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Friday, June 11, 2010

Contempt notices also to Bimal Gurung, Binay Tamang and Mukunda Mazumdar... ABGL rally in Darjeeling

PraKha, GANGTOK, June 11 : The Supreme Court today issued contempt notices to Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) president Bimal Gurung, party spokesperson Binay Tamang and Bangla O Bangla Bhasa Bachao Committee Dr Mukunda Mazumdar following an urgent contempt of Court petition filed by advocate OP Bhandari over the NH 31A disruptions that took place in the third week of May.
Speaking to Media over phone from New Delhi, Bhandari said that a vacation bench of Justice Deepak Verma and Justice KS Radhakrishan ordered the issue of contempt notices to the GJM leaders and the Siliguri based organization president who had been listed as ‘contemptors’ in the petition.
After my counsel Prabin H Parekh presented the petition along with documents that I had prepared, the court ordered for the issue of notices to Bimal Gurung, Binay Tamang and Dr Mukunda Mazumdar, said Bhandari. He informed that the contemptors will have to explain to the Court over the violations of orders issued by the apex Court.
“They have to explain why the orders issued by the Supreme Court were violated”, said Bhandari. He informed that only the above mentioned three had been listed in his contempt petition as those who had shown contempt to the court’s order on keeping NH 31 free from blockades.
The Bangla O Bangla Bhasa Bachao Committee had called a bandh on May 14 which was followed by the two day bandh called by GJM which also saw vehicles being attacked along the NH 31A, said Bhandari. He said that photos and other matter have been placed before the Court along with the contempt petition.
Even the press vehicle was not spared during the bandh which has also been mentioned in the annexure presented with the petition, said Bhandari referring to the incident on May 14 when at least 11 vehicles including a paper delivery vehicle had been vandalized at Tarkhola by hooligans.
Though there was no picketing along the highway during the bandhs in February and May, violence against vehicles plying along the highway was enough to scare off traffic movement.
We had prayed in our petition for action as per the existing rules to be initiated against those who had violated the directives of the Supreme Court for the NH 31A, said Bhandari. He informed that the petition had been heard by the vacation bench of the Supreme Court.
A vacation bench only takes petitions of urgent nature, pointed out Bhandari.
It may be recalled that Bhandari had on May 19 left for Delhi to consult his lawyers for filing an urgent contempt of Court petition with the Supreme Court in view of disturbances along the NH 31A that took place on May 15 and 16.
Bhandari had collected information on the action taken by the Sikkim government during the bandh in the Darjeeling hills to ensure an undisturbed highway.
It may be recalled that Bhandari had approached the apex Court in 2005 seeking that the NH 31A, Sikkim’s lifeline, be kept free from all bandhs and blockades.
Bhandari had again filed a fresh petition in 2008 in the court where GJM, organizations based in Siliguri like Amra Bengali, Centre, West Bengal government and others had been made as respondents.
The Supreme Court on January 25 earlier this year had warned political parties not to block the NH 31A. 
TT, New Delhi, June 11: The Supreme Court today issued contempt notices to Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung and two others for repeatedly violating its order not to obstruct NH31A during frequent agitation for and against Gorkhaland. The national highway is land-locked Sikkim’s only link with the rest of the country.
A two-judge vacation bench of Justices Deepak Verma and K.S. Radhakrishnan issued the notices to Gurung, Morcha assistant secretary Binay Tamang and Mukunda Majumdar, the president of the Bangla Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee, an anti-Gorkhaland outfit based in Siliguri.
The bench also asked the Union government and the chief secretary and home secretary of West Bengal to explain why the steps that they had taken to keep the national highway free of blockades were not working.
The court had earlier, acting on a petition filed by Gangtok-based social activist .P. Bhandari, passed two orders asking political parties to refrain from blocking the national highway as it caused “immense hardships” to the people of Sikkim. Bhandari in his PIL had claimed that students, patients and tourists going to and from the state were severely inconvenienced by the frequent blockades on the highway. He later filed a contempt petition against the Morcha and the Bhasha Banchao Committee.
Bhandari alleged that the two outfits had together called for at least seven strikes since December 14, 2009, for and against Gorkhaland. Emboldened by these strikes, the Morcha, he said, had called for another 10-day shutdown from June 12. The Morcha later withdrew the bandh. But Bhandari sought another direction from the court (by filing a contempt petition) to ensure that the outfits complied with the two earlier orders.
Bhandari also urged the court to award the outfits and their office-bearers the maximum punishment under the law for flouting its orders.
Although the Contempt of Courts Act prescribes a jail term of maximum six months as punishment, the Supreme Court can in exercise of its extraordinary jurisdiction can award any punishment to those accused of violating court orders.
On July 3, 2008, the top court had passed an interim order asking the Centre and the Sikkim and the Bengal governments to take all steps to ensure free traffic on the highway.
“…any obstruction to NH31A to and from Sikkim results in Sikkim being almost completely cut off from the rest of India,” the top court had observed. It had also asked the agitating outfits to ensure that there was no blockade on the national highway.
In another order, the second one, passed on January 25, 2010, the court had warned the outfits that the order applied to them too.
“Any lapse in following these directions will have serious consequences, including detention of office-bearers and persons who are responsible for doing such obstruction,” the court had cautioned.
Appearing for Bhandari, senior counsel P.H. Parekh drew the court’s attention to the fact that the two organisations had been frequently blocking the national highway during their agitation.
He said one of the outfits (the Morcha) was planning to lay siege to the highway from June 12. The siege would cause serious hardship to the people of Sikkim as the highway was the lifeline of the land-locked state, he said.
Bhandari said the Bhasha Banchao Committee had called a strike on May 14 followed by a two-day bandh by the Morcha. During both the bandhs vehicles were attacked along the highway. “We had submitted photographs and other evidence along with the contempt petition to the Supreme Court,” he said.
Numbers missing in rally- ABGL gets to hold memorial service at murder spot
TT, Darjeeling, June 11: The ABGL was finally able to hold a public gathering today, and that too, at the spot where its president was hacked to death three weeks ago. But the turnout at the memorial service was a chilling reminder to rivals of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha that the grassroots had to be mobilised if they were to throw a credible challenge to Bimal Gurung, whose party has been accused of masterminding the ABGL chief’s murder.
Surrounded by a large number of armed personnel of the Indian Reserve Battalion, the ABGL members, mostly women, congregated at Clubside motor stand around 10am and held a prayer service for Madan Tamang who was killed on May 21 while overseeing arrangements for a public meeting.
Tamang had been prevented from holding public meetings — even after getting permission from the district administration — on several occasions by the Morcha’s frontal organisations. The Morcha modus operandi was to occupy the venue with its supporters, far outnumbering those of the ABGL, which had no option but to vacate the place.
Policemen also lined the roads that the rallyists took to reach the district collectorate, where the newly formed Democratic Front of which Tamang was the convener, submitted a memorandum to the district administration. Sources at the Sadar police station said there were about 50 policemen posted at the Clubside motor stand and along Ladenla Road, Hill Cart Road and Lebong Cart Road.
“It is an irony that our leader had to pay with his life so that we could hold a rally in peace today. Every time Madan Tamang wanted to hold a public meeting or a rally, the Morcha created tension and prevented him from speaking publicly,” an ABGL supporter said.
After the massive gathering at Tamang’s funeral in Darjeeling on May 24, today’s turnaround was a disappointment with only 120 people attending the rally.
Despite being on the back-foot since the May 21 incident, the Morcha had still been able to organise a huge rally nine days after Tamang’s murder.
The ABGL alleged that the investigation into Tamang’s murder was not being carried out in an “impartial environment” since the Bengal government was “immobilised” in the hills.
“The political situation in the hills has immobilised the Bengal administrative machinery to an extent that the state agencies have not been able to work in an impartial environment. The intervention of vested interest groups and the fear of a political party, with its clout in the hills, leave very little space for impartial and speedy investigation into the assassination,” said Laxman Pradhan, district secretary of the ABGL.
Blaming the state for the current state of affairs, the front — a conglomeration of seven anti-Morcha parties in the hills — stated in its memorandum: “The slow process of investigation and the silent attitude of the state seem to convey a strong message to the hills that justice and democracy are illusionary concepts… The GJM has instilled fear amongst the peace loving residents of the hills. The faith of the people in democracy and justice is being tested.”
The front cited the flouting of Section 144 by Morcha chief Gurung, while he was returning from Kalimpong with a cavalcade of 100-cars on May 25, along with the rally on May 30, as example of the state government’s inaction.
The CID, which is currently probing the death, has so far arrested three persons. The ABGL supporters who did not shout any anti-Morcha slogans however demanded that “all the culprits should be immediately arrested”.
Untimely landslides block NH- Vehicles left stranded on road to Sikkim 
 courtesy: photos- Kundan Yolmo:

TT, Siliguri and Sikkim stranded. The Border Roads Organisation has started removing debris, but traffic is yet to be restored.
Although the weather was warm and sunny — landslides usually occur during rainy season — boulders, some of them over 10 feet high, came tumbling down around 12.30pm, blocking the highway for a stretch of 60 metres. However, no person or vehicle came under the falling debris.
“Considering the bright and sunny weather, we had never expected such a huge landslide. The boulders fell on the road and within minutes a stretch of 60 metres or so was blocked,” said an officer at the Sevoke police outpost. “After being informed about the incident by us, Border Roads Organisation officers reached the spot and since then, they have been trying to remove the rubble. Given the size of the boulders, it seems that there is no other option but to trigger blasts to clear the road.”
Hatisuray is 30km from Siliguri and is located between Sevoke and Kalijhora. The spot is prone to landslides during the monsoon.
“I am supposed to catch my train from New Jalpaiguri this evening. We somehow managed to cross the blocked portion, carrying our luggage, and arranged for another vehicle to reach the station in time,” said Loknath Chatterjee, a resident of Behala in Calcutta. He had been to Gangtok with his family and was returning today.
Many others like him dodged the stones and rubble to reach the other side. Some of the vehicles, too, started plying from both the ends.
While vehicles on Sevoke side started for Siliguri, those stuck in the opposite direction left for Gangtok and Kalimpong, carrying passengers.
With the highway being closed, people moving to Kalimpong or Sikkim had to take alternative routes through Damdim-Gorubathan-Lava-Loleygaon or Jorebungalow-Teestabazar to reach their destinations.
“If other routes are taken, four hours will be needed to reach Kalimpong, which is otherwise a two-hour drive from Siliguri. Likewise, we have to travel 60-100km extra to reach Gangtok. Instead of usual four hours, we will need seven hours to reach the Sikkim capital from Siliguri,” said a Siliguri-based transporter.
The BRO men pressed bulldozers into service and are busy making arrangements to blast the boulders. A BRO officer said traffic would not be restored completely before tomorrow. “However, considering the progress in the work, it seems that arrangements can be made by 7pm today for light vehicles to pass in a single file,” he added. But the traffic was not restored even by 9pm.
KalimNews: Though a small passage for light vehicles was made by the BRO at about 7.30pm by clearing the debris and the fallen rocks the traffic was totally disturbed 12 noon till 9.30 pm. Due to heavy traffic jam and no police personnel to make the way for both the up and down vehicles it caused passengers of both the Kalimpong Sikkim and Dooars to wait there in the jam near Coronation bridge wait till late night. Many made their way by transhift which also caused the road clearing job disturbed. As there was no one to monitor the road traffic people themselves volunteered and tried to clear the road traffic caused by blocking of the roads by making 2- 3 lines in one way . 
Report received from Save the hills: Haati Surey is a place which is no stranger to landslides. In 2007, a massive landslide here resulted in National Highway 31A (which links Siliguri to Gangtok) being blocked for over a week.
The above rockfall occurred on 11Jun2010 and I am not too sure how or why it occurred because we are running deficient in rainfall both in May2010 and whatever rainfall we have had till date in Jun2010.
One plausible reason for this rockfall maybe the heavy traffic on NH31A and the consequent vibrations which caused this??
Needless to say this rockfall caused tremendous problems in terms of missed flights, trains, hotel bookings and so on for all us living in this area.
My grateful thanks to Mr Kundan Yolmo for the photographs says Prafulla Rao.  
Toy train deails
TT, Siliguri, June 11: A toy train on the Darjeeling-NJP route derailed in Kurseong around 1.30pm today, reports our correspondent
Witnesses said a coach of the 2D train from Darjeeling had gone off the tracks and engineers had been called from Tindharia to fix the problem. Although no injuries were reported, passengers had to wait for more than an hour before the train resumed journey.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway officials, however, denied the derailment but said wheels had jammed when the driver had applied emergency brakes to avoid collision with a vehicle at a level crossing.
Political unrest compels students to take admission in Siliguri
ANI, Siliguri, :With the continued political disruptions in Darjeeling hills over demand for a separate Gorkhaland, the students here are moving to the nearby town of Siliguri for higher education.
The colleges in Siliguri are receiving a large number of applications from Darjeeling students.
"Admissions are going on in full swing, as you can see there is a lot of gathering here, yesterday was the same. There is a huge rush of students from the hills this time, as they say that there is a lot of disturbance in that area. The infrastructure of education is totally disrupted there, so lots of male and female students are coming here," said Amit Goswami, Students Union General Secretary.
The recent incidents of violence have further destroyed normalcy in the area.After the assassination of Madan Tamang, there were strikes and students had to participate in the movement. So, our education is getting hampered and we miss our classes due to the strikes. All this is hampering the education," said Vineet Pradhan, a student from the Darjeeling hills.
The students are turning up in large numbers to Siliguri for its peaceful atmosphere.
"You need a good environment for education, which we don't have there because of politics. Students don't have any link with politics. A student needs a good environment for studying. Siliguri is close by and a cheap place too, so we have come here to study," said Pranesh Rai, a student from Darjeeling.
Darjeeling has been in turmoil since the demand for a separate Gorkhaland.
The Gorkhas have been demanding a separate state, to be carved out of West Bengal, to help them preserve their culture and heritage.
Vehicle owners defy GJMM Diktat
Siliguri: Defying the GJMM diktat of not paying taxes to the Government private vehicle owners paid vehicle  taxes in the temporary RTA office opened in Siliguri. 11 June was the dateline for rebate in arrear of taxes o be paid. There was a huge crowd in the office at Siliguri. People hailing from all the hill areas rushed to pay the taxes.They said as the police is harassing the vehicle drivers and owners they were compelled to pay the taxes. They were also relieved of  the  previous arrear of 2008.
2 Nepalese held
SNS, KOLKATA, 11 JUNE: Four persons including two Nepali nationals were arrested from New Market area with fake Indian currency worth Rs 48.18 lakh. 
Police said the accused, Upendra Chowdhury (45) and Kumar Gautam (52), are residents of Nepal while their counterparts Jafar Ali (45) was a resident of Motiar in Bihar and Naushad Khan (42) is of Uttar Pradesh. 
The city police's special task force raided a garment shop at Chowringhee Lane and caught them red-handed. The recovered counterfeit notes were in the denomination of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000. 
Mr Rajeev Kumar, additional commissioner of police (III), said they have successfully copied all the security marks except one, which is called watermark. Upendra is one of the kingpins of the international fake currency racket. The other two kingpins of the racket are Yunus Ansari and Munna Khan. Yunus Ansari was arrested a couple of years ago and is at present in a correctional home in Nepal while Munna is still operating the racket from Nepal.

Growing uncertainty in the hills
SNS: Now placed in an unenviable predicament, with an erosion of public support coming to the fore, what will the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha do to hold the fort? Romit Bagchi cuts to the chase
THE much-hyped rhetoric by Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung regarding a Gorkha-Adivasi Pradesh reminds one of what legendary leader of the erstwhile Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev said years back —politicians are the same all over; they promise to build a bridge even where there is no river. It is difficult to understand what the GJMM expects to extract from what can easily pass for a gimmick, save for the fact that the craftily drafted stratagem might drive a wedge amongst the Adivasi community inhabiting the Dooars. Gurung might win a section of the community over to his side by way of his forced empathy for a cause, but the matter ends there.
   The mainstream Adivasis are most unlikely to enthusiastically jump onto the GJMM bandwagon in the hope that the newly coined statehood concept will become a reality and the Gorkha leadership will take care of the under-development woes the Adivasis, as a community, keep grappling with over the years.
   It can serve another purpose, though — to extricate the GJMM from the interim council entanglement. But this is now a remote possibility, following the Madan Tamang assassination. Tamang once derailed the interim talks through belligerent campaigning, branding the GJMM climbdown as one of the series of bluffs. Though now dead, he could definitely preside over the burial of the proposed arrangement.
   Now placed in an unenviable predicament, with an erosion of public support coming to the fore, what will the GJMM do to hold the fort? It might revert to a prolonged statehood agitation, as the party apparatchiks have threatened. But the prospect does not hold much hope for the apparently beleaguered GJMM. For, in that case, it would play into the hands of the state government, which seems bent on scuppering the three-way dialogue, citing the loss of credibility for the preponderant hill-based party in the wake of the Madan Tamang assassination. And quite predictably, with the GJMM having done a somersault, uncertainty hangs over the continuance of the dialogue.
   The question is: will the people, seemingly tired with the ceaseless statehood rigmarole, brook another prolonged shutdown phase? It is doubtful. Though having proved adept at bulldozing the backlash, as is evident in the wake of its comeback bid amidst the tumultuous upheavals following the assassination, the party might land in serious trouble if it proceeds to ram a shutdown down the collective gullet in the name of chimerical consummation.
   There might be another angle to view the dragging tangle from. The GJMM might be keen to maintain the status quo till the assembly elections next year, for it looks invincibly convinced of a regime change in the state. But how far the new regime they long to see in the seat of power will prove beneficial to their cause is anybody’s guess. And assuming that such a consummation is inevitable — given the torrents pushing the Red redoubt – that possibility is still a long way off for one year is a pretty long time given the imponderables involved in the realm of politics, particularly when the hill trajectory seems to be moving at a breakneck pace.
   Many things might happen in the crucial interregnum. The so-called pro-democracy forces represented by the recently floated Democratic Front, a conglomeration of seven political parties, might intensify activities in time to come. And if they do, it would be difficult for the GJMM, now evidently on the back foot, to stem the tide. One thing has become as clear as a bell: the preponderant hill-based party has forfeited the moral standing  following the All India Gorkha League leader’s daylight assassination. And given the apparent deepening of the political crisis in the anguished hills, the future round of tussles might remain focused on platitudinous moral-immoral postulates. The high moral ground so far deemed to be the GJMM forte, given its  snooty espousal  of Gandhian shibboleths, might prove a costly luxury for the party. But how the present moral voice will remain moral with the theatre of politics’ fast shifting focus remains to be seen. For, according to conventional wisdom, the so-called new morality is too often the old immorality condoned.
   Another thing might happen to raise the pitch of agony for the struggling GJMM. As per reports pouring in from CID sources — it is probing the Madan Tamang murder — the noose seems to be tightening around the GJMM neck. Some arrests have been made and more are likely. And, quite predictably, taking advantage of the fluid situation the AIGL keeps mounting pressure on the administration to push the GJMM in a tighter corner. The state government, given its palpably discernible anti-GJMM streak, is most likely to precipitate a situation from the drift of which it would be increasingly difficult for the principal hill outfit to wriggle out of.
   And to top it all, if the Centre remains unenthusiastic about carrying on with the tripartite talks, prodded by the present anti-dialogue of the state government, it would prove a veritable mess for the GJMM. There is little doubt that the GJMM derives its clout principally from the soft-pedalling restraint by the Centre.  In case the UPA government hardens its stand — and this is natural given the threatened shifting GJMM stance regarding the proposed interim hill council around which the previous rounds revolved — the GJMM would be in for trouble in its hitherto deemed impregnable political fiefdom.
   The only silver lining for the GJMM is that its BJP ally seems to stand rock-like by its side. And despite its dwindling clout against the spiralling Congress curve in national politics, it is still a force to reckon with. And the role of the politically ascending Trinamul Congress on the hill issue is ambivalent, to say the least. If the GJMM thinks that it will have to kill time before a regime change turns the long existing political equation in the state upside down, it should remember an adage: man talks of killing time, while time quietly kills him.
   Whither are the hills moving now — with rapprochement options being wasted — is the question looming large over the hazy horizon. It is said that political parties die from swallowing their own lies. A feeling seems to be gaining ground in the hills on whether it is wise to leave a serious matter like politics to the exclusive care of politicians, for politics has become an art of preventing people from minding their own business. 

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