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Thursday, May 6, 2010


‘Others’ shadow over hill talks
TT, May 6: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today accused the Bengal government of trying to derail the tripartite talks by suggesting that all stakeholders in the Darjeeling hills and the Dooars and Terai should be invited to the meeting.
Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said: “The Bengal government is trying to derail the talks by these suggestions. Only the Centre, the state government and the Morcha were stakeholders during the last five rounds and the same must continue.”
Giri refused to reveal whether the Morcha would refrain from attending the meeting if other parties were invited. “We are discussing every aspect. We have a meeting scheduled at Sukna on May 8,” he said, indicating that the party could announce its decision then.
The Morcha trade union has asked the workers in tea gardens in the Terai to attend the Sukna rally and not to work on that day.
Observers believe that the Morcha might even take drastic steps if other parties are invited, resulting in the discussions getting derailed. “Given the conflicting stand of the state government and the Morcha on territorial issues, there is a strong possibility of the entire talks on the set-up getting derailed,” an observer said.
The Morcha has been demanding that not only the entire Darjeeling district, including Siliguri with its predominantly Bengali population, but also the Terai and parts of the Dooars where the Gorkhas are in a majority be included in the interim set-up. The geographical boundary of the interim set-up would define the shape of Gorkhaland, the Morcha had said.
According to sources in the state government, there are other political formations and groups that have a significant presence in the hills and in the Dooars and Terai, and it is only fair that their views be factored in.
During the first round of secretary-level talks, the Morcha had taken an all-party delegation to Delhi. However, the party was unhappy with the “behaviour” of the delegates, particularly the ABGL’s charge that it was not consulted while preparing a document which was submitted then. Following the ABGL allegation, Gurung had publicly said that “the chapter of the all-party delegation has been closed”.
Madan Tamang, the ABGL president, today said it was right on the part of the government to invite all political parties. “ The Centre and the state had once made the mistake of ignoring the other parties before inking the Sixth Schedule bill and the result is there for every one to see.”
Tamang, however, said the ABGL could not publicly announce the stand that it would take in the tripartite meeting unless “a written invitation is issued”.
However, all parties in the hills are against the Morcha decision to accept the new set-up. They have alleged that the Morcha has betrayed the Gorkhaland cause by accepting the interim set-up.
Gobind Chhetri, the organisational head of the CPRM that has the second largest following in the hills after the Morcha, said his outfit would insist only on Gorkhaland. “We want the Centre to listen to our demands and any other decision might trigger off unrest in the area,” Chhetri said.
Other stakeholders like the GNLF and the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad refused to disclose much, saying they had not been approached formally yet (by the state).
“But we will not budge from our stand. Parts of the Dooars and the Terai cannot be included in the interim set- up proposed by the Morcha,” said the state president of the Parishad, Birsa Tirkey.
Administrative level talks on May 11
Siliguri, May 6 (PTI) Administrative-level tripartite talks among the Centre, the West Bengal government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha will be held in New Delhi on May 11, prior to political dialogue at the end of this month.
Urban Development Minister Asok Bhattacharya today said there was no difference of opinion between the Centre and the state on the development of Darjeeling and to make the hill council more powerful.
The chief secretary and home secretary were expected to join the tripartite talks with the GJM leadership and the Centre, said Bhattacharya, who had participated in the last round of tripartite talks in Delhi.
Morcha sources, however, said they are yet to receive a confirmation about the May 11 meeting.
GJM chief Bimal Gurung, who had been demanding Gorkhaland since inception of the party in 2007, has floated a new proposal for an 'interim set-up' in the hills till December 31, 2011.
MAY 6: The Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh has strongly denounced former BJP President M Venkaiah Naidu’s statement in New Delhi on May 3 in which he equated Gorkhas with Khalistanis. As reported by The Indian Express (Page 4, May 4), Naidu, while referring to the column on nationality in the documents of the ongoing census operation, said, “What would happen if someone were to mention Khalistani or Gorkha as their nationality?”
“Such irresponsible statement by a national party that has presumed to fight the cause of Gorkhas has immensely hurt the sentiments of the the community,” said Rev Dr Enos Das Pradhan, Working President of the Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh. “It must be rescinded immediately.” He pointed out that it was dangerous for the Gorkhas that it came from a person like Venkaiah Naidu, who is chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs.
The BGP said that the statement once again exemplified the misconception that the Indian Gorkhas were separatists and anti-national when they have in fact been loyal protectors of India’s territorial integrity and its social unity. Such a mischievous statement has come at a time when the Gorkhas are demanding a separate state to cement, in no uncertain terms, their Indian identity. In a strongly worded letter to Venkaiah Naidu, Dr Pradhan said, “We protest strongly at your poor choice of examples to prove a debating point, where you have, at one stroke, denigrated the contribution made by the Gorkhas to their motherland, not only in protecting its borders, but also in a vast measure in different fields like culture, politics, business, social welfare, education, bureaucracy, media and civil society.”
Copies of the letter sent to the BJP Rajya Sabha member Naidu were also sent to Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, senior BJP leader LK Advani, Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh, BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha President Bimal Gurung, CPRM General Secretary RB Rai, AIGL President Madan Tamang and Gorkha Democratic Front President Surya Sahi of Dehradun. Released on behalf of Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh by Joel Rai, spokesperson, BGP.
A year after, BJP polls apart on Gorkhaland
Sabyasachi Bandhopadhyay, IE, Kolkata: The BJP today seemed split over the issue of separate Gorkhaland it had promised in its manifesto before the Lok Sabha polls, with its two spokespersons speaking in two different voices.
Tarun Vijay, who was in Kolkata today and held meetings with party office-bearers, said his party was against any further division of West Bengal. “Our founder Shyamaprasad Mukherjee was against the division of states and sitting in Kolkata, I cannot oppose it. Our party has never said it wanted Gorkhaland,” he said at a press conference at the state party headquarters.
When contacted, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, another BJP spokesperson, had a completely different take. “An unambiguous support both on ground, letter and spirit,” he wrote in an SMS sent to The Indian Express.
It was Rudy who had moved a resolution in the Rajya Sabha demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland. 
The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) was surprised at the statement of Taun Vijay. “Sushma Swaraj said in Parliament that the BJP was in favour of Gorkhaland. We met their president Nitin Gadkari and he gave us his unequivocal support. I can’t understand why Vijay has said this,” said Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri.
The state BJP, on the other hand, has always maintained an ambiguous stand on this issue. “We are for the economic and social development of Gorkhas,” state BJP president Rahul Sinha had said earlier.
BJP’s flip-flop apart, Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh, who won the Lok Sabha polls on a BJP ticket, has also toned down his support for a separate Gorkhaland.
After a meeting with Morcha leaders in Darjeeling yesterday, Singh said he was more keen on development and the government should think of that first.
Singh, who came to Darjeeling on a three-day trip, today came to Kalimpong from where he left for Delhi.
Sukna bears brunt of hill strife
TT, Siliguri, May 6: A splash of green sprinkled all around, the Darjeeling hills in the background, roadside eateries offering delicious momos and a toy train station — Sukna had all the ingredients of a tourist hotspot till the statehood agitation was renewed.
The quaint hamlet is the last in the plains, around 10km from here before National Highway 55 makes a serpentine climb uphill. Sukna is a 15-minute drive from Siliguri and one of the most favoured spots for the people of the plains who came here often to spend some time away from the hullabaloo of town.
“However, over the past three years or so, particularly after the resumption of the Gorkhaland movement, the situation has dramatically changed much to our disappointment,” said Kanak Bose, a youth from Siliguri said.
“Earlier, Sukna was our favourite spot and on most occasions, we used to travel on motorcycles during the day and even after sunset. We would travel through the forests or sip tea and enjoy momos at the eateries,” said Bose.
With frequent blockades and incidents of violence on the stretch between Darjeeling More and Sukna, many people have stopped visiting their favourite haunt.
Akhil Agarwal, a businessman who visits Sukna almost every Sunday, said: “A few months back, I was returning from Sukna when my car was stopped on the highway by some agitators who had raised a blockade near Dagapur. Despite repeated requests, I was not allowed a passage and I had to take the Sukna-Khaprail-Matigara route, covering about 20km extra. Since then, we have stopped going to Sukna.”
People running the roadside eateries on way to Sukna, admitted that the number of customers are far less now. “Earlier hundreds of people used to come from Siliguri and would stop at our shops. Nowadays, we mostly get flying customers, most of whom are on some errand or visiting the place for some odd jobs,” said a shop owner who refused to divulge his name. With the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha closing government offices for several days, the nature interpretation centre and the non-timber forest products museum in Sukna have also been shut for some time now.
“Although the situation had been peaceful for the past one month or so, there was either a blockade by the Morcha or a demonstration by the tribals or an anti-Gorkhaland forum on the highway before that. The final blow was the burning down of the Sukna police outpost in March,” said Utpal Choudhury, another resident of Siliguri.
With the hamlet continuing to elude Siliguri residents many are optimistic that the situation would be back to normal soon. “I had taken several of my relatives and friends to Sukna and Dudhia recently,” said Rajen Jha, a resident of Milanpally.
Dudhia is a tourist spot on way to Mirik and is 15km from Sukna and is under Kurseong subdivision
“For the past one month, things seem to be returning to normal with no demonstrations or blockades along the stretch,” said Jha.
Nagaland duo held with fake currency 
TT, Siliguri, May 6: Two residents of Dimapur, one of them an employee of the Nagaland government, were arrested from New Jalpaiguri station last evening with fake currency with a face value of Rs 80,000.
Officials of the Siliguri division of the customs, which, along with the directorate of revenue intelligence, had raided the Kanchenjungha Express said the fake notes had been brought from Bangladesh and were collected from Malda.
“The arrested have been identified as Nepfusalu Rose, an employee of the animal husbandry department of Nagaland, and Biswajit Mushahari, associated with a church in Dimapur,” said S.K. Das, the commissioner of customs, Siliguri, at his office today.
“Based on specific information, we had raided the Guwahati-bound Kanchenjungha Express at NJP. The two were arrested from S-4 compartment in which they were travelling in Berths 27 and 28,” Das said.
He added that the fake currencies were in the woman’s bag. “When we wanted to search her luggage, she was reluctant. But later she relented and the counterfeits were recovered from her possession — 160 notes in denominations of Rs 500.” Preliminary interrogations have revealed that the two had stayed in a hotel on Station Road in Malda yesterday. They had collected the fake notes from two local persons and then boarded the train.
“We have got the names of the two who had handed over the notes to them. But whether they (the arrested duo) were just going to deliver the currencies or were members of an organised racket (in which they had greater roles), we are yet to find out,” he said.
According to sources in the customs department, the fake Indian currencies are smuggled in from Bangladesh through the north Bengal corridor. The India-Nepal border is another common route for the smuggling of counterfeits.
“Although the duo said this was their first offence, we are not ruling out the possibility of their greater role in the racket,” a source said.
Mom thrown out of home for house
TT, Siliguri, May 6: A 77-year-old widow was beaten up and thrown out of home allegedly by her daughter and grandson who demanded that she transfer her property to them.
Sanchi Rani Dey was admitted to the Siliguri District Hospital today by her neighbours.
“My daughter and grandson beat me up with cudgels last night. They dragged me by my hair and banged my head against the floor. They even cropped my hair with scissors and threw me out of the house,” Dey said showing the bruises on the cheeks and arms on the subdivisional court premises.
Dey said she had faced the trauma several times before, ever since she announced her plans to donate her property — a dilapidated house and four cottahs of land at Jyoti Nagar Colony here — to a charitable organisation to construct an old age home six months back.
The woman said she had approached Siliguri police earlier to complain against her daughter Sadhana and grandson Bijay Deb, but was turned away. “My daughter has taken all my savings and even seized my ration card. I will never transfer the property in their names but will donate it to make an ashram for the old,” Dey said.
In January, the woman, helped by the neighbours, met Siliguri mayor Gangotri Dutta who referred her to the subdivisional legal service committee.
“After we petitioned the additional chief judicial magistrate on February 9, the court directed the Siliguri police to register a general diary and start a case against the accused persons,” said Manas Sarkar, the advocate appointed by the committee for the old woman.
Thrown out of her home, the widow spent the night on the road. In the morning, the neighbours accompanied her to the hospital before taking her to court. She was brought to the district hospital again and admitted there for her frail health.
“Sadhana has been living with her mother for the past two years after she had a dispute with her husband. Dey’s other daughter is married and settled in Calcutta and her son who works at the Bagdogra airport does not look after her. She earns a living by selling flowers, coal balls and cow dung cake,” said Amit Sarkar, the secretary of the Darjeeling District Legal Aid Forum, which is assisting the committee.
Instructed by the court, the police registered an FIR against Sadhana, 48, and Bijay, 27, on March 2. “Sadhana was arrested on the day but Bijay was missing at that time. She got bail after spending two weeks in jail and started torturing her mother again. We lodged another FIR on April 29. But no action was taken against her,” Sarkar said.
Matigara, an urban centre without municipal tag
TT, Siliguri, May 6: Rapid urbanisation witnessed in Matigara block in the past one decade because of its proximity to Siliguri has prompted the residents to demand municipal status for the area.
“From North Bengal University and the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital (NBMCH) to Uttorayon township and the North Bengal Frontier headquarters of the BSF, all are located in Matigara block,” said Tanmoy Goswami, a resident of Shivmandir in Matigara.
“Over the past 10-15 years, Matigara has witnessed many development activities as the block is adjacent to the Siliguri Municipal Corporation. Naturally, the population has increased, but we are still living in panchayats. It is unjustified and we want the state government — particularly when the urban development minister (Asok Bhattacharya) is from Siliguri — to upgrade certain areas of the block into a municipality,” said Goswami.
The block has also the North Bengal Science Centre, Savin Kingdom — an entertainment park — Paribahan Nagar, where several state and central government offices are located and the electronic manufacturing unit of Videocon, besides top schools, offices of the state secondary education board and the higher secondary council, Himul plant and the Himanchal Bihar, a composite residential area (see chart).
“A government science college and a small industrial park are also coming up at Matigara. Shivmandir hosts many government offices and the Uttorayon township is expanding fast. Although our place caters for several needs of Siliguri and its surroundings, it is still a panchayat,” said Amlan Chakraborty, a resident of Susrutanagar, where the NBMCH is situated.
Rajesh Ojha, another Matigara resident, said forming a municipality comprising Uttorayon, Dagapur, Himanchal Bihar, Matigara, Shivmandir and Susrutanagar would ensure better services to the people. “Although we live in an urbanised locality, we are deprived of civic services unlike Siliguri and have to bank on panchayats,” added Ojha.
The Matigara block is spread over five panchayats, covering an area of 128.09sqkm. According to the 2001 census, the population in the block was 1,19,408 and the growth witnessed in the previous decade was 40.90 per cent against the state’s 17.84 per cent. Many think that the recorded number of people will go up once the ongoing census is completed and the data collected are collated and published.
Asked about the Matigara residents’ demand, minister Bhattacharya said: “We are aware of the block’s growth and the state government is thinking about its upgrade into a municipality.”
Anti Maoist cop Schools
TT,Calcutta, May 6: Director-general of police Bhupinder Singh today said three schools would be set up in Bengal to impart counter-insurgency training.
The schools will be set up by the state government and funded by the Centre, Singh said.
Two of the training schools will come up in Maoist-hit West Midnapore and Purulia and the other in north Bengal, where there are forests.
Singh said that a few months ago, the then state chief secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti and the then home secretary Ardhendu Sen had requested Union home secretary G. K. Pillai to help set up such schools in the state.
The Centre has agreed to the proposal and has asked the state government to select possible locations for establishing the schools.
“We had been waiting for the Centre’s nod in this regard. Now that we have got it, work has begun for selecting the sites, especially where forest areas are available. Strict vigil will have to be maintained on the quality of training imparted in these schools as counter-insurgency operations have become vital now,” Singh said.
He said such schools had been set up in other Maoist-affected states like Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Chattisgarh.
One of the several posters in Kalimpong town in favour of retention of DGHC 

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