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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

100-car Gurung ride overtakes dissent...Tamang Widow elected President

Bimal Gurung and his convoy reach Chowk Bazar in Darjeeling on Tuesday. Picture by Suman Tamang
Vivek Chhetri, TT. Darjeeling, May 25: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung today led a convoy of 100 cars to Darjeeling, virtually trying to bulldoze the stirrings of defiance in the hills after the daylight murder of Madan Tamang.
A day after severing links with the Morcha, two prominent persons in Kalimpong, Harka Bahadur Chhetri and L.B. Pariyar, took back their decisions. Sources said both leaders had decided to return to the Morcha fold “under tremendous pressure from the leadership”.
Gurung also announced a “mammoth” rally in Darjeeling on Sunday to demonstrate “the support that the Morcha enjoys in the hills”.
The flurry of action suggests that yesterday’s display of defiance by mourners — egged on by some residents — in Tamang’s funeral procession has rattled the Morcha leadership enough to flex its muscles and reinforce the fear factor that has helped it lord it over the hills. 
"It took 20 years for Subash Ghisingh’s hold to be broken, that too by a strong-arm party like the Morcha. Yesterday’s outpouring was a beginning but cannot be expected to change things overnight,” a hill resident said.
In the face of the show of strength by the Morcha whose writ ran unchallenged till the other day, the public display of dissent today was restricted to a blockade put up by supporters of the second-largest party in the hills, the CPRM.
Unike the 5,000-strong mourners who took out their anger on the Morcha’s flags and banners and raised slogans against Gurung yesterday, only 50 CPRM supporters were at hand to enforce the blockade at Ghoom, 9km from Darjeeling, which stalled the convoy from Kalimpong for around five minutes.
The protesters stepped aside after hundreds of Morcha supporters threatened to step in to “disperse them”.
Fearing that Gurung’s return may stoke violence in the town, the administration had clamped Section 144 in Darjeeling. This prohibited more than five people from gathering at one spot but as has been the norm in the hills for quite some time, Morcha supporters ignored the restriction.
Defying the administration, Morcha supporters walked in a procession from Ghoom, shouting slogans that warned “a handful of people who were trying to politicise a funeral procession”.
Although police managed to push back Morcha supporters from Chowk Bazar by citing the prohibitory order, Gurung addressed his supporters who had thronged the motor stand area in Darjeeling, about 300 metres from the spot where Tamang had been hacked to death.
The administration was granted a concession: Gurung did not use a microphone.
Bharati Tamang, the widow of Madan Tamang, was today appointed the president of his party, the ABGL. Earlier in the day, Bharati, accompanied by her son Sanjyog, met Bengal governor M.K. Narayanan in Darjeeling to demand a CBI inquiry into the murder of her husband.
Pressure prompts return - Kalimpong duo back to Morcha fold for Gorkhaland
TT, Kalimpong, May 25: Two prominent faces of the the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in Kalimpong, Harka Bahadur Chhetri and L.B. Pariyar, today did a volte-face, a day after severing their links with the party following the murder of Madan Tamang.
Sources said both the leaders had decided to return to the Morcha fold “under tremendous pressure from the party leadership”.
While former Morcha spokesperson Chhetri stopped short of absolving the outfit from the responsibility for the murder of ABGL chief Madan Tamang, Pariyar, who was a member of the party’s study forum, said he was withdrawing his decision to disassociate himself from the think tank.
Chhetri said he would, for the moment, continue to work for the separate state movement without joining the outfit. “I will work for Gorkhaland with as much vigour as before. I will not take back the membership of the Morcha till the air is cleared on the assassination of Tamang. The moment it is clear that the GJM has no hand, I will again take my membership,” said Chettri.
While announcing his resignation from the Morcha yesterday, Chhetri had said: “My conscience has been troubling me ever since the killing of Madan Tamang. But I did not resign on the spur of the moment as I am a responsible member of the Morcha. I have thought my decision over the last few days and put in my papers today.”
The former central committee member of the Morcha said his decision to “work for the movement” from outside was guided by the realisation that the state government and the CPM were using the death of Tamang to scuttle the Gorkhas’ movement for separation from Bengal. “I see a grand decision of the government to phase out the movement. How can we let down the movement that we have led for 32 months,” he added.
Chhetri also appealed to other people who had quit the party not to get swayed away by what had happened in the last few days and keep contributing to the movement for Gorkhaland, which is the common goal of all the Gorkhas. “This (the movement) is not the question of the Morcha; it is about the Gorkhas,” he added.
Pariyar, the former principal secretary of the DGHC, told reporters at his East Main Road residence that he had revoked his decision to leave the Morcha following a request from the party president, Bimal Gurung, and other leaders.
“I had a 45-minute long conversation with the Morcha chief last night. Other party men had also come to my house to plead with me to rescind my decision. I also realised that the ongoing negotiations on the movement would go haywire if all of us were to abandon in this manner,” he added.
Along with Pariyar, two other members of the study forum — Trilok Dewan, the former Anddhra Pradesh chief secretary, and Amar Singh Rai, the former vice-principal of Loreto College — had also announced their decision to “distance” themselves from the party yesterday.
The forum members represented the Morcha in the dialogues with the Centre and the state.
Hunt plea yet to reach Sikkim
TT, Gangtok,May 25: Bengal police have not yet asked their Sikkim counterparts for a joint raid to catch the murderers of Madan Tamang despite the inspector-general of police (north Bengal) claimed that the accused persons behind the ABGL leader’s killing might have fled to the hill state.
“No formal request has come to my office as of now,” said S.D. Negi, the inspector-general (law and order) of Sikkim police, when asked whether the Bengal police have sought assistance from them. “As and when West Bengal police come up with specific requests with details and proper documentation, we will extend all legal assistance as per CrPC,” he added.
Contacted in Siliguri, the IGP (north Bengal), K.L. Tamta, however, stuck to his stand. “Not everything was done in writing,” he said. “I personally called up the director-general of the Sikkim police and sought cooperation. We are in constant touch with the Sikkim police and they are extending all help.”
Negi denied reports that searches had been conducted by the Bengal police in Sikkim.
In the evening, various NGOs along with local intelligentsia took out a candle light rally praying for peace in the hills.
Tamang widow ABGL President
TT, Darjeeling, May 25: Bharati Tamang, the widow of Madan Tamang, was today appointed the president of the ABGL, said Mohan Sharma, the secretary of the party’s trade wing.
The appointment comes two days after Bharati had told her close aides that “she would not allow her husband’s sacrifice to go in vain”.
Earlier in the day, Bharati, accompanied by her son Sanjyog, met Bengal governor M.K. Narayanan in Darjeeling to demand a CBI inquiry into the assassination of her husband.
The two submitted a memorandum to Narayanan saying even the inspector-general of police (K.L. Tamta) had blamed the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha for the attack. “I, Sanjyog Tamang, on behalf of my mother, Bharati Tamang, wife of late Madan Tamang, would like to put forward our humble prayer for a CBI inquiry with immediate effect,” the letter states.
The letter also added that the inquiry was to “bring normalcy and democracy back to Darjeeling” more than to punish the culprits.
Bharati, a retired state government employee, said the governor had promised to look into the demands. “As of now, I would like to request the people to maintain peace in the hills,” she said.
Observers say the role of the opposition in the wake of Tamang’s murder will now be taken over by the Democratic Front, a seven party anti-Morcha alliance, which includes the ABGL and the CPRM, the second largest party in the hills.
“Emotions that have been generated by Tamang’s killing are unlikely to sustain for long unless the Democratic Front collectively takes up the opposition’s role without any prejudice,” said an observer.
Many believe Bharati’s elevation as the head of the ABGL will help the Democratic Front. “Sadly, the ABGL does not have another charismatic leader to match Tamang. This is precisely the reason why Bharati needs to head the party now,” said the observer.
Tribals told to quit GLP
Abhijit Sinha, TT. Siliguri, May 25: The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad today asked the tribal youths from the Dooars who joined the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s volunteer force, Gorkhaland Personnel, to quit job and return home.
“Given the present state of political situation in the hills, we would like to request the tribal youths who had joined the GLP from the Dooars for unemployment to resign from the jobs and return their homes,” said John Barla, the president of the Dooars Terai Regional Unit of the Parishad, today. “Several allegations were levelled against the GLP. Questions were also raised about the legality of the Morcha’s force. We apprehend that there might be police action soon and in that case these youths, who had joined the force with a wrong notion that it was a great opportunity for earning money, would have to face the trouble.”
More than 2,000 unemployed youths from the Dooars were recruited to the GLP by the Morcha last year while its president Bimal Gurung had supervised the recruitment drive from Gorubathan.
“Of them, around 65 per cent are the Gorkhas and the rest are tribal youths who had joined the force with twin intentions of earning as well as creating Gorkhaland along with the Terai and Dooars,” said Samuel Gurung, a central committee member of the Morcha who looks after the organisation in the Dooars.
The Morcha leader, however, denied that the tribal youths had already started walking out of the GLP. “Nothing as such has been reported so far and all those recruited are very much there,” Gurung said.
Parishad leaders, on the other hand, admitted that the monthly remuneration of Rs 2,500 offered by the Morcha to the GLP cadres from the Dooars had lured a number of tribal youths. “However, as of now, we can confidently say that none of the tribal youths, even if they are unemployed, would respond to any call by the Morcha to join the GLP force as they have understood that in no way it is a right place to work,” said Rajesh Lakra, the general secretary of the Parishad’s north Bengal unit.
The tribal leaders have invited the Gorkhas in the Dooars to join their movement for achieving Sixth Schedule status for the Dooars and Terai.
“We have raised the demand which will benefit not only the tribal population living in the region but also other communities, including the Gorkhas,” Barla said. “We feel the Gorkhas living in the region have well understood that under no circumstances can the Terai and Dooars be included into the proposed interim set-up or Gorkhaland. So at this juncture when the political situation is completely unpredictable in the hills, we want them to join and strengthen our movement,” the Parishad leader added.
The Morcha, however, is not ready to listen to the Adivasi leaders. “We have our support base intact in the Dooars. Our supporters are engaged in different activities to carry out the movement for the separate state and inclusion of the Dooars in it,” Samuel Gurung said.
Members of Civil Society of Sikkim gathered to pay homage to Slain Gorkha Leader Madan Tamang at Titanic Park in Gangtok
 (Pix: Prabin Khaling)

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