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Friday, January 14, 2011

1 day relaxation on strike in Dooars-13 January...

Life paralysed in hills
TH, KOLKATA: There was a shutdown in West Bengal's Darjeeling hills on Thursday with the four-day bandh called by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) leadership seeking a clarification from the Centre on its stand regarding its demand for a separate Gorkhaland State entering its second day.The bandh which has also been called in the Gorkha-dominated areas of the Dooars in North Bengal where about 300 GJM supporters were detained for obstructing vehicular movement on national highway was, however, relaxed for a day on Friday in view of a festival organised by a local committee to promote tourism in the region.
“The bandh will continue in the hills but has been relaxed for a day in the Dooars area because of the ‘Dooars festival' there on Friday”, Roshan Giri, GJM general secretary told The Hindu over telephone from Darjeeling. “The bandh was total and spontaneous in the Darjeeling hills and evoked substantial response in the Dooars area even though the police arrested our supporters there”, he claimed.
Activists of the GJM demonstrated outside the thanas in Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong protesting against the arrests.There was no major untoward incident in the Darjeeling hills, district superintendent of police, D. P. Singh said. The police removed road blocks put up by bandh supporters at certain places along the stretch of the NH 31 A to Sikkim that passes through the Darjeeling hills.
KalimNews: 96 hr shutdown in the hills was complete without any report of clash and attach except in NH 31A. Most part of the area approaching Siliguri was affected by the GJM sponsored 96 hr bandh and observed bandh completely but Salugara was open on the 2nd of the strike. All Terai Tea gardens except Panighatta TE was open. GJM supporters were opposed by anti GJM parties against closing of Lohagar TE of Naxalbari but the situation was controlled by the police.
2 company of CRPF is arriving from Assam and will be deployed in NH31 A. Throughout the day drivers and passengers of the vehicles plying in NH31A were harassed by the bandh picketers in presence of police by stopping their vehicles. In stray incidents vehicles were attacked and drivers and passengers were humiliated by the strike picketers complained passengers of the vehicles.
Protesting against Duars Utsav organised by the state government all opposition parties including GJM and ABAVP consented to observe 14 January as Duars Diwas organised by a political body. Partha Pritam Roy an organiser of the Duars Diwas Organising Committee said that state government has neglected the people of Duars and this has created an infight among the various tribes, hence we celebrate this day for unity. Duars Utsav was inaugurated on Thursday at Binaguri by Anand Kumar Jalpaiguri SP. 
GJM blocked NH 31 C in different areas of Duars like Minamore, Oodlabari, Rangamati, Khunia More, Madarihat, Banarhat and Birpara while ABAVP , CPM and Janjagarn Manch demonstrated opposing the bandh. Central committee members Kalyan Dewan and Deshbhakt Subba  were arrested by Police from Rangamati more and Santosh kumar Rai along with other two groups of 500 GJM supporters from Khuniamore. Dewan and Rai were later released but others were taken to Jalpaiguri.
Counter bandh for a taste of own pill Plains plan to choke supply

TT, Siliguri, Jan. 13: The Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee has announced a 48-hour general strike as part of an “economic blockade” plan on January 16 and 17, the two days when the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha relaxes its ongoing bandh.
The Bhasha Committee leaders said the purpose of the two-day strike in the plains of Darjeeling district and Jalpaiguri was to give the Morcha a taste of its own medicine.
The anti-Morcha apolitical outfit is popular in Siliguri and its bandh calls have triggered spontaneous response in recent times. Set up in 2002 by Mukunda Majumdar, a doctor, for the “reawakening of the Bengali”, Bhasha Committee boasts nearly 1,000 members and thousands of supporters.
The Bhasha Committee’s support base is on the rise precisely because it is not backed by any political party and its members are educated people, said Tanmoy Goswami, a software developer based in Siliguri. Goswami is not a member but “supports” the Bhasha Committee.
Majumdar’s outfit has already written to different market committees here and in Jalpaiguri, requesting them to support the strike and stop selling food grain to the hills when people come down to replenish their larders on the two days.
“Since the inception of the Gorkhaland movement by the Morcha, the party has resorted to several undemocratic acts and is creating inconvenience and an ambience of tension by observing consistent strikes,” said Majumdar today, the second day of the Morcha strike.
The 27-day strike of the Morcha is spread over three phases with breaks in between.
 “We have decided to observe a general strike for 48 hours to stop movement of food grain to the hills. Considering the present state of affairs and the highhandedness of the Morcha, there is no alternative, except for an economic blockade.

Morcha supporters gherao Darjeeling police station on Thursday protesting the arrest of party supporters in the Dooars; and (above) a deserted Darjeeling town during the strike. Pictures by Suman Tamang
“On the basis of our decision, we have sent letters to different market committees in Siliguri and Jalpaiguri, requesting them to support the strike and stop selling food grain to the hills,” said Majumdar.
The counter strike in the plains, the business community believes, will put pressure on the Morcha, which is determined to go ahead with its shutdown till February 12.
“The in-between relief is aimed to facilitate movement of food grains and other items to the hills so that people there can replenish their stocks and participate in the strike. Now that the Bhasha Committee has called a bandh, shops, markets, establishments and private transport would be shut, leaving hill residents and merchants there worried. There will be little chance of the goods being ferried to the hills,” a wholesale grocery merchant in Khalpara said.
Asked if the traders would keep their shops closed, the wholesale merchant said: “Who would like to take a risk? Anyway people can’t do without food grain, so they will come back at some time or the other.”
Majumdar threatened that if the Morcha did not withdraw the strike, his outfit would call another bandh on the day the hills enjoy relief.
In the afternoon, the CPM brought out a rally here to protest the Morcha’s demand for Gorkhaland and the ongoing strike.
At Khunia More, 10km from Malbazar in Jalpaiguri district, 185 Morcha supporters were arrested for raising a road blockade.
They were shifted to Jalpaiguri where they shouted slogans and demonstrated against the police action. When other Morcha supporters set up a blockade at the same spot in protest, 70 others were also arrested.
“All of them were released on personal bond later in the evening. The situation, otherwise, was peaceful in Jalpaiguri district,” police chief Anand Kumar said.
In the evening, the Morcha announced a one-day relaxation for the Dooars tomorrow. The party has included the Dooars and the Terai in its shutdown call but the effect in these areas is not much, except for the Gorkha pockets.
“We have to come to know that Dooars Day would be celebrated tomorrow which is why we have decided to provide one day’s relaxation in the region,” said Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the media and publicity secretary of Morcha.
Inspector general of police (north Bengal) Ranvir Kumar said the CRPF was expected to arrive today. “They will report to the SP (Darjeeling). The paramilitary force would be deployed at certain specific locations of the hills to upkeep law and order,” said the IG.

Strike cloud on soccer

TT, Siliguri, Jan. 13: Organisers of the Sukna Gold Cup are uncertain about holding the soccer tournament this year and have decided to approach the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha to keep the matches outside the purview of the bandh.
Twenty teams, including three from the neighbouring countries, have agreed to play in the tournament slated to begin on January 16.
“We are doubtful if the championship will be held this year, as the first phase of the strike has already started and affected life in the hills and the foothills. We are apprehending that the tournament will have to be called off if the agitation continues next week also,” said Suren Pradhan, the general secretary of the Sukna Games and Sports Association, the organisers of the soccer meet.
The Morcha called a 27-day strike in three phases in the Darjeeling hills, Dooars and the Terai from January 12 to February 12, demanding that the Centre make its stand clear on Gorkhaland. The final of the tournament is scheduled to be played on February 5.
“Four clubs, two from Nepal, one from Manipur and another from Bangladesh, had confirmed their participation in the tournament. But if the shutdown continues, we don’t think they will take a risk and play in the championship. Then, only local teams will take part in the tournament, which will diminish the attraction of the event,” said Pradhan.
The other 16 clubs are based in Siliguri, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling and Sikkim. Pradhan also said around Rs 10-15 lakh was needed to organise the tournament.
The organisers said they would appeal to the Morcha to keep the tournament out of the purview of the strike.
“We will request the Morcha leadership to allow the soccer players coming from different parts of the region to take part in the championship. We will also tell them to ensure that the matches are not hampered by the strike,” said the general secretary of the SGSA.
The organisers had earlier announced that two Olympian footballers and five others who had won medals in the Delhi Commonwealth Games would be felicitated at the final of the tournament.
The Morcha, however, has not yet decided the fate of the Sukna cup. Shankar Adhikary, the convener of the Morcha’s Terai unit, said: “We have not decided anything on the Sukna tournament. Any decision can be taken only after consulting with the central leadership.”
1 killed, 50 injured as buses hit trees in fog & cold - Malda driver falls ill & loses control of vehicle
The bus that hit the tree at Rajganj. (Biplab Basak)
TT, Jalpaiguri/Malda, Jan. 13: Fog and biting cold led to two road accidents in Jalpaiguri and Malda districts this morning when buses swerved and dashed against trees, killing one person and injuring at least 50.The first incident took place on NH31D at Rajganj around 9am when the driver lost control of a Siliguri-bound bus while trying to overtake a vehicle in foggy condition and rammed into a tree.
Police said the bus driver, who was yet to be identified, died on the spot and 20 others suffered injuries, five of them seriously. The bus had left Jaigaon at 5am and was speeding to avoid bandh supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha when the accident occurred.
Among the injured were 15 drivers who were returning to Calcutta after delivering cars in Bhutan. Sanjoy Mondol, one of the passengers, said they had taken 15 new cars to Phuentsholing in Bhutan and delivered them on Tuesday.
A train passes through dense fog near Domohoni station in the Jalpaiguri district on Thursday.
Picture by Biplab Basak
“With the Morcha strike affecting life in Jaigaon, we reached the town around 4am today. We had to pay Rs 200 per head instead of the actual fare of Rs 70 so that we could reach Siliguri,” he said.
The other accident took place around 10am when the driver of a North Bengal State Transport Corporation bus suddenly fell ill because of cold and lost control of the vehicle near the Habibpur police station. The bus going from Nalagola to Malda dashed against a tree, injuring 30 passengers.
Malda police chief Bhuban Mondal said the injured had been taken to a health centre in Bulbulchandi and six of them were later shifted to the district hospital.
The Malda chief medical officer of health, Srikanta Roy, who visited Sailen Kundu at the district hospital, said the 54-year-old driver was suffering from breathing problems and had fallen ill because of the cold.
“He had problems breathing in the cold and fell ill. He suffered a stroke because of lack of oxygen. Both his legs have broken and we are referring him to Calcutta,” said Roy.
Malda district magistrate Pramal Kumar Samanta said the district was experiencing a severe cold spell. “I have asked the Alipore Met Office to provide me with the daily temperature chart as we are not getting a clear picture of the cold. I have also alerted the BDOs of all 15 blocks and asked them to distribute blankets to the poor. The district inspector of schools was instructed to declare holidays in morning schools as students are not venturing out in the severe weather,” said Samanta.

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