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Saturday, December 25, 2010

GNLF makes comeback efforts...Plains protest interim panel 2 died of cold

The Team of 
Kalimpong Press Club, News 7 Channel 
GNLF makes comeback efforts
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, Dec. 24: Nearly 70 GNLF supporters today brought out a rally in Bijanbari after more than three years, an indication that the party is desperately trying to regroup itself to pre-empt the signing of the agreement on the interim authority for the hills.
On the other hand, determined to implement the interim authority in the hills, the youth wing of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha brought out a bike rally from Darjeeling to Sukna, where it apprised the people of the benefits of the new set-up.
The GNLF rally had started from Pulbazar around 10am and winded uphill towards Bijanbari, 1.5km away, before attending an “indoor” meeting at the community hall there.
Mohan Singh Subba, who was the vice-president of the GNLF’s Bijanbari-Pulbazar committee before the Morcha drove away Subash Ghisingh’s party from the hills, said: “We will term the meeting a success. Around 70-odd supporters dared to come out in the open at Bijanbari today and we will ensure that the entire area is covered in green (the GNLF flag that is green in colour). Our party had last held such a rally at Bijanbari in January 2007.”
Launching a vitriolic attack on the Morcha for accepting the proposal for an interim set-up, he said: “The Sixth Schedule is a better arrangement. It has now become clear that the Morcha cannot achieve Gorkhaland.”
Shivraj Thapa, media and publicity secretary of the GNLF’s Darjeeling subdivisional committee, said the party was presently focusing on forming village committees. “Although I do not have the exact figures, we have formed about 400 village committees across the hills,” he said.
Siriman Rai, secretary of the Morcha’s unit in Bijanbari, 45km from here, however, dismissed the GNLF’s claim. “Around 20-25 youngsters who were paid took part in the rally. The GNLF is trying to create unrest in the area but we are following a Gandhian philosophy (of not retaliating). But if the GNLF unrest continues, the fallout will not be good,” said Rai.
2 died of cold
KalimNews: 2 people in Darjeeling died of chill weather. Temperature of Darjeeling for the last two days is recorded minus 3 degree. Dead body of Dinesh Mohra 45 from Mall Road and Bishal Tamang 32 from G building of Chowk Bazar were recovered. Both  were vagabond.
Plains protest interim panel
TT, Siliguri, Dec. 24: Siliguri- based forums and tribals in the Terai and Dooars today said they would oppose and if necessary prevent the proposed three-member verification team from recommending mouzas to be brought under the interim authority, as demanded by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
“We have heard about the proposed verification team and will oppose its activities, which we suspect are aimed to hand over some more areas to the Morcha. If necessary, we will obstruct them from doing their work in the areas concerned as there is no question of any further partition of Bengal,” said Mukunda Majumdar, the president of Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee, an anti-Gorkhaland outfit.
Since the interim set-up was proposed by the Centre, the Morcha leaders had been insisting on inclusion of 119 mouzas of the Dooars and 106 mouzas of the Terai within it. Delhi has reportedly agreed to form a three-member team to look into the demand.
The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad that represents the tribals today echoed the Bhasha Banchao Committee.
“Tribals reside in 315 mouzas of the Terai and Dooars and we have made it clear that none of these can be included in the interim authority, likely to be formed in the hills,” said Tezkumar Toppo, the state general secretary of the Parishad. “Even if the verification team attempts to carry out activities… there would be vehement opposition from our side.”
The Gorkha Janmukti Yuva Morcha, however, today said it would launch a campaign in the Terai to apprise the people about the latest developments on the set-up, the polls that would be held in the hills soon and about statehood, their key demand.
“We will elaborate the benefits that can be reaped by us from the proposed interim authority…,” said Dipen Maley, the media secretary of the Morcha’s youth wing. “Further, our original demand of separate statehood will be there with programmes lined up to achieve it in the coming days.”
Heritage tag for 100-yr-old church - hope for others
TT, Jalpaiguri, Dec. 24: The more-than-a-century old Baptist Church here has been granted the heritage building tag by the West Bengal Heritage Commission, a decision that has brought much Yuletide cheer to the people of the town.
The nodal officer of the commission for north Bengal, Ananda Gopal Ghosh, said a team would also visit the district early next year to carry out a survey of the old churches. The Presbyterian Church on Collectorate Road would also get the tag soon, he said.
The Baptist Church is the oldest among the Christian edifices in Jalpaiguri district as it was constructed some 127 years ago in the Nayabusti area in 1883. The Church of St Michael’s and All Angels, in front of the district collectorate, is even more ancient and was established in 1864, making it 146 years old.
Reverend Biplab Sarkar of the Baptist Church pointed out that the walls of the building were made of bamboo poles that were covered with lime and ground bricks. “The church is in bad shape with the walls crumbling and the wooden windows falling off. The church is also located on low land and we have problems during the rainy season, I have to conduct prayers standing in knee-deep water,” the priest said.
He said with the granting of the heritage status, he was happy that some funds would be available to restore the building. “We are a poor church and do not have enough funds to carry out the repairs ourselves,” he said.
Father David Hansda of the All Angels Church said they had not yet sent any formal request to the heritage commission for the status although it is the oldest church in the district. “Our church is built like the ones in Europe and the windows are tinted Belgian glass. The bell in the steeple is also a very old one,” Father Hansda said.
He also said the church was linked to the history of the tea industry in the Dooars as the names of many British planters are linked to it. “Richard Haughton, the manager of Sinagachhi Tea Estate, who died on May 29, 1895, is buried on our grounds,” he said. He also pointed out at a plaque to commemorate the manager of Bagrakote Tea Estate, Charles Reginald Trevor-Denne, who contributed largely to the church.
Explaining the criteria governing the conferring of the heritage status, Ghosh said the edifice had to be at least a century old. “We also look at whether the original structure exists… Once they get recognition, they will get funds for the upkeep. We are going to inspect two more century-old churches in Kumargram in Alipurduar in January,” Ghosh said.
Unwanted by herd, calf finds home in Jaldapara
TT, Jaldapara (Alipurduar), Dec. 24: An elephant calf isolated from its herd earlier this month has been captured by the forest department, which will now train it as one of its kunkis to carry out forest errands.
The two-year-old calf was tranquillised yesterday afternoon and brought to Jaldapara wildlife sanctuary, 45km from Alipurduar town.
The makna (a male elephant without tusks) has been named Ramu.
On December 8, the calf had strayed from its herd in Titi forest. Foresters had tried to send it back to the group many times but the elephant was not accepted.
Two days later, the calf entered Huntapara Tea Estate adjacent to the forest. The animal was pelted with stones by the garden dwellers. It was rescued and later sent back to the wild by the foresters.
But for the past eight-nine days, the calf had been coming back to spend the nights at the house of Budhu Oraon in Jamtala, a settlement on the forest fringes. After eating the fodder provided by Oraon’s family, the calf would sleep on a heap of thatch near the hut. In the morning, the calf would return to the forest. On Wednesday, the divisional forest officer of wildlife-III, Omprakash, spoke to the chief wildlife warden and proposed that the animal be tranquillised and taken to Jaldapara to train it as a kunki (pet elephant).
Omprakash said he felt the calf would be safer in Jaldapara as the health of the calf was deteriorating because it was not getting good grass to eat in Titi forest. Also, there was a danger of the calf injuring forest villagers and getting injured by other wild animals.
Yesterday around 4.30pm the calf was tranquillised near Titikhola and brought to the sanctuary.
Buddhadeb Mandal, the range officer of Jaldapara (east), said: “The calf has spent the first night at the sanctuary without any major problems. It is, however, repeatedly trying to free itself. This morning it has taken grass. After a month we will start training it as a kunki.”
Omprakash said: “We had been keeping a watch on the calf for the past 10 days and we were worried because its health was deteriorating. We tried to send it back to the herd. But no herd accepts a calf if it comes in contact with humans.”
Dalai on solution through talks
TT, Salugara (Siliguri), Dec. 24: The Dalai Lama today insisted on resolving differences through dialogues and not bloodshed, the sermon coming at a time when pro and anti-Gorkhaland agitation has gripped the region.
The Tibetan spiritual leader, who left for Delhi after a 10-day visit to north Bengal and Sikkim, spoke to the media at the Himalayan Buddhist Cultural School on the Kalchakra “phodang” premises in Salugara a little after noon.
“We consider the young genre as citizens of this century who will live in the future years. The last century was one of bloodshed and we want this century to be a century of dialogues. We have firm belief in the spirit of dialogues and feel that all conflicts and differences can be resolved through talks and not bloodshed. The new generation should understand the potential of holding dialogues and adopt it as a process to eliminate differences,” he said.
The Tibetan spiritual leader, while addressing the students and teachers of the school, said: “Modern education alone will not serve the purpose. Children must be taught morality and secularism. It is essential to spread knowledge through learning as a nation’s progress is dependent on the education of its people. In schools, teachers have a pivotal role to play in this regard as they nurture and build citizens of the future,” said the Dalai Lama.
“Post-independence the level of technical education has taken a height in India. However, along with technical education it is important to develop general education as well.”
The Dalai Lama also spoke on the relation between India and China. “We appreciate the strong mutual relations between India and China and hope it will benefit the citizens of both the countries. Both are important countries in the world and need to have a good relationship,” he said.
The Tibetan spiritual leader performed an Avalokiteshvera Initiation, known as Chenresig Wang in Tibetan language, at the Sed-Gyued Institute in the morning.
“I have shared my thoughts on Buddhism during my visit to the region. Several people have assembled at the programmes where I elaborated on the tenets of Buddhism while apprising them about the essence of the religion that insists on learning and use of one’s intelligence. Instead of performing elaborate rituals, it is better that one concentrates on self-improvement to practice Buddhism,” he said.
The Dalai Lama had also visited a monastery before arriving at the Kalchakra “phodang” or the site of the Buddhist Cultural School.
He spoke there for 15-20 minutes and spend some time with the schoolchildren before heading to Bagdogra airport around 12.45pm.
2 injured in land clash
TT, Jaigaon, Dec. 24: Two persons were injured when two groups clashed over the possession of a plot of land at Luksan More near Nagrakata today.
Police said two Maruti vans and a motorcycle were damaged in the clash in Jalpaiguri district. Police pickets have been posted in the area to keep the situation under control. The injured have been admitted to the Sulkapara block health centre and the Jalpaiguri district hospital.
ठुलालाइ कानुन लाग्दैन हजुर।
बोलेर नेता थाक्दैन हजुर।।

गर्छन गल्ती हजारौ हजार।
गर्नेले माफी माग्दैन हजुर।।

अपराधी बजार डुलेरै हिड्छ।
प्रहरी देख्दा भाग्दैन हजुर ।।

फेदमा बसी फुक्दछन आगो।
टुप्पोमा खाना पाक्दैन हजुर।।

भोग्नु पर्नेछ दुर्दशा यही।
जबसम्म जनता जाग्दैन हजुर।।

-कुसुम थापा, चिन्नेबासस्याङ्जा । (Courtesy-Raja Puniyani)
MEDITATING ON THE FUTURE - The cost of modernizing Sikkim must be measured in advance
Sunanda K. Datta-Ray, TT, Opinion:
Jawaharlal Nehru would have been disappointed. Though Balmiki Prasad Singh, Sikkim’s present governor, saved Raj Bhavan from demolition, the retro-fitted villa has lost the simple elegance that so charmed Nehru that he wanted to spend his retirement gazing upon the snows from its panelled cosiness.
Gangtok is the ugly face of India’s future. The contrast of smart shops amidst urban squalor just seems more offensive here than in other state capitals where tasteless medley has evolved over time. Perhaps also because of signs of conscious beautification. Tourists admire the pedestrian shopping plaza. Raj Bhavan is more ornately splendid than in its heyday as the Residency and then India House, the world’s first outpost for what came to be called China-watching. Apart from the governor’s concern for history, the building’s ornamentation probably also reflects the soaring ambitions of the chief minister, Pawan Chamling, who wants Sikkim’s towns and bazaars “to be like those of Singapore” and all its villages “like those of Switzerland”. His model for floriculture and horticulture is the Netherlands.
But the frenzy that the new Sikkim’s catch-as-catch-can ethos has generated could not be more unlike Singapore’s discipline, Swiss stolidity, Dutch placidity or the tranquillity of its own earlier self when letters were addressed to “Sikkim, via India”. Change is not only physical. Adele Diamond, an American academic at the International Conference on Science, Spirituality and Education organized by Gangtok’s Namgyal Institute of Tibetology referred to Sikkim’s suicide rate, the highest in the land. Rinku Tulku Rinpoche, an incarnate Tibetan monk from Benares, who followed her, suggested that though suicide is usually attributed to the death wish, it could also reflect the wish to be free.
Both causes suggest extreme unhappiness with the present, and deserve to be examined in the context of social upheaval, commercial exploitation and a huge floating population. It doesn’t surprise me when an Indian official says that most suicides are among the Bhutiya- Lepchas. Long ago reduced to a minority, Sikkim’s original inhabitants have most reason to fear the future. But dislocation cuts across ethnic barriers as land acquisition for a proliferation of power projects creates sudden millionaires who lord it in hotels or buy scooters and employ drivers to wheel them up and down the steep roads. When the money runs out, they apparently return to the land but as hired hands.
Much has changed, but much also remains the same. Revenue Order Number One still forbids alienation of Bhutiya-Lepcha land, Buddhist monks have a reserved legislative seat, and majority and minority are almost evenly matched in the assembly. Courtly Bhutiya-Lepcha etiquette turns democracy into a feudal ritual. It also helps to sustain an illusion to which the Dalai Lama — who addressed two sessions of the conference as well as two huge public gatherings in the Paljor Thondup Stadium below my hotel — indirectly lent substance by claiming that Buddhists provide a line of defence along India’s Himalayan border.
Paradoxically, the majority is not averse to a vanishing minority being projected as Sikkim’s identity. Someone explains that local Nepalese do not want to be swamped by Darjeeling Gorkhas. And so, the architecture of the new Sikkim House in Calcutta’s Salt Lake, bright handlooms, carved and painted furniture, dragon carpets, intricately worked silver, scroll paintings, the eight lucky signs and even momos and thukpa reflect Bhutiya culture rooted in Tibet. The myth is perpetuated by the state government’s ubiquitous symbol — the coat of arms that Britain’s College of Arms bestowed on the Namgyal dynasty whose last monarch was overthrown in 1975. Many of the dreams he nursed are now being realized. Sikkim has two universities, factories have been established, tea gardens are flourishing, tourism is booming, and one hotel follows another.
So far as the urban experience is concerned, Gangtok is treading a well-trodden path. When Rajiv Gandhi dismissed Calcutta as a dying city, I wrote that spic and span Delhi was India’s last cantonment. The capital no longer qualifies for exception. Only Lutyens’s Delhi still does. But for how long? Incipient signs of encroachment are a reminder that the spaciousness of its bungalows and gardens is as much an inherited asset as the bandar-log’s abandoned city in Kipling’s Jungle Book.
Calcutta long ago anticipated Gangtok’s concrete jungle. Other cities are following suit with vertical slums. Haphazard cheek-by-jowl structures indicate a total lack of planning — or inability to enforce plans that do exist — which is the norm. Once lined on both sides by identical bungalows and expansive lawns, home to only 19 or 20 families, the short, narrow street in Calcutta where I was brought up now houses about a thousand families. It is packed with the human and vehicular fallout of two schools, the conversion of a third into a marriage house doing nothing to ease congestion. Nowhere else in the world would municipal authorities permit educational institutions to overwhelm a residential locality; but then, education is commerce, and little different from the corner grocery expanding into a mini-supermarket or the modest eating house whose popularity obliges it to deny imitators.
But, again, Gangtok and Calcutta are not the only offenders. Somewhere among my papers are meticulous drawings of the greater Bangalore that chief ministers like K. Hanumanthaiya and S. Nijalingappa envisaged, showing residential and service areas, industrial zones and green belts in concentric circles. Presumably, all that was tossed into the rubbish bin when spiralling land prices encouraged officials and politicians to sanction the sale of land earmarked for special purposes to the highest bidders who were free to make the most of their purchase.
One hears of oases like Alibagh near Bombay that are pleasing to the eye and comfortable to live in, with assured electricity, water, drainage, conservancy and all other services. They are havens where the rich have shut out India. A Singaporean journalist commented on a Gurgaon enclave that it was Manhattan if you looked up but filthy, poverty-stricken India if you looked down. And “down” is where most Indians live.
This disregard for the majority means that all safety norms are dangerously flouted so that jerry-built blocks of flats come crashing down and mansions become towering infernos because of overload, poor quality material and no maintenance. With whispers of seepage into mountains that are prone to landslides even without rainfall, Sikkim’s mushrooming hydroelectricity projects could prove even more disastrous. The ground has always been treacherous here. The earthquake of 1897 and cyclone of 1899 are grim memories laced into folklore. A fire razed Gangtok’s old palace to the ground in the 1920s.
Vicky Williams, one of Kalimpong’s legendary Macdonald sisters, remembered rail tracks dangling from the trees after the 1950 floods washed away the railway that meandered 36 km along the Teesta valley to Gyalkhola. Raj Bhavan was declared to be unsuitable for habitation and ready for the bulldozer after the earthquake in 2006. Last year’s cyclone destroyed 4,500 houses in Darjeeling and partially destroyed another 12,000. One hopes that reliable feasibility studies support the proposed Rs 1,339.48-crore broad-gauge line from Sevoke to Rangpo through 13 tunnels and over 100 bridges. No one mentions it, but the plan faintly echoes the British dream of a railway line to Lhasa so that the sahibs could rest and recreate under the shade of the Potala. The cost of modernization must be carefully measured in advance.
In one small detail, Gangtok is still different from any other Indian town. There are no beggars. Nehru would have liked that. Given his impatience with religion and his faith in science and spirituality, he would have approved of the conference that brought the Dalai Lama here. Nehru would also have approved of a still vigorous faith in the power of prayer. I am told that far from deserting his inheritance, Wangchuck Namgyal, the 13th Denzong Chogyal to legitimists, is engaged in the unending meditation for Sikkim’s welfare that is permissible only to his rank.

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