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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Morcha talks tact: Avoid deadlock Keep territory out, Gurung told team...ABGL finger at govt role in hill set-up

Morcha talks tact: Avoid deadlock  
TT, Darjeeling, July 27: Bimal Gurung today said he had instructed the hill delegation that participated in the July 24 talks not to rake up the issue of territorial jurisdiction of the interim set-up, indicating that the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president had wanted a dialogue without hindrance. Gurung said he did not want the territorial issue to crop up at least till the new hill authority was put in place.
He expressed his satisfaction on the tripartite meeting between the Centre, the state and the Morcha and said he did not want any “deadlock”, which would have happened if the territorial issue had been broached during the parleys.
So far, both the Centre and the state have been insisting that the jurisdiction of the interim set-up be restricted to the three hill subdivisions of Kalimpong, Kurseong and Darjeeling. The Morcha had maintained that it wanted Siliguri, the Terai as well as the Dooars, besides the Darjeeling hills.
“I am happy that the talks are back on track. I had called the members of our delegation an hour before the talks begun on Saturday and briefed them on Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh. However, I realised that the government would first discuss the interim arrangement and told them not to discuss the territory as it would create a deadlock. I told them to concentrate first on the powers and functions of the set-up,” Gurung told a gathering at Gymkhana Club on the occasion of martyrs’ day.
The Morcha president also said he had asked the delegation to keep their mobile phones switched off so that they were not disturbed during the discussions. 
The Morcha chief, however, indicated that in the long run the issue of territory was bound to crop up especially when “realising our dream of a separate state”.
“We will not concede an inch of the Dooars and the Terai,” Gurung said. “I had also told the delegation that if the territory issue comes up for discussion they should talk about the entire Dooars and the Terai and not just about the Nepalese-dominated area.” In Saturday’s talks, the Centre had directed both the state and Morcha to make a point-wise observation of the proposal for the interim set-up and submit it within two weeks. An official level meeting would then be held on August 17.
Bimal Gurung pays homage at the martyrs’ column at Chowrastha on Tuesday. Picture by Suman Tamang
Gurung admitted that the talks dwelt on the interim set-up but added that if the talks failed in the future then the Morcha would talk only about Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh, the new state that it wants. “The Bengal government wants a deadlock and is looking at the 2011 Assembly elections. If talks don’t move in the right direction, then we will have no option but to send a joint delegation comprising Gorkhas and Adivasis for a separate Pradesh,” he added.
Sounding optimistic about garnering the support of the Adivasi community, Gurung said: “We have only shown love and respect to the community and this is paying off. Despite hostility, we never stopped engaging in talks with them and ultimately we will be able to fight for a separate Pradesh together. This is our ultimate aim and we will not stop till we achieve our goal.”
Launching an attack on the slain ABGL leader Madan Tamang and his wife, Gurung said: “I admit that Madan Tamang was a great leader but I am not convinced he was the one for the Gorkhaland cause. He talked about mid-day meal scams and scams in text books and the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan but became quiet after a few public meetings. Were such talks compromised over money?”
The Morcha leader said he was “tense” because the ABGL had staged a hunger strike at the martyrs’ column at Chowrastha where we had planned a programme. “But I told our supporters to move out at the earliest.”
The martyrs’ column is in memory of 1,200 people who had been killed during the Gorkhaland agitation of the eighties. 
KalimNews: GJMM organised a Sahid Diwas programme to pay homage to the martyrs of Gorrkhaland in JB Thapa Park where a monument is errected . After paying homage there in the monument a party meeting was organised in the Gymkhana Hall. District Administration prohibited GJMM to organise any public meeting in Chowrasta as  relay hunger strike of ABGL is organised since  23rd July 2010. A barricade made by Darjeeling Police demarcated the Chowrasta into two halves. After the programme of GJMM leaders of ANL. BJP. CPR, GRC, SDUF and others paid homage to the martyrs in the same monument.
In the meeting held in Gymkhana Bimal Gurung announced that all DGHC Offices will remain open from 28th July till August 5.
A meeting of ABAVP Block Committee was held in Banarhat Branch Committee President John Barla announced that on 30th July its Dooars regional Committee will meet to discuss on the strengthening and reorganisation of the Committee. 
Bandh In SIliguri
In memory of the death anniversary of Charu Majumdar Naxalite Leader, CPIML has declared a 12 hr bandh in Siliguri and Bhaktinagar today.
Death Mystery of a prisoner
GJMM Central Dooars Committee accused Police of murdering Padam Pradhan(42 yrs) an accused in a vehicle accident who had surrendered before the Alipurduar Court  on Friday. He was found hanging in the Alipurduar Hospital where he was brought for medical treatment on Monday, said a police source. A resident of Birpara and a driver of a bus in Birpara- Jaigaon route had met with an accident last year but failed to appear in the court.  He had surrendered himself to the court and arrested there and sent to Alipurduar Correctional Home. A probe be ordered against the police atrocities and his two wives and 4 sons and daughters should be given proper relief demanded the party. A complaint is also made in the Birpara Police Station.
ABGL finger at govt role in hill set-up 
TT, Kalimpong, July 27: The ABGL has accused the Centre and the state of using the murder of Madan Tamang to their advantage to bring the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha to its knees, forcing it to accept an interim authority instead of the DGHC.
ABGL central committee members Pratap Khati and Trivuban Rai said if the Morcha settled for the interim council, it would conclusively prove the party’s role in Tamang’s murder. The ABGL chief was hacked to death in Darjeeling on May 21 and since then the Morcha has been on the back foot in the hills.
The ABGL leaders hinted that the government knew who was behind the murder and was using it to browbeat the Morcha into accepting the interim set-up.
“Madan Tamang was one voice which consistently opposed the interim set-up that the three sides were working towards, and that is why he was killed. Now all the three sides (state, Centre and the Morcha) are conspiring to force an interim set-up in the hills,” alleged Khati at a media conference here today.
However, the ABGL, its leaders said, would not allow the interim set-up to happen. “When the people could successfully foil attempts to bring the hills under the Sixth Schedule even after a memorandum of settlement was signed, stopping this (the interim set-up) will not be difficult. We will settle for nothing less than Gorkhaland,” said Rai.
The ABGL leaders also ridiculed Morcha spokesperson Harka Bahadur Chhetri for terming the proposed set-up a “de facto” state. “How can there be a de facto state. Can there be a de facto wife? The Morcha has been trying to hoodwink the people by agreeing to the set-up while paying lip service to Gorkhaland,” said Khati.
Quoting from a release issued by the Union home ministry after Saturday’s tripartite talks, Khati said even the set-up being discussed is not the one proposed by the Morcha, but suggested by the Centre. “The Morcha is on the verge of settling for something which is even lesser than the DGHC,” he alleged.
“It required a woman in the shape of Dil Kumari Bhandari (former member of Parliament from Sikkim) to secure the recognition of Nepali as an official language of the country, it will be another woman (Bharati Tamang, ABGL president and widow of Madan) who will deliver Gorkhaland,” an ABGL leader said.
Graft booklet bundle of lies: SDF
TT, Gangtok, July 27: The ruling Sikkim Democratic Front today described as a “bundle of lies” the allegations of corruption levelled by the Congress against the chief minister and its other SDF leaders and said it was contemplating legal action against the Opposition party.
“The booklet released yesterday by the Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee led by its president Nar Bahadur Bhandari is not Sikkim Mahaloot but Sikkim Mahajhoot (great lies). The allegations made in the book against chief minister Pawan Chamling, five ministers and seven former ministers are a bundle of lies,” said Bhim Dahal, the SDF spokesperson, at a media conference in the party office here.
In fact, it was Bhandari who had been convicted in two CBI cases in the past, the spokesperson said. “The SPCC president himself had been sentenced a couple of times in the CBI cases. Now he is drubbing everyone else corrupt and demanding a CBI probe.”
Bhandari, a three-time chief minister, had been convicted and sentenced by a designated CBI court in 2007 and 2008 on corruption charges. He has appealed in the high court against the conviction.
A former MP, Dahal said the corruption allegations against his party leaders were nothing new. “Bhandari has been filing cases in courts since 1995. He had filed some 12 cases but had lost on every occasion. Having lost the legal battles, Bhandari has now come up with the booklet to defame the SDF and insult the Sikkimese who are fully behind us,” he claimed.
Dahal said the SDF had handed out comprehensive defeats to Bhandari on 10 elections since 1995. “The consecutive electoral defeats have left him very frustrated and he is now resorting to such defamatory tactics.”
“The Sikkimese believe in the SDF and not the bundle of lies from the SPCC. They have elected our party for four consecutive terms. We will prove the Congress allegations baseless in the 2014 Assembly elections too,” Dahal said.
On the SPCC plan of distributing the booklet to central leaders including UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, the SDF spokesperson said such tactic was not new.
“The Congress keeps on saying that it will go to Delhi and complain against the SDF government to the central leaders. But the fact remains that whenever the leaders from Delhi visit Sikkim, they are impressed by the development work here and praise Sikkim publicly,” Dahal countered.
The spokesperson said the party was contemplating legal actions against the SPCC editorial team on the defamatory portions of the booklet. “We are consulting our lawyers.”
On the complaints filed with the CBI, Dahal said it was up to the agency to decide on the complaints. “It is for the CBI to act,” he added.
Bison killed one
TT, Cooch Behar, July 27: A 40-year-old man suffered a fractured hip bone when a bison that had strayed into a Mathabhanga village this morning struck him from behind, three months after two persons were gored by two animals in a similar attack in a nearby hamlet.
Dulal Barman, 40, a resident of Bhogmara, was attacked by the animal around 6am. Police said Barman was sent to the health centre at Nishiganj from where he was referred to the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in Siliguri.
The bison also killed a cow in the same village that falls under forest minister Ananta Roy’s Mathabhanga constituency.
In April, two bison had strayed out of Patlakhaoa and had run amok in Putimari, 1km from Bhogmara, goring two persons before being driven back into the forest.
The additional divisional forest officer of Cooch Behar, Amitava Chatterjee, said the bison might have strayed into Bhogmara either from the Patlakhaoa forest or Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary, both 15km away.
“We are not sure from which forest the bison had come. However, as soon as we got the information, a tranquillising team was brought in from Jaldapara. Around 10.30am, the bison was successfully darted and immobilised before it was released in Jaldapara,” Chatterjee said.
The animal has created panic among villagers as similar incidents have been recurring in the area.
“Last October, two bison had strayed into the Ghoksadanga area and had killed two persons and injured many others. Similar incidents have also taken place. The forest department, especially the forest minister who is from this district, should look into the matter,” said Anil Barman, a resident of Bhogmara.
Forest department sources said according to existing rules, the cost of the treatment of any person injured by a wild animal would be borne by the department.
Timber loss blamed on ban
TT, Siliguri, July 27: Ban on felling of trees and halt in auction because of frequent agitation in the hills by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha have led to an annual shortage of timber worth Rs 40 crore in the past couple of years, the Timber Merchants’ Association of Siliguri today said.
“We used to buy timber through auctions conducted in Kurseong and Kalimpong divisions of the state forest department. However, over the past two-three years, because of political agitation that halted auction and the ‘ban’ on felling of trees, we could no longer buy timber from the hills and had to depend on the ones sold from the depots in the plains,” said Onkarnath Banerjee, the association general secretary. “We cannot say how much loss the forest department has been incurring for this but we have suffered a heavy loss as we used to buy timber worth Rs 40 crore or so every year from the hills. Discontinuation of the auction has led to shortage of timber in the market and has scaled down our business.”
The traders said the absence of timber of certain species, which grow in higher altitudes, was also affecting business. “Certain species of timber like pine, dhupi, which grow only in high altitudes and are used for designing furniture, is no longer available. A section of buyers are eager to purchase this type of timber but we cannot supply it,” said Sanjib Sinha, a timber merchant from the Dooars. “This shortage has also affected around 500 people directly involved with the trade.”
Citing an example, the timber merchants said they had suffered a loss of about Rs 10 lakh as they could not collect a consignment after participating in an auction held by the forest department in the hills because of the Morcha’s movement. “The total quantity of timber sold in that auction cost around Rs 40 lakh and we had paid 25 per cent of it, which was around Rs 10 lakh, according to rules,” an association member said. “However, till date, we could not collect the timber.”
Sources in the state forest department said there are 34 government timber depots in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar.
The last auction was held in December 2008 in Odlabari. Although the forest officials may not have to face opposition if they conduct the auction in its depots located in the foothills, but the shortage of timber has stopped the process, a trader said.
Officials of the West Bengal Forest Development Corporation also expressed their helplessness. “Several cubic metres of timber are lying at the divisions now and we have no idea when these will be finally auctioned,” a senior official said.
The Morcha is nonchalant. “We feel the timber in the hills is the property of the hill people and the government had minted money by exploiting the forest resources,” said Roshan Giri, the general secretary.
Man arrested with detonators
TT, Balurghat, July 27: The BSF arrested a man with 250 detonators from a village near Hili bordering Bangladesh last night, the seizure coming close on the heels of a warning by the paramilitary force that Maoists had settled in areas closer to India in the neighbouring country.
Ilias Sehikh, 35, was arrested from Haripukur by the 57th Battalion of the border force acting on a tip-off.
The BSF handed over Sheikh to Hili police at 11am today. He was later produced in the court of chief judicial magistrate of Balurghat Fatema Yasmin here and remanded in police custody for seven days.
Senior BSF officers said the detonators were being smuggled into India from Bangladesh and efforts were being made to get the details from various sources.
“We had told the Bangladesh border guards recently that Maoists had settled down in different areas close to the border. But we did not notice any sincere effort on the part of the Bangladesh government to crack down on the Maoists,” said a senior BSF officer.
The police said they would interrogate Sheikh and try to find out if he had any link with the Maoists. The BSF had seized 200 detonators from Haripukur on April 2 also. However, the person who had been carrying the explosives gave the force the slip. Haripukur is 30km from here.
Officials in the state home department said they were examining if the militants were using the 252-km international border in South Dinajpur for the supply of explosives. They are worried about the 30km stretch of the border without barbed wire fence.
District superintendent of police, South Dinajpur, Swapan Banerjee Purnapatra said the BSF had been asked to intensify vigil along the border following the recovery of the explosives in a span of four months.
History of armed forces to deck up Patton premises 
Main Udin Chisti, TT, Cooch Behar, July 27: Bengali novelist Bibhuti Bhusan Bandyopadhyay had once dubbed this town the “city of beauty”. The district ex-servicemen’s association has decided to beautify it further by doing up the south-eastern corner of Sagardighi where there is a Pakistani Patton tank, seized as a trophy during the 1971 war of liberation for Bangladesh.
Yesterday, on Kargil Day, at a programme organised to commemorate the fallen soldiers, the association announced that a hoarding depicting famous victories and achievements of the Indian armed forces would be put up behind the Patton tank.
General secretary of the association Tapan Chowdhury said several attempts to draw the attention of the district administration to beautify the south-eastern corner of Sagardighi, where the war trophy is kept, had remained unheard.
“We have decided to raise subscriptions from our members to carry out the work ourselves. Soon we will put up a hoarding with pictures of the achievements of the army, the navy and the air force. It will be like a permanent exhibition that will enlighten the tourists as well as students on the role of our armed forces,” said Chowdhury.
He added that the US-made tank was seized by the Indian army after the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. The war trophy is one of the tourist attractions in Cooch Behar along with the palaces and the temples that dot the town.
“The tank was initially kept at the Chila Roy army barracks here when it was brought after the Pakistanis were defeated in Bangladesh. Later, it was kept for public viewing at Sagardighi,” Chowdhury said.
However, the area where the tank is kept overran with weeds and turned into a den of criminal activity.
“The district merchants’ association had cleared and beautified the place in 2003 before handing over the upkeep of the tank to us. We have fenced the area and the tank is given a fresh coat of paint every year. All programmes to commemorate the victories of our soldiers and to remember the martyrs are always held here,” Chowdhury said .
Members of the district ex-servicemen’s association will contribute photographs and the army, navy and air force were being contacted for archived pictures to feature in the hoarding.
“We will have photographs of the Kargil conflict, the Bangladesh war of liberation, and pictures of aircraft and ships in action,” the secretary said.
TT, Jaigaon, July 27: Residents of Sukhanibusty today gheraoed forest officers of Chulsa Range who had gone to the village to steer out a lone elephant.
The elephant had entered the village from Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary and damaged four huts last night. The gherao was to demand the immediate payment of compensation for the huts damaged. The foresters were released after they assured the villagers of a meeting at Nagrakata police station tomorrow.
TT, Siliguri: Two shops were razed to the ground and another was partially damaged in a fire at Fuleswari market here on Tuesday. Two fire engines from Siliguri fire station doused the blaze. Fire officers said short circuit was the probable cause of the blaze.
TT, Jaigaon: Gopal Chetri, a 22-year-old resident of Subhashini Tea Estate in Hasimara, went missing in the Torsha river on Monday. Police said he had gone fishing with his friend Sanjay Lohar
TT, Siliguri: Foresters of Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary held a workshop on the rescue and release of snakes and other reptiles for NGOs based in and around Siliguri. Tapas Das, the divisional forest officer (wildlife I), said at the workshop that to maintain ecological balance, reptiles should be released in the same locality from where they had been rescued.
TT, Siliguri: The Guwahati-bound 2502 Poorvottar Sampark Kranti Express was stopped at Chulsa station in Jalpaiguri district at 6.36pm on Tuesday after the GRP got information that a bomb was on the train coming from New Delhi. A search was carried out but nothing was found. The train resumed its journey at 8.57pm. Northeast Frontier Railway sources said the 2501 Up train would leave Guwahati at 11.45am on Wednesday instead of its scheduled departure at 6am.
Little explored Zuluk opens visitors’ vista- Sikkim hamlet woos tourists for a peep into Lakes, peaks and pass
Abhijit Sinha, TT, Siliguri, July 27: Serpentine snow-strewn roads, a dazzling Kanchenjungha and its range, the historical Jelep-la leading to Tibet and a variety of flora and fauna. All these, added with consistent promotion, have led to the emergence of Zuluk as an ideal destination for tourists wanting to plunge into the nature’s lap.
Located at 10,000ft, Zuluk is a tiny hamlet in East Sikkim with a population of 335 people.
“The place was unknown to outsiders till a few years ago. But over the past couple of years, it has emerged as an ideal tourist destination because of its idyllic locales and serenity,” said Sandeep Chourasia, a Calcutta-based tour operator.
“Even today, tourism is in its nascent stage in Zuluk and at best a maximum of 50 tourists could be accommodated there,” he told The Telegraph over the phone from Calcutta.
He added that accommodation is available at cottages run by local self-help groups and at the homes of some residents.
Chourasia said describing the sunrise in Zuluk with Kanchenjungha in the foreground would be futile. “You have to see it to believe it. The three-level zigzag roads, a symbol of man’s engineering skills, are also mesmerising,” he said. “A number of other sites, right from lakes to temples, can be seen while visiting Zuluk.”
Another attraction is Young Husband Track named in memory of a Briton who had found a route leading to Lhasa, 520km away, said Chourasia.
A road to Tibet through Jelep-la was constructed on the route which Young Husband had used for a trip from Kalimpong to Lhasa in earlier 20th century. Before the construction of the road, traders used mules for trade with Tibet through the track. Even after the occupation of Tibet by China, the trade continued through the pass till 1962.
With the place developing as a tourist hotspot, the socio-economic conditions of the 33 families living there have improved considerably.“Since Zuluk is bestowed with abundant natural beauty and has its own significance in the history because of Jelep-la, we thought of making every family in the area self-empowered. The residents can sustain themselves and enrich their lives by adopting tourism as a means of livelihood. With the revenue from tourism, they could improve their standard of living. The people were earlier engaged in cattle rearing or used to work as casual workers under the Border Roads Organisation,” said Gopal Pradhan, the president of a self-help group in Zuluk.
He said one could also see a lot of birds and animals in Zuluk. “Monal pheasant, blood pheasant, which is the state bird of Sikkim, khaleej pheasant and snow pheasant are some of the avian species spotted in Zuluk. Among animals, the red panda and the snow leopard can be sighted,” said Pradhan.
As Zuluk comes forth to woo visitors to spend a few days in the land of snow and cloud, Chourasia said they were also concentrating on the promotional aspect.
“The Association of Tourism Service Providers of Bengal has taken an initiative to popularise Zuluk. On our side, we have been the pioneer in providing the information on the hamlet and promoting the site with an intention to help the local population and to extend an opportunity to people who wish to visit offbeat destinations,” said Chourasia.

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