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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Morcha exerts December pressure - Plea to governor for early set-up .. 16 gunned down in Bodo outfit’s eye-for-an-eye attacks

Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, Nov. 8: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today said it would renew its agitation if the interim set-up for the hills was not in place by December, the threat this time coming from an outfit wary and under pressure to sign the agreement at the earliest.
This is not the first time that the Morcha has resorted to pressure tactics before tripartite talks. The political-level talks are likely to be held at the end of this month or in early December. But unlike in the past, the hill party, too, is under pressure this time. It is eager to sign the agreement for an interim set-up at the earliest for if the model code of conduct for next year’s Assembly elections kicks in, the new arrangement for the hills will have to be shelved till the next government comes to power.
To keep its flock together and assure its supporters that the interim set-up was not the end, Morcha president Bimal Gurung today told a gathering in Kurseong that a Union Territory status for the hills was a possibility after the tenure of the interim arrangement ended in 2012.
In Darjeeling, after meeting governor M.K. Narayanan at Raj Bhawan, Gurung said: “The interim set-up must be implemented by December for the welfare of the people and taking into account the ground reality…or else, our agitation will continue.”
The Gurung-led delegation requested Narayanan to take up the matter of the interim authority with the state government so that it is instituted by December. “We told the governor all that we had been telling the Centre. We are hopeful the governor will raise the issue of the interim set-up (with both the state and Delhi), taking into account the ground reality of the hills,” said Gurung.
By “ground reality”, Gurung was referring to the support the Morcha currently enjoys in the hills and why the governor should only hear out the hill outfit and not its rivals who had also met Narayanan.
The Democratic Front, a six-party anti-Morcha conglomeration from the hills, met Narayanan on Saturday.
Dawa Sherpa, the working president of the ABGL and also the convener of the front, said the front members were strongly opposed to the interim set-up. “We expressed our reservation on the interim set-up and told the governor that it would not solve the Darjeeling problem. We have also demanded that elections to the panchayats, which have not been held for the past six years, should be immediately held as this has infringed on the political rights of the hill people,” Sherpa said.
Political observers believe that the Morcha eagerness to find an early solution stems from the fact that its rivals have threatened to campaign against the interim set-up after Diwali.
“Gurung probably does not want a repeat of the Sixth Schedule fiasco and wants to seal the deal as early as possible,” said an observer. The Morcha leadership is aware that a two-year delay in getting the Sixth Schedule status implemented in the hills led to an anti-Subash Ghisingh movement and ultimately the birth of Gurung’s party. The memorandum of settlement for the Sixth Schedule status was signed between the state, Centre and Ghisingh but could not be carried through because of widespread protests.
“Had the Sixth Schedule status been conferred immediately on the hills, there wouldn’t have been any change in the political scene,” said an observer.

Set up regional authority before announcement of poll dates: GJM
Election Commission can initiate the election process in West Bengal from December 11
Centre likely to invite GJM for another round of talks prior to the tripartite talks

TH, KOLKATA: The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) leadership has threatened to renew its demand for a separate State of “Gorkhaland” if the proposed regional authority for Darjeeling hills is not set up before the announcement of the dates for the coming Assembly polls in West Bengal.

Under the rules, the Election Commission can initiate the election process in the State from December 11, six months prior to the polls due by June 11, 2011.
“We want the interim authority in place before the elections are announced. If not we are left with no option (but to renew the Statehood demand)”, Roshan Giri, GJM general secretary told The Hindu over the telephone from Darjeeling on Monday.
“Once the elections are announced, the code of conduct comes into play. We will drop the proposal for a regional authority if it is not set up by then”, GJM central committee member Harkha Bahadur Chettri said.
“We want the interim set-up to be put in place by December” he added.
GJM sources said that the leadership has been given the impression that the Centre will be inviting it for another round of talks prior to the tripartite talks at the political level to finalise the “compromise formula” paving the way for the setting up of the proposed regional authority.
Both Mr. Giri and Dr. Chettri were members of a delegation led by GJM president Bimal Gurung that called on the Governor, M.K. Narayanan in the hill town earlier in the day.
16 gunned down in Bodo outfit’s eye-for-an-eye attacks
TT, Nov. 8: The anti-talks faction of the NDFB gunned down 16 people today, hours after security forces shot dead one of its cadres and a week after the outfit threatened to “kill 20 Indians for every member killed in fake encounters”.
The first attack was on a bus.
A youth waved down the private bus on its way to Sijusa in East Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh from Tezpur in Sonitpur district, in a secluded forested area at Boimara around 5.15 this evening.
Two of his accomplices, who were hiding in the jungle, boarded the bus and forced seven passengers to alight at gunpoint.
“They were lined up by the three militants and gunned down,” said a senior police official.
The victims have not been identified yet, said the inspector-general of police, northern range, S.N. Singh, over phone on his way to Boimari. “But they were all working in Arunachal Pradesh,” Singh said.
The second attack came at 5.30pm, when at least six militants on three motorcycles opened fire on a barber’s shop and an eatery outside Belsiri railway station under Missamari police station, killing five persons.
The barber, Parmeswar Thakur from Motihari area in Bihar, was killed along with his wife, Mona Devi Bodo.
Those killed at the eatery, Narayan Shah and Bijit Shah, were from Bihar’s Ara district, while the third, Ramji is also from Motihari.
Around 6.30pm, a 70-year-old man, Mohan Das, and his wife Sakuntala, were gunned down at their residence in Kekerikuchi under Tamulpur police station in Baksa district by unidentified assailants.
Bhubesh Bhuyan, who was with the couple, was also injured in the attack.
Late this evening, a 30-year-old woman, Mali Mandal, was shot dead by suspected NDFB militants at Majbali in Dhekiajuli police station area in Sonitpur.
Suspected rebels of the outfit struck again around 8pm, this time in Karbi Anglong district.
A team of NDFB militants in fatigues opened fire on a basti in Basu Tiklong village. Dhanjay Gour, 44, died, while Kartik Sahu, 30, was seriously injured.
Two persons, Phani Kalita and Dwipen Kalita, were also injured when they were shot at by suspected NDFB rebels at Batashipur area under Dhekiajuli police station.
The apparent trigger of the attacks is an encounter in which an NDFB rebel was killed by troops from the 51 Gorkha Regiment in the wee hours today.
However, two cadres of the outfit escaped.
The deceased militant is yet to be identified.
A hunt is on to arrest the rebels and others linked to the NDFB.
The security forces recovered a 9mm pistol and three rounds of live ammunition from the slain militant.
On November 1, the anti-talks faction of the outfit had threatened to kill 20 or more people for every cadre killed by security forces.
“From today onwards, if any innocent NDFB cadre were killed by Indian forces in the name of encounter, the Boroland Army (armed wing of the NDFB) would take action against any Indian,” B. Jwngkhang, deputy chief of the outfit had said, adding that the threat would be carried out anytime.
The warning to the government came on a day when a team, led by Bodoland Territorial Council deputy chief Kampha Borgayary, met anti-talks NDFB chief Ranjan Daimary to prepare the ground for Bodo unity and peace.
The army has also launched a massive operation in areas where the attacks have taken place, with troops fanning out to the jungle areas along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border.
Defence spokesperson Col. Rajesh Kalia said troops have begun operations to apprehend the culprits involved in the killings.
The killings have come at a time when the state Assembly is in session.
According to a reply to an unstarred question by former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta in the Assembly today, it was stated that as many as 1,835 civilians, 266 police personnel, 197 paramilitary and 69 army personnel have been killed in insurgency-related incidents in the state between 2001 and October 31, 2010.
The government is likely to face the heat from the Opposition in the House tomorrow.
Climate boost to pest-free orange

Bireswar Banerjee, TT, Siliguri, Nov. 8: Orange growers in the hills are expecting a good season this year with production going up because of adequate rainfall and bright sunny days that kept pests away.
“We had a bad season last year as the fruits fell from the trees prematurely because of fungal attacks. The oranges were also damaged by insects. But this time, with favourable climate and adequate rainfall in the hills, we expect a good season,” said Narbahadur Limbu, a grower from Bunkulung in Mirik.
There are around 350 orange growers in Mirik busty, Orange villa, Nagri and Magarjung villages in Mirik block, 55km from here, and the area is one of the major orange suppliers for the plains, said Limbu.
“The fruits start flowering in March and the oranges mature after Diwali, by the end of November. There are around 120-125 orange plants in each orchard measuring 1-1.5 acre. Last year, the highest price at which an orchard was booked was Rs 10,000. But this time, the farmers are getting around Rs 50,000 for an orchard,” said Limbu, who is also the co-ordinator of the Farmers’ Coordination Committee.
Traders at the Siliguri regulated market, from where the fruit is supplied to the state and also to neighbouring countries of Bangladesh and Nepal, are hopeful.
“The season usually starts from the first week of December and continues till the first week of February. Oranges usually reach the market by November end. But this time, it has already started arriving and we are expecting good business,” said Tapan Saha, the president of the Siliguri Regulated Market Fruits and Vegetables Commission Agents Association.
There are 60 members in the association involved in orange trade.
Mehfuse Ahmed, the assistant director (plant protect division) of the district agriculture department, said: “Adequate rainfall was recorded this year and bright sunny days and favourable temperature at night (between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius) have helped the fruits grow in time. The weather condition is perfect to protect oranges from fungal or insect attacks. Powdery mildew, a fungal infection, and attack of fruit flies are some of the common hazards that damage the crops at a premature stage. But a good climate has helped the fruits to develop better this time.”
Snatchers held
TT, Jalpaiguri: Two snatchers were arrested on Monday from Malbazar when they tried to steal money from a retired railway employee. Police said Motilal Sha had withdrawn Rs 20,000 from a bank and was on way to the bus stand when Ananda Das and Biplab Pandit, both residents of Fatapukur in Rajganj, chased him with a motorcycle and tried to snatch the bag. The duo were warded off by Sha and caught by the local people. They were later handed over to the police.
Garden death
TT, Jalpaiguri: Bina Oraon, a 46-year-old woman, was killed allegedly by her husband at Washabari Tea Estate on Monday. Malbazar police said the woman had a spat with her husband Monikumar Kerketta after which he hit her with some blunt weapon, leaving her dead on the spot. Monikumar has been arrested.
Shops burgled
TT, Islampur: A jewellery shop and an adjacent cellphone store were burgled at Ramganj in Islampur on Sunday night. Police said the thieves broke open the front doors and ran away with valuables worth more than Rs 2 lakh.
Phone thieves
TT, Jaigaon: Three women cellphone thieves were arrested from Jaigaon on Sunday. Police said Ali Bibi, Manti Bibi and Pampa Bibi, all residents of Cooch Behar, stole three phones from a cellphone shop on Link Road on Saturday.

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