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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bandh glare on Kalimpong tuition kids-Coaching classes shutdown spoiler: Morcha

Bandh glare on Kalimpong tuition kids-Coaching classes shutdown spoiler: Morcha
RAJEEV RAVIDAS AND VIVEK CHHETRI, TT, Jan. 12: The Kalimpong unit of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has included tuitions within the purview of the bandh, saying students loitering in the town square after private coaching classes spoilt the picture of a sombre shutdown.
The Kalimpong leadership of the party also said the tuition ban would be in force in the town area only, and for at least the first phase of the 27-day strike that began today. They said they had no issues with students attending tuitions on foot in other parts of the Kalimpong subdivision.
The problem, Morcha spokesperson Harka Bahadur Chhetri said, lay in Kalimpong town as the Damber Chowk, the main square, always becomes chock-a-block with tuition-going children, defeating the very purpose of the strike. The party took the decision going by past experiences, he said.
“Kids go to attend their tuitions early in the morning. Usually the tuitions go on for an hour or maybe two hours at the most. However, instead of returning home, the children gather around Damber Chowk and adjacent Janmukti Park, giving the impression as if there is no strike,” Chhetri said.
Today, the Damber Chowk was deserted with Nari Morcha members picketing till late in the afternoon when it handed over the job to the youth front of the Morcha. No tuition-going student was spotted.
Asked if missing tuitions would not affect students preparing for school-leaving examinations like ICSE and Madhyamik, Chhetri replied in the negative. “Missing tuitions for four days (the duration of the first phase of strike) should not affect the students. They have enough time to study,” he said.
The Morcha spokesperson also said the decision whether or not to continue with the ban on tuitions in the subsequent phases of the strike would be taken after Saturday when the first phase ends for a three-day break.
The Janmukti Secondary Teachers’ Organisation (JSTO), a Morcha affiliate too, endorsed the decision to include tuitions within the purview of the strike. “It is a small sacrifice to make for the larger good. In any case, we are not convinced that just by attending tuitions students can hope to do well in their examinations. Studies are a year-round exercise,” said JSTO spokesperson Bhisan Roka.
Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri, however, said in Darjeeling that there seemed to be some confusion regarding private tuitions. “We are exempting tuitions from the purview of the bandh as exams are round the corner,” Giri said. The Morcha central committee also put up a poster in Darjeeling announcing the exemption.
Parents in Kalimpong, however, are worried that children especially those in Classes X and XII will be deprived of special study before the final exams in February and March. “This is the time for our children to burn the midnight oil and take all available help in order to do well in these crucial examinations. Now that they do not have access to their tuition teachers, their preparations will definitely suffer. If tuition classes were of not much help, we wouldn’t have paid so much to enroll our wards in coaching classes,” said a man whose daughter will appear for her ICSE this time.
Across the hills, senior Morcha leaders walked on foot to oversee bandh arrangements. In Darjeeling town, some of the top brass walked as long as 13km at a stretch, to conform to party directives not to unnecessarily use vehicles.
“We are all walking. Our central committee member Dawa Lama walked all the way to Rangbull (13km from Darjeeling), while Jyoti Kumar Subba left for Sukhiapokhri yesterday itself and walked down to Pokhriabong (a distance of 7km) today,” said Giri.
In Bijanbari, 35km from Darjeeling town, a GNLF leader was injured in a skirmish with Morcha supporters trying to enforce the strike. A central committee member of the Morcha was arrested in connection with the incident.
Darjeeling police chief D.P. Singh said: “We have arrested Satish Pokhrel, who also seems to be the uncle of Keshav Raj Pokhrel. The situation is under control in the area.” Keshav Raj, a student leader of the Morcha has been named in the chargesheet filed by the CID for his alleged involvement in the murder of ABGL leader Madan Tamang and is currently absconding.
Morcha supporters gheraoed the Darjeeling police station around 6pm, demanding Satish’s immediate release.
Although a number of picketers were seen moving around, district magistrate Mohan Gandhi attended office without any obstruction. Attendance, however, was thin in most of the government offices and the tea gardens.
“A minuscule number of workers reported for work in seven of the 80-odd gardens in the hills. The industry by and large was totally shut,” said an industry official.
“We will continue with our agitation unless the Centre clears its stand on Gorkhaland,” said Giri.
Trees, stones block NH31A
Members of the Nari Morcha block the road near Motor Stand in Darjeeling on Wednesday. Picture by Suman Tamang
Policemen surround a Sikkim-bound bus on the Teesta bridge near Kalimpong on Wednesday. Picture by Chinlop Fudong Lepcha
Morcha supporters paste posters demanding Gorkhaland on a Sikkim vehicle near Kalimpong on Wednesday. Picture by Chinlop Fudong Lepcha
TT, Jan. 12: Traffic between Sikkim and Bengal was disrupted for one hour as stones were thrown at vehicles and trees were hacked and laid across NH31A on the first day of a 96-hour strike called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in the Darjeeling hills.
While the blockade was raised at Tarkhola, the vehicles were stoned at Melli — both the places are in the Kalimpong subdivision — early in the morning.
“Bandh supporters blocked the highway at Tarkhola in the morning, bringing traffic to a halt for about an hour. Police went to the spot and cleared the road,” said D.P. Singh, the superintendent of police of Darjeeling.
Ranvir Kumar, the inspector-general of police (north Bengal), said the stone-throwing at Melli was an isolated incident. “It was immediately taken care of by policemen.”
As the police cleared the road, the first batch of 20 vehicles moved from Rangpo check-post to Bengal at 9am escorted by the law enforcers.
“By 1pm, 120 vehicles from Sikkim crossed the border, while 85 vehicles came from the Bengal side,” said Sikkim East subdivisional magistrate A.B. Karki who was stationed at Rangpo to monitor the situation.
The Sikkim Nationalised Transport operated seven buses to ferry passengers from Gangtok to Siliguri. Unlike other days, the number of vehicles on the highway was less today.
Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling expressed his displeasure over frequent disruptions on NH31A, the only road link between the state and the rest of the country, during bandhs called by political parties in the Darjeeling hills.
“Sikkim always has to bear the brunt of bandhs as we suffer huge economic loss because of disruptions on NH31A. The demand for Gorkhaland is constitutional and democratic. The Sikkimese have always supported the demand, though we have to suffer because of the bandhs,” said Chamling while presenting the vote of thanks on the concluding day of the winter session of the Assembly.
An administrative source said two companies of paramilitary forces would reach the hills by tomorrow morning to check disruptions on NH31A.
Roshan Giri, the Morcha general secretary, said the party had kept the highway open today. “We appeal to everyone to keep the highway open as we do not want to disturb the lifeline of Sikkim,” he said in Darjeeling today
The Morcha supporters also disrupted traffic on NH55 at Panchnoi near Siliguri and on NH31C between Naxalbari and Bagdogra.
Stage show
TT, Jaigaon: A two-day one-act play contest began at Nagrakata Tribal Cultural Practice Centre here on Wednesday. Tribal actors and actresses from Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar are participating in the event organised by the backward classes social welfare department. The fest was inaugurated by sabhadhipati of the zilla parishad of Jalpaiguri, Dipti Dutta.

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