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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gurung in all's-well scramble...Road block for Gurung arrest...New chief pleads for peace, democracy

Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, May 26: Bimal Gurung has set the stage for the next round of tripartite talks that looked uncertain a week ago, sprinting to reclaim political space and paint a picture of normality in the face of an unusual show of defiance in the hills.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader met the central interlocutor, Vijay Madan, last night and this evening in Darjeeling. The next round of political-level talks is likely to be held in the first week of June.
The round was originally scheduled for the last week of this month but a standoff over territorial limits had clouded the timetable. The murder of Gorkha leader Madan Tamang had further vitiated the atmosphere.
Curiously, the Morcha today did not refer to the “territorial dispute” that had plunged the talks into uncertainty.
Gurung had maintained that unless the entire Darjeeling district, along with the Terai and parts of the Dooars, were included in an interim set-up, his party would not attend the next round. The Centre and the state had insisted that only the three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong would be part of the interim arrangement.
The silence today need not mean the Morcha has dropped the demand. It is being seen as a tactical shift to ensure that the talks are back on track, which suggests that the Morcha is rattled by the backlash after Tamang’s murder.
Gurung also seems to be keen to send a message that he is still in complete control.
Darjeeling did return to some sort of “normality” today with shops and other establishments opening after a four-day shutdown since the daylight murder of Tamang.
After the initial display of defiance, to which Gurung responded by leading a 100-car convoy to Darjeeling yesterday and announcing a “mammoth” rally on Sunday, those who distanced themselves from the Morcha have started trickling back to the fold.
Trilok Dewan, a former principal secretary in the Andhra Pradesh government, and Amar Singh Rai, former vice-principal of Loreto College, both of whom had resigned from the Morcha’s think tank, the Study Forum, announced their decision to return.
Rally defiance
Morcha sources said today that Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh was likely to arrive in Darjeeling on Saturday and attend Sunday’s rally.
In Calcutta, home secretary Samar Ghosh said that “as of today, permission for such a rally cannot be granted”.
“The state administration has not received any request for permission to conduct such a rally so far,” added Ghosh. “Given the situation in the hills, the question of granting permission for such a rally does not arise.”
Gurung, however, said that even if the government did not give permission, he would go ahead with the rally.
Madan widow says Gorkhaland will be achieved in a civilised manner
Bharati, the widow of Madan Tamang and the newly appointed president of the ABGL, on Wednesday appealed to the people in Darjeeling to unite and fight for the restoration of democracy in the hills. (Suman Tamang)
TT, Darjeeling, May 26: The widow of Madan Tamang and the newly appointed president of the ABGL today appealed to the people here to unite and fight for the restoration of democracy in the hills.
At her first media conference, Bharati Tamang appeared composed and determined to fulfill “my husband’s wishes”.
“I have accepted the challenge to head the ABGL to respect the wishes of the hill people and of my party cadres. In democracy, the wishes of the people are the most important and I appeal to all to unite and fight for restoration of democracy,” said Bharati.
She appealed to her supporters to remain calm, five days after her husband and ABGL chief Madan Tamang was hacked to death before he was to address a public meeting in Darjeeling.
In Calcutta, director general of Bengal police, Bhupindar Singh, said the police have found several clues in the Tamang assassination case and would not hesitate to arrest anybody involved in the murder. “We’ve got several clues as the murder was in broad daylight. We have to arrest anybody whose name comes up during the investigation for involvement in the assassination. If there is a law and order situation because of these arrests, we will deal with that,” said Singh.
He, however, did not reveal what the “clues” were.
Tamang’s murder had sparked protests across the hills, and a stream of resignations from the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha had followed. But yesterday, Morcha chief Bimal Gurung returned to Darjeeling in a convoy of 100 vehicles, bulldozing the stirrings of defiance.
A day after severing links with the Morcha, two prominent leaders who had resigned from the party — Harka Bahadur Chhetri and L.B. Pariyar — took back their decisions. “People are not in favour of violence and everybody knows that violence cannot last forever,” Bharati said.
Pratap Khati, a senior ABGL leader, said the fight was not between the ABGL and the Morcha any more. “It is a fight between democratic and undemocratic forces.”
Bharati sounded confident about achieving Gorkhaland. “Restoration of democracy is the priority now and if we remain united, Gorkhaland can be achieved. I do not have any doubts,” said Bharati adding: “We will, however, have to work in a civilised way.”
Asked if the party would hold public meetings soon, Bharati said: “As of now we have not decided to hold any public meetings. We are in a state of mourning.” The ABGL has decided to remain part of Democratic Front, an anti-Morcha alliance of seven parties.
Khati, however, added that the party would hold condolence meetings across the hills soon. “We will start from Darjeeling,” he added.
Pranay Rai, the MLA of Darjeeling, today said he would resign from the Assembly if the state government failed to provide adequate security to the hill people. “The state has not been able to provide security to the leaders, forget about the common people. I will tender my resignation as MLA if the state fails to provide security to the common people,” he said .
NH Blocked
TT, Siliguri, May 26: GNLF supporters today blocked NH55 near Siliguri for one hour, demanding the arrest of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leaders implicated in the assassination of ABGL chief Madan Tamang.
The protesters also threatened to sit on an indefinite dharna at the Siliguri subdivisional office if police failed to act against Bimal Gurung and Roshan Giri who had flouted the prohibitory orders in Darjeeling yesterday.
Led by Rajen Mukhia, the convener of the Terai committee of the GNLF, about 200 people descended on the road at Dagapur at 10.30am. “We were shocked to see that Morcha leaders like Bimal Gurung and Roshan Giri, who are prime accused in the Madan Tamang’s murder, blatantly violated prohibitory orders and entered Darjeeling with police escort. Instead of arresting the two, policemen shamelessly guarded them,” said Mukhia.
“We demand the immediate arrest of the Morcha leaders or else we will resort to dharna at Siliguri subdivisional office, where the prohibitory orders are in force round the clock,” he added.
Mukhia also said Gurung had threatened his opponents with dire consequences at a public meeting in Panighata on April 20. “On the very next day, I lodged a complaint with Panighata police outpost and submitted the video footage of his speech. The clippings were also sent to Writers’ Buildings on May 6, seeking necessary action. But the government has not done anything till now and Madan Tamang was murdered in the meantime,” said the GNLF leader.
Hundreds of vehicles were stopped at either end of the road and the Darjeeling-bound toy train was also blocked for 20 minutes by the agitators. The protesters were mainly from Panighata, Belgachi and Neopani under Mirik block and carrying placards, they shouted anti-Morcha slogans.
The Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee also slammed the state government for being inactive even after Tamang’s murder on Friday.
“The police could have at least removed the Gorkhaland signboards or deleted the word after Tamang’s murder. Further, the government can also proscribe the Gorkhaland Personnel. These steps will send some positive signals to the common people and the Morcha,” said Mukunda Majumdar, the president of the Bhasha Banchao Committee. 
GJMM desperate to restore image
Sabyasachi Roy, SNS, KURSEONG, 26 MAY: Amidst uneasy calm in the Hills, a day after Mr Bimal Gurung's show of strength and five days after Madan Tamang's murder, the GJMM is leaving no stones unturned to thwart any attempt by either the CPI-M or the AIGL to snatch away its claim to the “public mandate” in the Hills.
Party president, Mr Bimal Gurung and general secretary Mr Roshan Giri were busy in a closed door meeting with other senior party leaders at their Singmari party office in Darjeeling while other party leaders organised a public meeting at Kurseong.
A senior party leader said the central committee members of the party are not worried about the allegations leveled against the GJMM, primarily by the CPI-M. The incident where several party flags and banners were torn down and several people in the hills shouted slogans against the party chief, was not the outcome of the allegations leveled by the political parties. It happened only after the resignation of the senior members of the party, he said.
The resignation of party leaders like the GJMM spokesperson Mr Harka Bahadur Chhetri, Mr Trilok Dewa, former Andhra Pradesh chief secretary, Mr Amar Rai former principal of Darjeeling Loreto College and Mr LB Pariyar former state’s panchayat secretary created discontent among the Hill people. They misunderstood the issue and started to distance themselves from the party despite knowing that GJMM is the only party to voice their demand for separate Gorkhaland, said GJMM insiders.
The matter has been resolved as Mr Chhetri and Mr Pariyar have returned to the party. The high command of GJMM was busy in restoring its image during the last two days. Two other leaders Mr Trilok Dewan and Mr Amar Rai are also contemplating to rejoin the party, it was learnt. The senior party leader also said that the leaders were told that their resignations would only make the people think that Tamang’s murder is indeed the handiwork of a section of party leaders. “They were also told that the state government and the CPI-M are playing the trick to tarnish the image of the party and they should not fall in their trap. After this, the leaders changed their decision and rejoined the party,” he said.
Meanwhile, an uneasy calm is still prevailing in the hills, after five days of the murder of the AIGL’s top leader. Normality has been party restored in Darjeeling, though still today several shops and business establishments remained closed in a few pockets of the hill town. Mr KL Tamta, IG (North Bengal) said that normalcy has been restored in the areas. “Apart from additional police personnel, two companies of Central paramilitary forces has been deployed in the hills,” he added.
The GJMM high command has taken the state minister for urban development, Mr Asok Bhattacharya's statement that GJMM has lost the mandate of the people and it should no longer represent them in any future meetings on the hill issue, as a challenge and are desperate to make their 30 May meeting a grand success, said the GJMM leader. Meanwhile, other political parties have also started to make their presence felt in the hills. The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad has invited all the Gorkhas from Dooars to return to their land and join their movement for achieving the Sixth Schedule status for the Dooars and Terai.
Chhetri clarifies stand
SNS, KURSEONG, 26 MAY : The GJMM spokesperson, Mr Harka Bahadur Chhetri, who withdrew his resignation and rejoined the party, today clarified that the party’s long movement for a separate state has forced him to reconsider his decision. “I resigned because of my conscience and to pay tribute to AIGL leader Madan Tamang, who was very close to me since 1981. But, the activities and conspiracy hatched by the state government and other political parties of the hills, against the GJMM and Gorkhaland made me realise that it was a mistake,” added Mr Chhetri
Gurung did what Ghising didnot
Sudipta Chanda ,SNS, SILIGURI, 26 MAY: The Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) president Mr Subash Ghisingh (in photo) had committed the blunder almost three years ago, but his expunger and the Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha (GJMM) president Mr Bimal Gurung steered clear of it. 
Hounded out of Darjeeling in 2008, Mr Ghisingh has since then remained sequestered in the plains, first in Siliguri and now in Jalpaiguri. GNLF supporters, particularly a major section from the Mirik area had at one point, the same year, made serious preparations to reinstate him to Darjeeling irrespective of the consequences. But, Mr Ghisingh dithered thereby losing valuable time and the seat of power.
Facing almost a similar situation where his return to Darjeeling from Delo in Kalimpong after the assassination of AIGL chief Madan Tamang was fraught with risks, the GJMM chief Mr Bimal Gurung did not commit the mistake Mr Ghisingh had. Instead, Mr Gurung took the risk and chose to return to base yesterday amidst a show of numerical strength indicating the GJMM has shifted gears from the backfoot to damage control mode.
The savage killing of Madan Tamang on 21 May is a grim reminder that the impatient brand of politics imported in the Darjeeling Hills in the 80s is still very much “in vogue.” The incident disgusted all and the pent up revulsion was directed at whatever is symbolic to the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha. The GJMM flags and banners, considered sacrosanct till the other day, were yanked off their moorings and the organisation lost leaders faster than it gained.  The rot had, however, begun in April at Rangbul. Disappointed with comments issued on 25 April by the GJMM chief during a public rally at the Rangbul Krishi Farm, the GJMM Rangbul branch committee leadership had collectively relinquished their posts. More importantly, the GJMM Rangbul block committee leadership had claimed they were under “public pressure” to resign. The slide gathered momentum in the post Madan Tamang killing period and the all-important question at this hour is would it effect a political change in the Darjeeling hills. Those like the GNLF and other non-GJMM organisations, who had been trying to unsettle the GJMM, would no doubt try to make best use of the opportunity. Their prospect would, however, depend on three major factors ~ acceptability among the people; how much would the GJMM let go and probably the most significant factor ~ is who or which organisation or platform would provide the leadership against the all-pervasive GJMM?
Central interlocutor meet GJMM leadersSNS, SILIGURI, 26 MAY: The GJMM leadership had talks with the Centre-appointed interlocutor, Mr Vijay Madan in Darjeeling today, presumably to discuss the modalities of the proposed interim council and the tripartite talks scheduled in early June. However, the party, grappling with the worst ever political crisis, looks dithering over the 10-day hill shutdown -the programme the party president, Mr Bimal Gurung announced earlier this month. “The party central committee would decide in a day or two,” said the GJMM general secretary, Mr Roshan Giri. Putting up a brave front, Mr Giri said that they had made clear to Mr Madan that unless the territorial jurisdiction for the proposed council was satisfactorily settled they were unlikely to participate in the coming round of dialogue.
3 children died of shell blast
TT,Siliguri, May 26: Three children died and four others were injured when a used mortar shell exploded at Saogaon near Malbazar, 60km from Jalpaiguri, this evening.
The children, who had picked up the shell from a nearby army firing ground, was trying to hit it with a stone when the blast took place. The dead are Monu Oraon,8, Milanti Oraon,10, and Ramiska Oraon, 7. The injured have been admitted to Malbazar Subdivisional Hospital. Superintendent of police, Jalpaiguri, Anand Kumar, said he had sent a team to the spot to investigate.

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