Dooars. It also realises that the clamour for Bengali-dominated Siliguri as part of the interim set-up was also unrealistic.
The sources said the demand for Siliguri was more of a “bargaining tool” for the Morcha so that both the Centre and the state conceded to part with the Nepali-dominated areas of the Dooars which the Morcha can then show as a “tangible gain” to the hill people.
The Centre has so far not categorically ruled out the inclusion of these areas in the interim set-up. However, at a recent meeting between Gurung and Union home minister P. Chidambaram in Delhi, the Morcha received no assurance either on its territorial demand, a source said.
“Even during the political-level meeting next month, we will only discuss the territorial issue if it is not resolved by then,” a Morcha leader said. “We will not allow any other issue to figure.”
Other than territorial jurisdiction, there are several other contentious issues that need to be sorted out. Apart from legislative powers over 126 departments, the Morcha has also demanded an advocate general for the interim set-up and a court along the lines of Calcutta High Court. The party has also demanded control over police.
Observers believe that even these issues will involve “serious discussions and hard bargaining”. 
Cry for panel to study Dooars
TT, Siliguri, April 22: Anti-Gorkhaland outfits in the plains today said the Centre should constitute a commission to study the grievances of people of north Bengal regarding the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s demand for a separate state or an interim set-up.
The demand by the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad and the Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee comes a day after the Morcha leadership held talks with the Centre-appointed interlocutor Vijay Madan.
“As it seems that the territory issue is an impediment to the solution (for the set-up), we feel that the Centre, instead of holding tripartite talks, should send a team or a commission to Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling districts to know what the people really want,” said Tezkumar Toppo, the state general secretary of the Parishad. “It will be appropriate for the governments to assess the ground reality before the negotiations. The team or commission can also assess whether the Gorkhas are a majority in the Dooars, Terai or Siliguri.”
Parishad state president Birsa Tirkey said six Assembly constituencies in the Dooars reserved for the Scheduled Tribe showed that tribals are a majority in the area. “So the Morcha’s demand to include the Terai and Dooars in the set-up has no logic.”
Leaders of the Bhasha Committee also spoke on similar lines. Mukunda Majumdar, its president, said: “Instead of going ahead with the proposal for an interim set-up, the Centre should send a team to the region to assess the situation. Delhi should have the feedback of the people living in this part of the state as the issue is related to them.”
Developments in the hills can be carried out by the DGHC. “We don’t feel any need for a new set-up,” he added.
Road spruce-up for flower fest
TT, Gangtok, April 22: The Border Roads Organisation has taken special measures to ensure smooth flow of traffic on North Sikkim Highway during the International Rhododendron Festival at Yumthang Valley that will start from April 25.
The organisation also said it was ready to face challenges that might come in the form of landslides along the 51km Jawaharlal Nehru Marg, which connects Gangtok to Nathu-la. Trade between Sikkim and the Tibetan Autonomous Region at the, 14,400ft-high border pass will open from May 3. The state expects a lot of visitors to the flower fest to go to Nathu-la as well.
Brigadier R.K. Patyal, chief engineer with Project Swastik that is looking after road infrastructure in the state since March 2008, said BRO officials and labourers along with bulldozers and earth excavators have been deployed at landslide-prone zones along North Sikkim Highway.
“We have deployed manpower and machinery at 15 troublesome spots along the highway up to Yumthang for the rhododendron festival,” said Brigadier Patyal today.
Swastik is presently in charge of double-laning North Sikkim Highway, Jawaharlal Nehru Marg, and NH31A, the only road that connects Sikkim to the rest of the country.
Brigadier Patyal said work for widening the highway has been stopped for a month to allow smooth passage of vehicles going towards Yumthang Valley for the rhododendron festival that will end on May 15. “The slush and debris along the route has been cleared,” he said. The BRO has also resurfaced and black carpeted the 49km stretch between Chungthang and Yumthang especially for the festival. “We had recently strengthened an iron bridge over Bar Khola on the Singtam-Mangam route,” said Brigadier Patyal.
Work on Jawaharlal Nehru Marg will be done in four phases. The project of around Rs 495 crore started last year and is expected to be over by 2012.
Bullet from BSF camp hits boy 
TT, Raiganj, April 22: A 13-year-old boy returning home after collecting rice distributed for the people hit by the April 13 storm was struck by a bullet, allegedly fired from a BSF practice camp at Mirual today.
Mukuleswar Rehman, who was injured on his right shoulder, was first taken to the BSF camp, 10km from here, by the angry residents of the area.
The villagers alleged that they had been shoved by some jawans when they reached the camp with the boy. “I was among 30 villagers who took the bleeding boy to the camp. The jawans told us to go away as the boy had not been injured by the bullet fired by them. They even pushed and shoved me around,” said Habibur Rehman.
Habibur said an officer had soon arrived and he asked the jawans to take the boy to the camp clinic. His wound was cleaned and bandaged. Mukuleswar’s father, Mohammad Islam Ali, a farm labourer, later admitted his son to the district hospital in Raiganj for treatment. His injury was stated to be “not serious”.
Following the incident, there was strong resentment among the people of Mirual in Gobindopur gram panchayat as this is not the first time that a stray bullet has hit someone in the area. On December 12, 2008, a bullet fired by a team of policemen from South Dinajpur practising in the BSF firing range had hit a youth on the leg. Mujibur Rehman had to be operated at the district hospital where the bullet was extricated from his right foot.
The Congress gram panchayat member of the area, Budhu Soren, said such incidents regularly happened at Mirual. “We have been telling the authorities that bullets often come whizzing at us from the camp and flares fired by the jawans sometimes fall on the roofs, setting our huts on fire,” said Soren.
A villager, Wahidur Rehman, showed a bullet he had picked up from the area outside the 40-foot high wall of the firing range. “I and my friends often find bullets outside the camp and this is just one of them,” said Wahidur, holding the bullet.
The deputy inspector-general of the BSF’s Raiganj range, Rakesh Sharma, said: “I have made inquiries and I have come to know from the nature of the injury that it was not a bullet but a small piece of plaster or brick that had been shot off the wall of the firing range and struck the boy,” he said.
North Dinajpur district magistrate Ramanuj Chakrabarty said he had been told that this was not the first time that such an incident had happened.
“I will sit with the BSF officers and discuss with them how such incidents can be prevented,” said the district magistrate.

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