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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gurung eyes new party for alliance... Mukhia received ABGL invitation...GJM to propose team to identify areas .....Gutka seized in Kalimpong

To join hands (or not) for a new stateMorcha fuels tribal split for Dooars entry
TT, July 28: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is now hoping to divide the Adivasis with the help of the newly formed Progressive People’s Party and push ahead with its movement for a new state.
The attempt comes after the Morcha failure to stitch up an alliance with the Terai-Dooars regional committee of the Adivasi Vikas Parishad. Earlier, party president Bimal Gurung had re-christened Gorkhaland — the new state it is clamouring for — as Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh to woo the tribals. But that failed.
Now, the Morcha hopes to take advantage of the fact that the PPP consists of suspended and breakaway leaders of the Parishad who are in favour of a joint movement with the hill party, and gain a foothold in the tribal dominated areas of the Dooars and the Terai.
“This new development will allow the Morcha to make a backdoor entry to a region where it has failed to make major inroads despite repeated attempts,” a Morcha leader said.
The PPP was formed on Sunday after the Parishad’s organising secretary in the Dooars, Raju Bara, and senior party leader Kiran Kumar Kalindi were suspended for “indiscipline”: they had expressed their willingness to talk to the Morcha on the creation of Gorkha Adivasi Parishad.
Samuel Gurung, the organising secretary of the Morcha in the Dooars and Terai, said today: “The formation of the PPP is definitely an indication that the Adivasis have also started an exercise to carve an entity outside of Bengal. We are closely observing the development in the plains and we are willing to work with any party which espouses the cause of separation from Bengal.”
However on a different note, he said: “Leaders breaking away from the Parishad to form the PPP is an internal matter of the outfit. The Morcha would not want to interfere or comment on the development at the moment.”
The Morcha had earlier been hoping to launch a joint movement with the Dooars-Terai regional committee of the Parishad which is the principal outfit representing the tribals in the region. The president of the committee, John Barla, had even written to the Morcha in May saying that he had no objection to discussing a joint movement for statehood.
However, after this, Barla did not take matters forward and now appears to be following the state leadership’s line that the Parishad would have no truck with the hill outfit.
In the past, all attempts by the Morcha to find a toehold in the Dooars had faced resistance largely because of the Parishad’s strong opposition. In fact, there had been frequent clashes between the Gorkhas and Adivasis living in the Dooars. However, sources in the Morcha said the party would now try to cosy up to the PPP and garner Adivasi support for their cause of a separate state.
“If this move proves to be a success, then the Morcha can even use it as a bargaining tool at the tripartite talks or at a later stage, whenever the issue of territorial jurisdiction of the interim authority for the hills comes up,” a Morcha source said.
In fact, the Dooars-Terai Nagarik Manch, a conglomerate of 17 apolitical organisations in the region, has accused the PPP of being a front for the Morcha.
“The Morcha is using the PPP leaders to divide the Adivasis,” alleged Larry Bose, the Manch’s president. “We see no difference between the PPP and the Morcha.”
Mukhia received ABGL invitation
TT, Siliguri, July 28: The hills are rife with speculation that the convener of the Terai branch committee of the GNLF, Rajen Mukhia, will join the ABGL that has invited him to a joint movement against the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
Mukhia said he was seriously considering the request and a decision would be taken in a couple of days.
Dawa Sherpa, the ABGL working president, today said: “We have written to a number of leaders across the hills, requesting them to join the ABGL to strengthen the movement against the atrocities of the Morcha and to strive for restoration of democracy and peace in the hills. The list includes Rajen Mukhia and we are waiting to hear from him. We would appreciate if he joins the ABGL but it is up to him to take the final decision.”
Mukhia was the only leader to stay in the GNLF when the Morcha was gaining support base in the hills and even party chairman Subash Ghisingh went into political hibernation.
Acknowledging the invitation, Mukhia said: “I am considering the invitation. It will take a couple of days before I take a decision.”
GNLF supporters in Panighata, where Mukhia is based, said he had already made up his mind to join the ABGL.
“Mukhia was present at a rally here (Panighata) organised in memory of those who had lost their lives during the Gorkhaland agitation in the 1980s. He said in his speech that yesterday was the last martyrs’ day observed by the GNLF in Panighata, which was enough to indicate that he was leaving the party. If he joins the ABGL, all his supporters like me will follow suit,” said a GNLF leader over the phone from Panighata.
If Mukhia joins the ABGL, it would be the last nail on the GNLF’s coffin. Only Mukhia and Kalimpong leader Dawa Pakhrin remained active after the emergence of the Morcha. As Pakhrin had resigned from the party, Mukhia’s departure will trigger the exodus of rest of supporters from the GNLF. 
GJVM raids gutka shops
KalimNews:Campaign for banning gutka and other paan masala started by GJVM since 1st May 2010 was welcomed by one and all as these gutkas contains cancer causing chemicals. But the campaign was more or less ignored by the producers as well as the consumers. To teach all a lesson Gorkha Janmukti Vidyarthi Morcha a students wing of GJMM raided many shops of Kalimpong town today and recovered different brands of Paan Masala like Whiz, Pass Pass, Rajnigandha , Tamanna and others worth Rupeese two lakh. They even caught students smoking in school dresses in some shops. Later they burnt all the seized gutkas near Damber Chowk.
Gutka, a form of smokeless tobacco, is a cocktail of tobacco, nicotine, and carcinogens that contains many unhealthy additives such as magnesium carbonate and phenyl ethyl alcohol, along with harmful perfumery compounds including musk ketones and other injurious fragrance compounds (which are known to be dangerous in toiletries). Gutka use is one of the major causes of oral cancer in India, is one of India's most serious social problems, and is also popular in Asian communities in the US.
  Beginning of a new life: Samten Kabo

GJM to propose team to identify areas 
 TH, KOLKATA: The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) is considering proposing in the tripartite talks scheduled for August 17 the setting up of a “joint verification team” to identify areas to be brought within the territorial jurisdiction of the proposed regional authority for the Darjeeling hills.
A team comprising representatives of the Centre, the West Bengal government and the GJM should identify areas in the Dooars and the Terai in the plains of north Bengal with a predominantly Gorkha population for inclusion within the regional authority, according to the GJM leadership.
The West Bengal government has been maintaining that it is opposed to the inclusion of any area beyond the three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling district in the jurisdiction of any new administrative body for the region that is to replace the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.
Determining the territorial jurisdiction of the proposed regional authority will be the focus of the August 17 tripartite talks.
The GJM, in the recent talks, has made it clear that the setting up of the proposed interim authority should “not prejudice, affect, alter or diminish our demand for Gorkhaland state”, Harkha Bahadur Chettri, senior GJM central committee member who was in the GJM delegation that participated in the last Saturday's talks told The Hindu over telephone on Tuesday.
“The GJM leadership has also asserted that the proposed regional authority should have a limited time span- till December 31, 2011,” Dr Chettri added.
TRA to introduce eco-friendly pest management for tea
Manas R Bannerjee,SNS, SILIGURI, 28 JULY: In order to curb the Helopeltis (Tea Mosquito Bug) menace in tea plantations, spread over the northeastern region and north Bengal, the Tocklai Experimental Station at Jorhat in Assam is busy researching to find out eco-friendly pest management.
The advisory officers of the Tea Research Association (TRA) took up the work in response to the complaints from the tea planters who keep incurring losses in tea production.
According to the TRA officials, the production keeps alarmingly dwindling due to the menace, particularly in Margarita in upper Assam on the bank of the Brahmaputra, and also some tea plantation spread over Terai and Dooars in north Bengal. Dr S Baisya, the advisory officer of the TRA at Bangdubi in Siliguri, said: “The portents are disturbing and we apprehend further slump in the tea production in the entire tea belt.
The situation in north Bengal is less alarming than upper Assam though,” he added.  “We are striving to find out alternative ways to tackle the menace so as to help the small tea planters who have been bearing the maximum brunt,” Dr Baisya added. The senior TRA officials ascribe the growing menace to heavy rains and want of sunlight. According to them, the task is proving tough owing to several reasons involved.
To compound the problem, the imperative of maintaining the ecological balance is coming in the way of eliminating the mosquitoes outright. On the other hand, the tea planters are not inclined to use powerful chemicals and pesticides apprehending that the indiscriminate use of these anti-mosquito elements would tell upon the quality of tea apart from exposing the people to health hazards. “Interestingly, the number of natural enemy is low for killing Helopeltis in the tea plantations. And these insects are very clever too. They are adept in protecting themselves from the spraying,” Dr Baisya added. 
Green cover under threat
Abhijit Sinha, TT, Siliguri, July 28: Over 13,000 hectares of forest land has been encroached upon across Bengal, the state forest minister has admitted while expressing apprehension that if the trend continues the man-animal conflict will be on the rise.
Till March 31, 2007, a total of 13,048.376 hectares of forest land had been encroached, according to data available with the forest department.
“It is true that a huge portion of forest land is under encroachment in different parts of Bengal, with the forests of north Bengal being no exception,” forest minister Ananta Roy told The Telegraph over the phone from Calcutta today. “This is a matter of concern, particularly at a time when population of elephants and gaurs (Indian Bison) are showing a consistent rise in the past few years. If the trend of encroachment continues, we fear the frequency of man-animal conflicts will rise.”
According to Roy, forest cover comprises 27 per cent of the state’s geographical area but in reality, the percentage is less. “The dense area is only 16.46 per cent,” he said. “The tendency to develop human habitats on forest land should be curbed for conservation of wildlife and the green cover. We wish to take initiative to clear the encroachments and maintain the forest cover.”
The total forest land under encroachment in six north Bengal districts is 1,631.444 hectares (see chart). In south Bengal, the situation is worse as in Bankura district alone, 4,870.729 hectares of land has been encroached.
Forest officials have also expressed their concern on the encroachment. “It is a complicated problem. In case we decide to clear the encroachments, the issue of displacing human population arises,” an official said. “There have been incidents when our men tried to clear encroachments but had to face opposition from the occupants, political parties and human rights groups.
Representatives of wildlife NGOs expressed the urgency to keep the forest land clear of encroachment.
“Those objecting to the clearing of encroachments must understand that it is for our interest that the forest and the biodiversity should be saved,” said Animesh Bose, the programme coordinator of Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation and a member of the state wildlife board.
Elephant corridors have already got affected because of encroachments which is why the loss of human and elephant lives and damage of properties and crops have been reported almost everyday. “If these issues are not tackled, it will be tough to conserve the wildlife in the region,” Bose added.
Caravan stuck in jam
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, July 28: Cruising in a caravan to soak in the ambience of a typical hilly village is still a distant dream for travellers visiting Darjeeling despite the Union ministry of tourism unveiling plans to introduce caravan rides across India in a big way.
Plans by tour operators to start the caravan rides have hit a roadblock because of the state government’s 2005 order stopping the Darjeeling district administration from issuing permits to commercial vehicles in the municipality areas of Darjeeling and Siliguri.
Tashi Sherpa, additional district magistrate, Darjeeling, said: “We cannot issue permits for commercial vehicles carrying passengers in Darjeeling and Siliguri municipality areas.”
Permits are denied to stop congestion in the two towns.
The decision has annoyed Darjeeling-based tour operators who are constantly trying to shrug off stiff competition from Sikkim.
“On the one hand, the government says the industry should not merely rely on it to promote tourism and to create better infrastructure. On the other hand, they do not even facilitate the implementation of the new concept by the industry,” said Suresh Periwal, chairman, Indian Association of Tour Operators, north Bengal and Sikkim chapter.
Periwal who runs Clubside Tours and Travel, one of the few firms allowed to conduct adventure tourism in the state, had drawn up a plan to start caravan services in Darjeeling and the Northeast. “We wanted to procure three air-conditioned super deluxe buses to start caravan tourism in Darjeeling and the Northeast,” said Periwal.
Although Periwal’s plan is not as exhaustive as the rides in other states, where vehicles are equipped with modern facilities like home theatre and chemical toilets, the Darjeeling based tour operator had wanted to make a beginning. “We were planning to carry separate tents for kitchen, dinning, sleeping and toilet purposes and to camp as we cruise to various locations,” said Periwal.
The caravan ride is a big draw among niche European clients.
An official of the Regional Transport Authority said their hands were tied because of the notification. “We can only give permits to commercial vehicles if they don’t enter Darjeeling and Siliguri municipality areas. Commercial vehicles to be used for carrying loads can obtain permits. As far as passenger carriers are concerned, we can only transfer a permit which has already been issued for an old vehicle to a new one,” said the official.
Vehicles operating without valid documents can be fined up to Rs 2,000 and more importantly, would not be able to avail of insurance coverage in case of accidents. “Sometime back, a bus met with an accident in Kurseong and since the vehicle’s papers were not in order, the passengers could not avail of insurance,” said the official.
States like Madhya Pradesh are actively encouraging the new concept by setting up Caravan Parks. Some of the routes for the caravan rides in the country include Delhi-Jaipur-Agra, Delhi-Jaipur-Ajmer-Pushkar and Delhi-Sariska-Ranthambor. 
New Science College
TT, Siliguri, July 28: The new government science college near here will start classes for five undergraduate courses on August 23.
The college started distributing admission forms yesterday and they will be available till August 6.
“Admissions are open for physics, chemistry, botany, zoology and mathematics. Students can collect the forms from the college where they are being distributed from yesterday till August 6. The submission of the applications should also be made before August 6,” said Niloy Roy, the officer-in-charge of the college affiliated to North Bengal University.
The institution at Matigara, 6km from here, was christened Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy Government Science College at the suggestion of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
“The chief minister will inaugurate the college in the third week of August and he had proposed that the institution be named after famous scientist Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy,” Asok Bhattacharya, the state minister for urban development and municipal affairs, had said last month.
The college will initially offer honours courses and accommodate 20 students in each stream.
“We are starting only BSc honours courses with an intake of 20 students for each of the five subjects. After the scrutiny of the applications, the merit list will be published on August 9. The first phase of the admission and counselling will be held on August 11. The second phase will be conducted on August 20 and the classes will commence on August 23,” said Roy.
The college is being constructed by the Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority at a cost of Rs 458.63 lakh and it is nearing completion.
Three teaching posts have been sanctioned for each of the five subjects.
“No fresh recruitment needs to be conducted for the college. The state has 18 government colleges and teachers will be transferred from there,” said the officer-in-charge. He added that the college was also planning to start computer courses from the next academic session.
The new institution will be the third to offer science courses in the Siliguri subdivision after Siliguri College and Surya Sen College . 
Kidnap whiff in missing trader
TT, Siliguri, July 28: A 29-year-old businessman of Jalpaiguri town went missing from Cooch Behar on Monday, sparking a speculation that he was abducted by militants.
However, Vikash Agarwal’s family said they had not received any ransom call yet.
A resident of Dinbazar, Vikash who deals in cotton had left home around 11am on July 26 for Cooch Behar to collect money from some traders. “Around 7.30pm, he called me and said he was on way to take the Delhi-bound Brahmaputra Mail and would reach Jalpaiguri Road station at night,” said Mahesh, his father, who runs a garments shop. The youth asked his father to pick him up at the station as the train would reach past midnight.
However, Mahesh could not find his son at the station when the train arrived around 2am. “I rang up his cellphone but it was out of reach,” the father said.
Yesterday morning, the family tried to contact Vikash again on his cellphone, but the phone was switched off. “We then filed a missing diary at Kotwali police station,” Mahesh said.
GRP Jalpaiguri Road and New Cooch Behar stations have not received any information on unnatural deaths or found bodies on the tracks since Vikash called up his father.
The incident has sparked a speculation of abduction among the businessmen, particularly after the resurgence of the KLO. “Over the past few months, the militant outfit, which was infamous for kidnapping traders for money in the early years of the decade, has turned active again. Last month a foiled attempt was made by the outfit to abduct a tractor dealer in Malda district,” a member of the Jalpaiguri District Merchants’ Association said.
But the Agarwals said they had not received any ransom call from anybody. “Nothing has come to us till now,” Mahesh said.
District police chief Anand Kumar said they did not have any information on abduction. “The family also has not intimated us about anything of that sort, like a phone call for ransom, to us. An investigation is on.”
Buy parking before wheels
TT: The result is huge traffic jams during rush hour.
Calcutta has a building rule that makes it mandatory for multistorey complexes to have parking spaces but the Sikkim rule is unique in that it addresses individual car buyers directly.
“There is no such restriction in India till date. But globally, there are a few countries where governments follow the same. If a government takes such a decision, people will need to comply,” said Jnaneswar Sen, vice-president (marketing), Honda Siel Cars India Ltd.
But Prabir Basu, member of the Bengal Consumer Protection Council, differed: “This new order can be challenged in a court of law and it is almost certain that it will be quashed. No one can impose restrictions on purchase of valid goods if the transaction is legal. Only, it has to be ascertained that the transaction is not prejudicial to the interest of the state. This means that if I am buying a vehicle to transport arms and ammunition to wage war against the state, the government can intervene. Otherwise, the buyer is king.”
The Sikkim motor vehicles department official said the right to purchase vehicles “does not mean the vehicle owners should be creating problems for the public by parking their vehicles in public places”. “The owners must have a proper parking place, especially for the night.”
Mandeep Singh Tuli, the superintendent of police (East), said traffic police would formulate guidelines to implement the notification in Gangtok and the urban areas around it. “The notification aims to encourage people to have parking spaces in their houses. Parking along roads is not advisable.”
In the hills, car owners often park along the road and walk to their houses, which may be located higher up or lower down, because the gradient does not permit them to drive the whole way. Only people who live along NH31A or other state roads have the luxury of parking spaces in front of their houses.
So, the new notification has been met with dismay. “It is unfair and unjust. If I don’t have a parking place since I live away from approachable roads, does that mean I can’t purchase a vehicle for the use of my family?” asked a government employee who has had to put on hold plans to buy a small car.
Another prospective buyer said: “We understand that the government is trying to ease congestion. But where is the parking space in Gangtok? Make changes to ease the traffic but give us the opportunity to buy vehicles and give us parking space. We are ready to pay charges.”
In Calcutta, the municipal corporation allows cars to be parked on roads from midnight to 6am for a fee. The charges range from Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000, depending on the locality. Gangtok also has some paid parking lots along the highway.
A Gangtok resident complained that the government was trying to ape developed countries. London, Stockholm and several other western cities charge a congestion fee from motorists entering the city centre while others such as Athens have introduced number plate restrictions based on the days of the week.
Car dealers are worried about losing business in Sikkim and plan to meet the government to find out how the rule is to be implemented.
Guru T. Ladakhi, owner of Entel Motors that sells Maruti cars in Gangtok, said: “How can you tell your customer to get a parking space certificate first and then buy a car? The sales will be affected as most of our clients do not have parking space of their own.” Entel Motors sells 20-25 vehicles on an average every week.
Pramod Dalmia of Sikkim Motors, a Mahindra dealer with a weekly sale of 15-20 vehicles, said: “Our fear is that bookings could be cancelled by those who do not have parking space.” They have 90 bookings.
The two dealers have received notices from the transport department directing them not to sell cars without first asking for the availability-of-parking-space certificate.
But S.N. Burman, the Maruti Suzuki commercial business head in the country, said: “Any such restriction would definitely have an initial impact on consumer sales. But going forward, nothing could stop consumers from buying cars. In a few months, people will be used to it and buy cars complying with the rules.”
The state’s dealers are worried that customers could go around the notification by buying cars in Bengal.
“What will now happen is that people will go to Siliguri, buy a car there, get it registered under the West Bengal government and bring it here,” a dealer said. “In the long run, the state government will lose out on revenue, the dealers will lose business and the people here will have to go through the draining process of getting their vehicles registered under the West Bengal government.”
The government should instead use the money collected in taxes to build infrastructure, including parking lots, they suggested.
Sumanta Sen, TT: he hills of Darjeeling are approaching the autumn tourist season. It is time for hoteliers to spruce up their establishments and tour operators to work out new packages. All that is par for the course. So is the feeling of uncertainty that has become a part of life since the demand for a separate Gorkhaland was renewed by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
The difference this year is that after ruling the roost for two years, the GJM is facing a united opposition from the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League, the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists and the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The GJM is no longer the only representative force of the hill people. Of course that was never the case, but it had succeeded in creating a kind of frenzy that had caused all other parties to fade away. The killing of Madan Tamang has altered the situation. Today, the ABGL is able to muster the courage to organize a relay fast at the Mall, braving the GJM’s threats.
This change in the scenario may appear to be healthy to political observers. That may well be the case, but it also has the potential of deepening the ever lurking sense of uncertainty. Since its inception, the GJM has made it abundantly clear that it is not prepared to tolerate any opposition, and it will be a miracle if it now changes its ways and accepts the fact that in a democracy there will always be more than one player. The outfit has already threatened the hills with fresh spells of agitation, and any resistance from the others may well see kukris flashing again.
Make no mistake about it; the cadre of other parties have lain low for so long because their leaders were waiting to see how things would turn out. Tamang’s killing and the revulsion that it has generated in the hills have emboldened them to take their opposition to the streets.
Fluid state
The uncertainty also stems from another factor. Barring the CPI(M), the other rivals of the GJM are not opposed to Gorkhaland.They are only opposed to the manner in which the GJM has gone about demolishing its rivals in its march towards its goal. So, at some stage, the ruling Marxists will have to stop making common cause with the GJM’s opponents and target the ABGL and the CPRM. The possibility of this happening is very real: there has never been any love lost between these parties and the Marxists. Waiting in the wings is Subash Ghisingh, who cannot be expected to remain idle in a situation such as this.
The GJM, most certainly, is not the only spokesperson of the hill people. It would have been ideal if the other parties managed to forge an alliance, but right now that seems impossible. The CPI(M) knows it, and perhaps the reason why it wanted the recent tripartite meeting to be postponed was that it needed time to create a platform that is acceptable to the anti-GJM forces. That, however, will take time. And the longer it takes, the greater the possibility of the anti-GJM forces falling out among themselves.
The Centre does not seem to be aware of the complexities in the hills. Unless, of course, it has decided that the political map of Darjeeling needs to be redrawn. Or perhaps it wants things to go on like this till next year’s assembly elections in the hope that the new dispensation, which may take over, will not be hostile to the idea of a Gorkhaland.
Whatever may be the Centre’s line of thinking, by holding talks with only the GJM, it is antagonizing a sizeable section in the hills. The more these people feel left out, the higher will be their resentment. This will also magnify the threat to peace in Darjeeling which is what tourists as well as the local people are looking forward to eagerly. 
‘The CPM is slandering our movement’
Darjeeling’s new hero Bimal Gurung tells ASESH SENGUPTA of Tehelka .com, the CPM is the real obstacle to Gorkhaland
How come one organises support for a reality show participant from a community and manages to be a leader of a nationality movement?
These are different issues. The people of the hills have a genuine demand, and the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) leadership betrayed them. Prashant Tamang (the Indian Idol winner) has nothing to do with it. The people of Darjeeling just wanted someone from their region to win a popular television show. The demand for Gorkhaland, on the other hand, is a very old one and affects everyone’s life here.
What makes this new phase of agitation for Gorkhaland different from the one led by Subhas Ghising in the 1980s?
The first phase of the movement was a violent one. The present movement is based on the principle of non-violence. We don’t think that in this age of information technology there is any need to resort to violence to achieve our goal. Though the CPM, through their frontal organisations such as the Jana Chetana Mancha, the Jana Jagaran Mancha, etc, is trying to instigate us, we need to be patient. We don’t want to give them scope to depute security forces in the hills. Once we get violent, they will immediately use it as an excuse to deploy the army. If you noticed, not a single person has been killed in the eight months of our movement.
What about the demand to include Siliguri and the Dooars in your new map of Gorkhaland?
This demand was always there. It is nothing new.
You went for an indefinite strike, relaxed it and then extended the relaxation again. Why? Aren’t you confident?
We relaxed the strike just to honour the Governor’s letter. Why would we lack confidence? We know that the people are with us. Just wait for a few days and watch what happens once we resume the strike.
Aren’t you afraid of losing support of the working people, especially the daily-wage earners working in the tea gardens? Why should the common people support you?
We have gathered our funds mostly from the working classes. We have asked them to stock their rations for 45 days. Yes, there will be problems, but we will make plans for helping the needy and speak to the people to make them understand why the problems are necessary.
Do you really think the UPA government can agree to your demands, given that it is at the mercy of the Left?
Why should we bother? It is our democratic demand. The way the CPM is trying to portray our movement is slander. We know our demands are within the Constitution and we will continue our movement unless they are met.
You have declared that you will get Gorkhaland by 2010. Is it due to an expectation that the NDA will be in power then and given the experience of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttaranchal, you will achieve Gorkhaland?
Why should I disclose organisational understandings to you? We might be in dialogue with each and every political party in India. But we will be rigid in our demand for Gorkhaland, whoever be in the Centre.
Madan Tamang ~ the brave heart of Darjeeling (1948 ~ 2010) 
by Bappaditya Paul
Madan Tamang – the president of the All India Gorkha League assassinated during a public meeting in Darjeeling on 21 May, was a towering political persona who always stood for democratic values in the Darjeeling Hills.
A rare brave-heart that he was, Tamang was the only politician in Darjeeling, who could dare posing a challenge to Mr Subash Ghisingh, during the latter’s heyday in the 1980s. And keeping up with the same legacy, Tamang was also vehemently opposed to the “authoritarian” functioning of current Hills strongman – the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha cfief Mr Bimal Gurung  ~ whom he considered “a brute prototype of Ghisingh”.
Madan Tamang was born on 1 June 1948 to Manbahadur Tamang and Lima Tamang at Meghma village near Manebhanjang in Darjeeling. He received schooling at the St Robert’s School in Darjeeling and then graduated in humanties from the St Joseph’s College at North Point in Darjeeling town.
Instead of running after jobs, he than entered into the tea trade and soon established himself as a prominent businessman in the Hills. Later, he also laid hand in the wine business and earned fame for dishing some of excellent beverages from Darjeeling.
Tamang began his political career by joining the AIGL in 1969 and rose to become the general secretary of the party between 1972 and 1981. During the period he simultaneously headed the AIGL’s youth front called the Tarun Gorkha and carried out agitation for the creation of a separate state in Darjeeling.
Following differences with fellow leaders, Tamang quit from the AIGL in 1981 and floated a new party called the Pranta Parishad with the single-point agenda of a separate statehood for the Darjeeling Gorkhas.
But in 1990, he dissociated himself from the Pranta Parishad and formed the Gorkha Democratic Front (GDF) on 14 July that year. In 2001, the GDF merged with the AIGL and Tamang became the all India president of the party ~ a post that he was occupying until his aberrant death.
In his persistent endeavors for the restoration of democracy in the Hills, Tamang was instrumental in the formation of the latest eight-party collation called the Democratic Front in Darjeeling on 8 May this year, posing a direct challenge to the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha of Bimal Gurung.
Unable to trample his firm democratic voice, the brute and vested forces chose to kill Tamang in broad daylight, ironically, at a time when he was about to address a peaceful public meeting ~ a well-established democratic means in India.
For many, who knew and revered Madan Tamang, his assassination marked the murder of democracy in the Queen of Hills ~ Darjeeling.
(The author is a scribe with The Statesman, India and this piece originally appeared in The Statesman on 22 May 2010)
Darjeeling At The Crossroads
by Bappaditya Paul
WHEN Franklin Prestage laid the railway tracks to Darjeeling Hills in 1879, in order to conquer the insurmountable steep incline, he employed a unique technique called the ‘Z-reverse’.1
"The Statesman Festival 2009" published in October ‘Z-reverse’ is an ingeniously simple concept: while negotiating with the steep hill, the train climbs up a slope into a shunting neck and stops. It then backs up another steep incline reaching the other shunting neck higher up and there from, resumes the onward journey but at a higher level.
The inherent philosophy propelling the ‘Z-reverse’ technique is: when you cannot really move forward, better make a retreat and then find a new way ahead.
But for Franklin Prestige putting to use this commonsense, Darjeeling Hills would have never got to see the steam locomotives chugging at 7,400 feet above the sea level.
In 2005, Subash Ghisingh too, rightly embraced commonsense and reasoning when he agreed to the inclusion of Darjeeling Hills in the Sixth Schedule of Indian Constitution.
This was to facilitate a greater autonomy to Darjeeling, which has been demanding a separate statehood out of West Bengal.
A significant move it was. For, Ghisingh had been the man who had propagated the bloodstained Gorkhaland movement in the 1980’s. At that time, he acted like a stubborn leader, who did not dodge from the statehood demand until a large number of cadres were killed in the agitation.
Darjeeling got an autonomous governing body ~ the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), in 1988. DGHC was set up under a state Act. But Ghisingh realised the achievement came too costly against the massive bloodbath that the agitation had incurred.
Thus, when he got a second chance to bargain in 2005, instead of waging another bloody agitation over the statehood demand, his political maturity guided him to accept the Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling.
Those in the know-how of the Sixth Schedule provisions would acknowledge, it was indeed going to be a remarkable step forward towards fulfilling Darjeeling’s aspiration for self-governance.2
More importantly, the achievement was coming without any fresh agitation on the ground or mindless insurgency, as has been the case with the Bodoland Territorial Council in Assam.
It was surely a compromise, but never the end of the statehood prospects. The simple reason being that the Constitution of India was not obliterating the clause pertaining to the creation of new states. Nowhere in the Constitution there is any implicit or explicit mention that an area governed under the Sixth Schedule, cannot become a full-fledged state in future.
But Ghisingh’s political rivals misinterpreted the implications of the Sixth Schedule status on Darjeeling and compelled the Union government to shelve the idea midway.
Bimal GurungThe common public in Darjeeling, who were discontent with Ghisingh for his inept handling of the DGHC and growing isolation from the masses, swallowed the misinformation campaign. The ‘king of Darjeeling’ was dethroned overnight.
But the political culture of hero-worshipping has not ended in Darjeeling. Only that now Ghisingh has been replaced with Bimal Gurung and the GNLF with the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha or the GJMM.

In the past one and half year of his political reign that commenced in October 2007, Gurung and his party have gifted Darjeeling unrest and anarchy, all but for the demanded Gorkhaland.
His achievement so far ~ stalling of the proposed Sixth Schedule status, dethroning and ousting Ghisingh and other GNLF leaders from the Hills and compelling the Union government in convening tripartite talks on the Darjeeling impasse.
All these are but negative achievements and have facilitated nothing other than coagulating Gurung’s control over the Hills. But negative achievements can hardly hold public sentiment to ransom for a prolonged period.
Had not Gurung imported the BJP stalwart Jaswant Singh to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Darjeeling, by now, he would have probably found place in the political history of the Queen of Hills. Jaswant returning as a MP from Darjeeling has certainly extended the life span for the GJMM. But the NDA’s defeat has turned this extended breath completely useless.
Now, the GJMM has a friend in BJP that is only capable of paying lip service to Gorkhaland and an all-omnipotent foe called the Congress, which would not yield an inch to fulfill the statehood demand.
UPA government’s second-in-command, Pranab Mukherjee, has already made this clear and loud. As the GJMM leaders try to play down Mukherjee’s comments arguing that his is not the government, they are only living in self-denial for obvious political reasons.3
Jaswant Singh and Bimal GurungBut conceding the reality, ally BJP has already advised the GJMM to go slow on the statehood movement. BJP leaders have called for reformulating a long-drawn strategy, replacing the March 2010 deadline that Gurung has set for achieving Gorkhaland.

If the agitation goes the other way around, it is only obvious that the saffron party would distance itself from the GJMM. After all the BJP cannot act as parochial as the GJMM over the Gorkhaland issue, for unlike the latter, its political sphere is not limited to Darjeeling.
Also the BJP West Bengal unit is openly against the Gorkhaland demand and it is a signatory to the all-party motion adopted by the state Assembly ruling out any further division of Bengal.4
Given the scheme of things, the obvious question now is ~ what can happen to Darjeeling? How can Darjeeling be freed of the suffocating state that it has slipped into?
To be candid, the probability of statehood is bleak, at least in the near future.
This is not only because West Bengal would do the last thing but part with Darjeeling. But the Union government too would not concede the demand, because, granting statehood to the Darjeeling district (even ignoring the fact that Siliguri is dead against the Gorkhaland demand), would surely open up a floodgate.
Subash GhisingEvery other district or region in India that represents one community or the other would start claiming statehood and there would be no end to it. The statehood demands for Telegana, Vidharva, Bundelkhand, Bodoland and several others are already active.
Bimal Gurung may stay adamant and shutdown the Darjeeling Hills for months, but that can hardly compel the UPA government to treat Darjeeling as a special case.

Gurung’s outfit has raised a voluntary youth force ~ the Gorkhaland Personnel (GLP), which is being imparted physical training by ex-Army men. The GLP are equipped with batons, as of now.
Some 4000-odd GLP cadres have already been deployed in the Hills to ensure “public discipline” during the shutdowns called over Gorkhaland demand. There are also reports of the GLP confiscating illegal liquor and so on.5
But to think of waging an armed rebellion in the coming days, so to pressurise the Union government concede the statehood for Darjeeling, would prove irresponsible and futile. The immediate instance is the Bodoland insurgency in Assam. In the past one-decade or so, hundreds of Bodo militants have died in pursuance of the statehood agitation but have achieved nothing.
GLP cadres on patrol
Moreover, waging insurgency over political demands only allows the authorities to take a military approach on the pretext of national security. Darjeeling’s geographical proximity to Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and China would only bolster the approach further.

The bottom line is until and unless the Union adopts a holistic approach towards the active statehood demands or constitutes another State Reorganising Committee as is being suggested from several quarters, Darjeeling attaining statehood is completely an improbable proposition.
Under these circumstances, the best option before Gurung is to renegotiate the Sixth Schedule status that he had denounced earlier. Gurung can ask for some Darjeeling specific amendments in the Sixth Schedule clause and there should not be any problem for the Union government to concede.
By doing so, Gurung would be in a position to convince his followers that there is much difference between the Sixth Schedule of Ghisingh and the one that he has negotiated.
But if Gurung really feels serious about this, he will have to act fast. Fast enough before the Opposition overpowers the current Left Front government in West Bengal in 2011. It is now almost apparent that in the 2011 Assembly polls, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul would dethrone the Left Front from Writers’.
Once that happens, it would be truly difficult for Gurung even to bag the Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling, leave aside the demanded statehood. For, new into power, Mamata would not take the risk of annoying the majority sentiment in the state, which is evidently against granting any further autonomy to Darjeeling.
Moreover, considering that CPI-M is likely to play the role of a well-informed and organised Opposition, Mamata would be excessively cautious to avoid any criticism projecting her as an “anti-Bengal” element from the parochial point of view. Being an important ally of the UPA, Trinamul would also keep the Centre at bay from meddling into the affair.
Gorkhaland agitationThis means Darjeeling would have no other option but to wait till 2016, if not more.

Hence, the best time for Gurung to negotiate the Darjeeling issue (even if as an interim measure) is right now. The more closer the state gets to the 2011 Assembly elections, the less inclined the Left Front government would be to grant Darjeeling the Sixth Schedule autonomy. This is irrespective of the fact that the state government was in agreement to this effect.
Even on accepting a renegotiated Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling, Gurung can still carry forward the campaign for Gorkhaland in conjunction with other statehood demands like the Telengana. The focus of such a united campaign would be to bring about a policy direction in the Indian Union, vis-à-vis the creation of new states.

There is another option though. That is, instead of accepting the Sixth Schedule arrangement, Gurung can allow the existing autonomous council ~ the DGHC to function, while sustaining the statehood campaign simultaneously. This would however, prove less remunerative for Bimal Gurung, but that’s how politics progress.
Bimal GurungMany a times, one needs to halt back and employ the ‘Z-reverse’, keeping an eye on the steep incline. After all politics is seldom a straight drive.
1.Souvenir, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway 125 Glorious Years, 2006, CPRO, NF Railway, Guwahati.
2 VI Schedule, The Constitution of India, Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India.
3 Pranab rules out Gorkhaland demand, The Statesman, North Bengal & Sikkim Plus, Dt. 20 July 2009.
4 Bengal BJP flays Jaswant Gorkhaland stand, says will hit party, The Indian Express, New Delhi, Dt 20 July 2009.
5 Morcha displays ‘seized’ liquor, The Telegraph, North Bengal & Sikkim, Dt. 7 August 2009.
[The author is a senior journalist with The Statesman (India), currently based at Siliguri and has been reporting on the Darjeeling fiasco since 2005. This article originally appeared in The Statesman Festival Number 2009]

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