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Friday, February 11, 2011

Govt hardens stance on GJM... Jalpaiguri violence ‘premeditated... ’Hill cortege convoy stoned....Anti-Morcha march stalled in Siliguri ... Exemption from strike for boarders

KalimNews, Kalimpong, February 11:Darjeeling police has so far lodged 35 FIR in different police stations for fire and arson. Police has arrested a GJM leader Subhas Pradhan from Pulbazar - Bijanbari area for torching a Forest Bunglow of Bijanbari. However GJM has denied of having any connection with the fire and arson caused after the Shibsu firing. DP Singh SP Darjeeling said that police will take actions against those whose names have appeared in the FIR for fire and action.
Meanwhile a report states that the state government has turned down the demand for compensation raised by Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha leadership for the families of its two activists killed in police firing as well as for those who were injured during police action on the ground that the cause of injury and death was the result of “criminal law violation”. The GJMM leadership raised this demand during the peace meeting held with the district administration of Jalpaiguri on Wednesday along with a demand for either CBI or judicial inquiry. Instead FIR against Wilson Champramari, Dr H.B.Chhetri, Kalyan Dewan, Binay Tamang and Norden Lama is registered in Nagarkatta plice station on the very day of the incident. Cases against Dr Chhetri has been lodged under IPC  147, 148, 149, 186, 307, 325, 326 and 353 sections. MLA Champramari is arrested on the day of the incident and now under remand in police custody.

Home Secretary also has turned down the appeal for CBI enquiry of the Shibsu firing.
Furthermore district officials have confirmed that GJMM activists had burnt down an electronic voting machine (EVM) storage at Kalimpong on 8 February evening in retaliation for the police firing at Sipchu in the Dooars.

Hill cortege convoy stoned
The cortege of Vicky Lama at
Kalchini. (Anirban Choudhury)
TT, Feb. 10: A 100-strong mob today surrounded the convoy carrying the body of one of those killed in the Sibchu firing and pelted the vehicles with stones triggering a retaliation in Malbazar where at least three trucks were set afire by suspected Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters.
The Morcha leadership has blamed the CPM for orchestrating the attack.
The convoy of 15 vehicles, including the truck carrying Bimala Rai’s body, had arrived in front of the Malbazar subdivisional hospital on its way to her village in Khani when stones were thrown at the cars.
Police said local people at Malbazar, a Dooars town 64km from Jalpaiguri, forced the convoy to stop when they heard Morcha supporters shouting statehood slogans. The situation became tense and suddenly stones were thrown at the cars and the windshields of two of them were shattered. Over a hundred local people had stopped the convoy, the police said.
Two hours later, around 12 noon, violence erupted after Vicky Lama’s body crossed Madarihat, 82km from Jalpaiguri, where Morcha supporters set up a road blockade. The police said a convoy of about 80 vehicles and a large number of youths on motor-cycles accompanied the body to Rungamittee Tea Estate where 16-year-old Vicky lived.
The block development officer of Madarihat, Hirak Mondol, said around 12.30pm, Morcha supporters set a dump truck parked near a petrol pump on NH31C on fire and also torched a motorcycle. Additional superintendent of police of Alipurduar, Anup Jaiswal, arrived at the spot around 2.30pm with policemen and CRPF personnel and urged them to disperse.
Mondol said the crowd began to throw stones at the police. “They were lathicharged and 15 tear-gas shells were burst,” he said. The Morcha activists scattered, but set on fire two more trucks on NH31C, a kilometre away and damaged about five others parked along the highway, the BDO said.
The press and publicity secretary of the Morcha, Harka Bahadur Chhetri, said: “The CPM is out to create violence with the help of its cadre. Our party supporters did not have any hand in the incident at Madarihat.”
Jalpaiguri police chief Anand Kumar said the Morcha used a large number of vehicles to transport the bodies violating Section 144.
Bimala Rai’s body arrived at Dambar Chowk, the heart of Kalimpong town, around 2pm.
From a loudspeaker placed on a jeep came slogans like “Gorkhaland ko lagi shahid hune Bimala Rai amar rahos (Long live Gorkhaland martyr Bimala Rai),” and “Jaan dinchhu, pranm dinchhu, Gorkhaland hami linchhu linchhu (We will give our lives and souls but we will take Gorkhaland).”
Bimala’s body was then taken to her village in Khani, about 25km from Kalimpong, where her funeral will take place tomorrow.
Govt hardens stance on GJM
TNN, KOLKATA: The state government has hardened its stance on GJM. The war between the government and the GJM was more than apparent in the inquiry report submitted by Jalpaiguri district magistrate Vandana Yadav.
The mandatory magisterial report on the incident leading to the police firing at Sibchu reads: "Seeing video footage and assessment of the ground situation after visiting the area, my assessment is that the incident was a premeditated attempt only to instigate violence".
According to the report submitted by Yadav, "the civil and police administrations have shown tremendous restraint since the beginning of the agitation on January 17 (the day when Section 144 was first clamped)", and "the firing was done in self-defence". It rules out compensation from the district administration "as the cause of injury and death was criminal law violation".
Clearly, the government is in no mood to compromise with GJM and is keeping all its facts in order to counter allegations by Trinamool Congress that the police firing was deliberate and the government was trying to jeopardize talks and instigate violence in the Hills to defer the assembly elections.
A senior official at Writers' Buildings said, "We have the video clippings to prove that GJM is out to create trouble because it is losing ground in the run-up to the tripartite talks. We will expose the clippings if needed."
The DM's report said, "The entire incident (on February 8), was videographed by police." It said, "A number of people in the mob took khukris and a woman home guard Karuna Tigga was attacked and badly injured. The police, at this point, started firing to avoid further injuries to its personnel from the khukris and stones being used by the agitators. Seven rounds were fired in self-defence. Two persons were killed in the firing."
The report has graphic descriptions on how tension was built up from February 7 leading to the firing the next day. "On 7 January, about 500 supporters of GJM started pitching tents in the reserved forest area... the agitators were informed that Section 144 CrPC has been promulgated in the area ... but the agitators did not pay any heed to the warning and started pelting stones at the police. Once vehicle was damaged and a police person was badly injured," reads an excerpt.
TNN, KOLKATA: Even as GJM demanded a CBI probe into Tuesday's killing of two supporters in police firing, state home secretary G D Gautama on Thursday ruled out even handing over the probe to CID, saying a magisterial inquest is on. A CBI probe apart, GJM leaders had demanded punishment of the guilty policemen and officers involved in the firing.
Gautama said the state had sought deployment of the Army in Darjeeling to restore normality and for confidence-building among residents. Now, four companies of central forces are operating in the Hills. Officials are hoping that the Centre will soon call the next round of tripartite meeting and the state is getting ready to attend it.
On Jangalmahal, the home secretary made it clear that the state would object to withdrawal of more central forces from the Maoist belt. The state apprehends the situation in Jangalmahal will worsen unless more central forces are sent there soon.
However, a senior police officer said that the Centre can always reallocate the central force according to priority.
Moreover, officials said Maoists may try to increase their base, with armed CPM camps becoming non-functional.
DM’s report terms Jalpaiguri violence ‘premeditated’
The incident at Sibchu in Jalpaiguri in which two GJM supporters were killed in police firing and resulted in violence in Darjeeling was a “premeditated attempt only to instigate violence”, stated the report of the district magistrate of Jalpaiguri on the incident.
The report, accessed by The Indian Express, has been submitted to the state government and will be forwarded to the Centre. Significantly, a report submitted by the district magistrate of Darjeeling to state government reveals the government property worth Rs 50 crore was damaged or destroyed in the violence by the GJM activists in Darjeeling.
According to the report of Vandana Yadav, DM, Jalpaiguri, GJM supporters were agitating in Sibchu forest area since January 19 and from February 7, around 500 GJM activists had started setting up tents in the reserved forest area. Section 144 of CrPC was imposed in the area since January 17 as the GJM supporters were trying to make inroad in Dooars, a stronghold of Adivasi Vikash Parishad (AVP), an anti-GJM organisation. They had also clashed with AVP supporters. The forest ranger of Chalsa range filed a complaint and a case was started under section 26 of the Indian Forest Act.
After receiving the complaint from the forest official, police dismantled 33 tents and arrested Milan Gurung from the spot. However, the agitators pelted stones at police and three senior GJM leaders including Binay Tamang, Kalyan Debang and Northern Lama were identified at the spot instigating the agitators. However, they could not be arrested, stated the DM report.
The report further stated that on February 8 after receiving the information of the Khunia-Sibchu road being blocked at five points with trees, security forces rushed to the spot where around 1000 protesters had assembled. After police bust teargas shells, the crowd dispersed for 10 minutes and re-assembled with sharp weapons like khukri and firearms. Police arrested Wilson Champamari, MLA, Kalchini who was identified instigating the people. After the arrest, the protesters started pelting stones at the police. Police fired 21 plastic pellets and seven rubber bullets. Meanwhile, a woman homeguard Karuna Tigga was seriously injured in attack by protesters.
As the woman protester continued to hit Karuna with a khukri, a constable opened fire in which died at the spot. Following this, the agitators intensified their attack which prompted the police to fire seven rounds. The entire incident was video-graphed by the police, stated the report.
“Despite a number of violations of section 144 since January 17, force was not used. However, the road was blocked on February 8 consciously to prevent the forces from reaching in time. The crowd was armed with stones and khukris and the leaders were seen instigating the crowd,” said the report.
The report of the P M K Gandhi, DM, Darjeeling stated government property worth Rs 50 crore has been destroyed and 62 government establishments were ransacked and set on fire after the incident.
When asked, a senior GJM leader said, “After the incident, we do not want any tripartite talks or discussions. we want Gorkhaland. Our movement was going flat for some time, but now it has gathered momentum.”
Uncertainty grips Darjeeling hills
Marcus Dam, TH, KOLKATA: The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) leadership finds itself in a bind. Having raised the expectations of its supporters for a separate State of Gorkhaland to be carved out of the Darjeeling hills and certain areas contiguous to it in the Terai and the Dooars areas of the north Bengal plains, what appears to be its immediate concern now is to keep intact its credibility as the region's dominant force without having much to show for as yet on the Statehood issue.
The eruption of violence in the Darjeeling hills in the aftermath of the police firing at Sipchu in the Dooars that claimed two lives on Tuesday only underlines the fact that the statehood demand is being driven by strong emotive factors and ethnic sentiments. It has also plunged the hills whose economy remains severely battered by frequent shutdowns into a fresh spell of political uncertainty and unrest.
Critics argue that by precipitating such a situation, the GJM is desperately trying to cling on to its image as the sole custodian of the Statehood campaign in the face of questions being raised of whether or not it has a hidden agenda and is warming to the idea of putting in place in the hills an administrative body with greater autonomy to replace the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, thus soft-pedalling the Statehood issue.
The GJM leadership, quite predictably, dismisses such talk and accuses the West Bengal Government of “provoking the violence” earlier this week.
Not that it was not bracing for a showdown with the State authorities – one way of responding to any aspersions being cast on its integrity as being foremost in the campaign for a separate State.
Since at least a week before the flare-up at Sipchu camps were being set up in the surrounding forest areas by party activists waiting to move with senior leaders into the Dooars, defying prohibitory orders imposed by the Jalpaiguri district authorities to pre-empt any ethnic confrontation, given the animosity towards the Gorkhaland demand of a large segment of the tribals who are pre-dominant in the region.
These developments need to be viewed against a backdrop of the growing need of the GJM to hold onto its support bases which might have suffered fissures because of promises remaining unfulfilled and extend its sphere of influence in the Dooars.
It was imperative for its leadership to consolidate its supremacy as a political force not just in the hills but also the Gorkha-dominated pockets in the Dooars. One way to do so was to keep the momentum for Statehood not just going but giving it fresh impetus, the outcome of the long-drawn tripartite talks stretching over more than two years now involving it, the Centre and the West Bengal Government notwithstanding.
The attempted thrust into the Dooars can be explained in the need for the GJM to validate its claims for inclusion of parts of the region having a substantial Gorkha population into its scheme of things; whether that of a separate State, the next best option of a Union Territory, or even in the proposed regional authority under discussion at the tripartite talks and whose territorial jurisdiction has been the bone of contention between the players concerned.
Which begs the question: Why the sudden change in tack a day after expressing satisfaction over the tripartite talks on January 25 and a reported assurance from the Centre that the draft for the proposed administrative body for the region is forthcoming?
The GJM's argument for now jettisoning the proposal for an “interim” arrangement and intensifying its movement for a separate State is the State Government's dismissal as untenable the demand for inclusion of parts of the Dooars and the Terai into the jurisdiction of the proposed body. The latter has also made it clear in no uncertain terms that there can be no bifurcation of the State.
A way out of the political gridlock remains elusive despite the occasional flicker of hope.

Lady sniffs out arson plot - Retaliation fire in Dooars, three vehicles torched 
VIVEK CHHETRI,TT, Darjeeling, Feb. 10: One of the biggest markets in Darjeeling was not reduced to ashes last night probably because of the strong nose of Nima Sangmu.
The lady woke up last night and caught a strong whiff of kerosene, which pulled her out of the bed and paved way for an overnight vigil by shopkeepers that foiled what looks like an arson plot on Chowk Bazar, the garments market less than a kilometre from the Mall.
Alerted by Sangmu, residents and police found that nearly half of the shops were sprinkled with kerosene.
Witnesses said 14 of the 30 shops were reeking of the inflammable fuel when they went to trace the source of the odour.
Had a lit match been thrown into any of the shops, the market would have imploded in a blaze, pouring oil into the fire in the hills. A fire at Chowk Bazar, one of the most congested areas in Darjeeling, could have destroyed hundreds of shops and homes in the vicinity.
Melted splotches of wax were found near some shops ( ), suggesting that the miscreants were sprinkling kerosene in candlelight and could have been minutes away from setting the shops ablaze.
But Sangmu, who house is attached to her shop in the market, woke up around 10.30pm yesterday. “I woke up on smelling kerosene. I came out of my house and found that kerosene had been sprinkled on the shops. I immediately called up the shopowners and the police,” said the lady in her thirties.
The shopkeepers did not see any people in the area — they had probably fled the scene on hearing Sangmu. Prakash Dahal, the inspector in charge of Darjeeling Sadar police station, said: “I visited the spot immediately with two jeeps and we have started investigations.”\
The shopkeepers maintained vigil throughout the night till 4.30am. “The market has 30 wooden shops and is situated in such a manner that there is no chance of controlling the blaze,” said Ratan Tamang, a resident of Darjeeling. The town, which had 113 fire hydrants during the early 1950s and 60s, has only eight functional hydrants now.
Gorkha Janmukti Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri today said: “Some people are trying to take advantage of the situation and malign our movement…We must remain vigilant against such elements and also stop the burning of government properties as they belong to us.”

सिप्सु गोलीकाण्डको भागोप द्वारा घोर भत्सर्ना जनाउँदै राष्ट्रपति प्रधानमन्त्री तथा गृहमन्त्रीलाई ज्ञापन स्थाई शान्तिको निम्ति  छुट्टै राज्य गठन गरिनुपर्छः भागोप सिक्किम
गान्तोक,10 फरवरी।  भारतभरि छरिएका गोर्खाहरूको जीवन मरणको प्रश्न सित जोडिएको छुट्टै राज्य गोर्खाल्याण्डको मागलाई लिएर हातमा राष्ट्रिय ध्वाज लिएर आन्दोलनरत रहेका गोर्खा जनमुक्ति मोर्चाका कार्यकर्ताहरूमाथि डुवर्सको सिप्सुमा अर्धसैनिक बलद्वारा अमानविय ढंगमा गोली प्रहार गरि हत्याको ताण्डव रचेको घटनालाई भारतीय गोर्खा परिसंघ (भागोप), सिक्किम राज्य शाखाले घोर भत्सर्ना जनाउँदै राष्ट्रपति, प्रधानमन्त्री,गृहमन्त्री, सिक्किमका राज्यपाल-मुख्यमन्त्री, भाषिक अल्पसंख्यक आयोग, रक्षा मन्त्रालय, केन्द्रिय गृह सचिव,मानव अधिकार आयोगलाई ज्ञापन पठाएर प्रस्तावित गोर्खाल्याण्ड क्षेत्रमा शान्ति वहाल गर्नको निम्ति केन्द्र सरकारले हस्तक्षेप गर्नुपर्ने माग गर्दै यसको स्थाई समाधान छुट्टै राज्य गोर्खाल्याण्ड गठन मात्र समाधान रहेको ठोकुवा गरेको छ।  भागोपद्वारा राष्ट्रपति अनि अन्य नेताहरूलाई पठाएको ज्ञापनमा चारवटा महत्वपूर्ण माग राखेको छ। जसमा भनिएको छ, केन्द्र सरकार डुवर्समा भएको बर्बरतापूर्ण घटनाप्रति मौन नबसेर प्रस्तावित गोर्खाल्याण्ड क्षेत्रको समस्या यथासिघ्र समाधान गर्दै शान्ति स्थपना गर्नु पर्छ। गोर्खाहरूको संविधानसम्मत् मागलाई यथासिघ्र पुरा गरिनु पर्छ। यसैगरि डुवर्सको घटनालाई लिएर सर्वोच्च न्यायालयको न्यायाधिश नेतृत्वमा जाँच आयोग गठन गरिनु पर्छ अनि डुवर्समा भएको अति बर्बरता पूर्ण घटनामा सरकारी सैन्यबल द्वारा मानव अधिकार हनन गरिएकोमा उच्चस्तरीय जाँच गर्दै अपराधीलाई दण्ड दिइऩु पर्ने माग राखेको छ।  भागोपले डुवर्समा राष्ट्रिय ध्वज बोकेर हिँडेको निहत्था गोर्खाहरूमाथि गोलि चलाइनु कायरता र राष्ट्रिय ध्वाजको अपना तथा गान्धीवादी आन्दोलनलाई कलंक लगाउने कार्य गरेको बताएको छ।
यसैगरि भागोपले प्रस्तावित गोर्खाल्याण्ड क्षेत्रमा शान्ति स्थापनाको बाधा भनेकै अर्धसैनिकबलको तैनाथी रहेको ठोकुवा गर्दै केन्द्र सरकारको हस्तक्षेपमा तुरन्तै गोर्खाल्याण्ड क्षेत्रबाट अर्धसैनिक बल फिर्ता लिइऩु पर्छ। यसका साथै भागोपले केन्द्र सरकारद्वारा गोर्खाहरूको मागलाई यथासिघ्र समाधान गर्दै शान्ति स्थापना गरिनुपर्ने माग गरेको छ।
भागोपका राज्य अध्यक्ष डॉ. कमल गुरुङ, कार्यकारी अध्यक्ष नारायण भट्टराई, महासचिव एस पाण्डे, राष्ट्रिय कार्यकारी सदस्य प्रवीण खालिङ, राष्ट्रिय कार्यकारी सदस्य सीपी गिरी (आइपीएस) द्वारा हस्ताक्षरित ज्ञापनमा गोर्खाल्याण्ड क्षेत्र अतिनै सम्वेदनशील अन्तराष्ट्रिय सिमाना सित जोडिएको क्षेत्र भएकोले यसलाई अति सिघ्र समाधान गरेर आन्दोलनले राष्ट्रिय अखण्डतामा घात पुऱ्याउऩे स्थिति सिर्जना हुन अगावै समाधान गरिनु पर्ने माग गरेको छ।यसैगरि कुटनैतिक दृष्टिले पनि यो क्षेत्रमा चलिरहेको आन्दोलनलाई अदेखान गर्न नहुने बताएको छ।
अर्कोतिर भागोपले गोर्खाल्याण्ड भारतभरिका गोर्खाहरूको परिचय र राष्ट्रिय चिन्हारीको माग रहेको बताउँदै आन्दोलनलाई अझ व्यापकता दिन भागोप सिक्किम राज्य समितिले चरणबद्ध ढंगमा अब सिक्किममा पनि आन्दोलन तिब्र पार्ने घोषणा गरेको छ। गणतान्त्रीक ढंगमा आन्दोलनको रूपरेखा चाँडै घोषणा गर्ने तथा सम्पूर्ण गोर्खे सन्तानलाई छुट्टै राज्य गोर्खाल्याण्डको आन्दोलन राष्ट्रव्यापि रूपमा विस्तर गरेर लाने आह्वान गरेको छ।
Exemption from strike for boarders
VIVEK CHHETRI, TT, Darjeeling, Feb. 10: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today said it would allow outstation students appearing for board examinations to come to the hills during the ongoing strike by pasting “on exam duty” stickers on their vehicles.
However, the schools will have to face another problem with regard to the conduct of exams as banks, which are the custodians of question papers, are shut during the strike. The institutions have requested boards to allow an exemption and permit the main exam centres in each area to keep the question papers.
“Examinations will be exempted (from the purview of the strike). We do not want the students to lose a year. They can come with ‘on exam duty’ stickers and we advise them to carry identity cards or admit cards while they travel up to the hills,” said Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri today.
The ISC practical exams in science subjects are scheduled to start on Monday and many outstation students have not been able to return to their schools because of the strike called by the Morcha to protest the Sibchu firing deaths.
The schools have welcomed the exemption. “A large number of boarders whose exams start on Monday have not yet returned. The announcement is most welcome,” said a school principal.
Around 500 students are expected to sit for the ISC practical exams. The Morcha has also given permission to the schools in the hills to bring exam papers from their main centre in Siliguri. But the school authorities don’t know where question papers will be kept.
“The exam papers are yet to be brought from Siliguri. Every town in the Darjeeling district has a main examination centre. Once the question papers are brought to the main centre, they are dispatched to respective banks of the schools. The school authorities in the presence of an external supervisor take the question papers on the exam day and the sealed parcel is opened in the presence of the students, teachers and the supervisor at school,” said the principal.
The school authorities said the board had informally agreed to their proposal. “So, this is not much of a worry now. They have, however, said the question papers should be taken to the banks as soon as the strike is lifted.”
Giri, while making the announcement, also demanded that Kalchini MLA Wilson Chapromary, who was arrested from Sibchu on Tuesday, be released unconditionally.
Police have arrested S.K. Pradhan, an alleged Morcha activist, from Bijanbari-Pulbazar area last night for his reported role in arson.
IPS officers back
The government today sent three IPS officers who had previously served in the hills but are presently posted elsewhere in the state to the region.
Darjeeling police chief D.P. Singh told The Telegraph: “Three officers who were previously posted in the hills have arrived.” The officers will be working in tandem with the additional superintendent of police in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong.
Akhilesh Chaturvedi, Rakesh Singh and Amit P. Javalgi, who were previously posted as additional superintendents of police in Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong.
Anti-Morcha march stalled in Siliguri
TT, Siliguri, Feb. 10: An anti-Gorkhaland march to the hills, Darjeeling Chalo, was cut short this morning when police arrested the 150 odd participants from the Tenzing Norgay bus terminus here.
The marchers, all members of the Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee, were later released.
Wielding yellow flags, the Bhasha Committee supporters started their march around 11.30am from Airview More with the demand to restore normality in the hills and action against those involved in ransacking and torching government property.
“We had initiated the long march for the sake of the common people living in the hills and plains, who we believe, do not support the violence unleashed by the Morcha. Today, we wanted to go to the hills, campaigning in favour of our demand and clarifying that we are not against any community but against Gorkhaland and the atrocities of the Morcha,” said Mukunda Majumdar, the president of the committee.
“The police however, stopped us.” He accused the police of being partisan in their attitude.
“Even though the situation is more tense in the hills, the police did nothing yesterday when more than 50 ex-servicemen, supporting the Morcha, initiated a long march to Siliguri. But they arrested us today for a similar march. Such attitude of the police should change and everybody must be allowed to speak out his opinion,” Majumdar added.
Almost at the same time, around 10km from Air View More, 200 Nari Morcha supporters assembled on the Sukna police outpost premises, shouting slogans demanding a CBI inquiry into the Tuesday firing. The protesters submitted a memorandum and left after an hour.
“We submitted a memorandum to the officer in charge, demanding a CBI inquiry into the incident and permission to hold the long march in the Dooars,” said Raju Pradhan, the assistant secretary of the Morcha who led the group.
The police had been on the alert since last year when suspected Morcha supporters torched the Sukna police outpost.
Schools and colleges along NH55 between Siliguri and Sukna were open today — Morcha leaders had said educational institutions could remain open provided the students availed of school vehicles — with buses ferrying students at regular intervals.
The Darjeeling district Left Front, organised a three-hour long sit-in demonstration in front of the head post office at Kutcheri Road. “We had, time and again, pointed out that the Morcha, in connivance with forces like the Maoists, are trying to keep tension alive in hills, instead of soliciting for an early and feasible solution,” said Jibesh Sarkar, a CPM district secretariat member.
Power play behind army plea - ‘Jittery’ CPM desperate for north control
Anindya Sengupta, TT, Calcutta, Feb. 10: The Bengal government’s request for army deployment in Darjeeling appears to be part of a power game for political control of the region, sources said.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s demand to include parts of the plains in the proposed interim authority and repeated attempts to make inroads into the Dooars, Terai and Siliguri where the CPM influence is diminishing made the leadership “jittery’’, prompting them to ask the government to seek army intervention, the sources added.
Even at the height of the GNLF agitation in the mid-1980s that was more widespread and prolonged, the army wasn’t called in. Demands were also raised from certain quarters that the army be deployed after the 2007 Nandigram firing but the state government had then refused.
Explaining this CPM urban development minister and Siliguri MLA Asok Bhattacharya told The Telegraph: “During Jyoti babu’s tenure, there was a huge presence of central forces like the CRPF and they were enough to handle the Darjeeling situation then. Much more than that, Ghisingh’s politics was not similar to Gurung’s (Morcha president Bimal Gurung). What Gurung’s Morcha is trying to do now is to create a rift between races and tribes in the plains. So, the army is needed to prevent any major violence involving tribals and non-tribals.”
The murder of ABGL chief Madan Tamang, of which the Morcha has been accused, had come as a setback to the hill party which then set its eyes on the Dooars, Terai and Siliguri which the CPM considers its space. Also, since the people of these places are largely against Gorkhaland, the Morcha’s efforts to make inroads were bound to cause unrest.
“So, the peace-loving people of these areas need to be protected from any ethnic unrest, hence the need for the army,’’ the minister added.
The CPM’s fear of the Trinamul Congress’s “unofficial alliance” with the Morcha is also another factor that has worried the CPM, sources said.
“Trinamul supported the Morcha candidate in the Kalchini Assembly bypoll while Morcha reciprocated by lending its support to the Trinamul candidate in Rajganj. In both the seats the CPM lost. Both of them have ganged up to eat into our party’s votes in the plains. So, isn’t it prudent to deploy the army and prevent the Morcha from barging into the plains and create trouble there? Why shall we allow divisive elements take over areas where our party still wields some influence,’’ a CPM state secretariat member asked.
Confidence build-up
The government is persisting with its request for deployment of the army in Darjeeling for “confidence building” among the people in the hills.
“Our request has not been withdrawn. It still lies with the Centre. Though the situation in Darjeeling has improved considerably, it would really help if the army were sent in. The faith the people in the army would help in confidence building,” said home secretary G.D. Gautama today.
Sources at Writers' Buildings said the death of two Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters in police firing had shaken the faith of the people in the hills and needed to be “restored immediately”.
“We need damage control. The presence of the army will go a long way in rebuilding confidence,” said an official. “This in turn would restore normality in the hills and bring an end to the violence.

Bandhs throw spanner in road work
TT, Gangtok, Feb. 10: The Border Roads Organisation is apprehensive that it will not be able to finish the widening of NH31A on time because of frequent bandhs in neighbouring Darjeeling hills.
According to an official of Project Swastik, repair is being carried out at 30 spots along the 51km stretch that passes through north Bengal.
The work has been undertaken on both sides of the road from Ranipool near Gangtok to Sevoke near Siliguri.

The BRO has set a target of 2014-15 to finish the repair of the 96km-long highway.
The director (works) of Project Swastik, Col Rakshvir Singh, said no work had been carried out on the highway during the bandh called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in January and they had faced disruptions during the ongoing strike also.
“As far the West Bengal portion of the highway is concerned, work is definitely getting affected with labourers, ranging from 500 to 600, not willing to report for duty on bandh days. Since they are from the same community and areas where the bandh enforcers live, the labourers do not come to work because of fear. This was despite our best efforts to convince the workers that they will be provided with security. Our machines are lying idle,” said Col Singh.
Work along NH31A had been stopped for 11 days during the bandh from January 12 to 15 and from January 18 to 24.
The BRO says January, February and March are the best months for road repairs because of the dry weather and less pressure of tourists coming to Sikkim.
From April, the traffic towards Sikkim starts increasing, reaching a peak in May and June, after which monsoon starts and continues till November.
“We have got a limited working season here and the months of January, February and March are considered the best time to plan and conduct major work. Forty per cent of the work is planned during this period. But due to the bandh whatever improvement work we had planned is getting delayed,” said Col. Singh.
According to him, all repair works in Sikkim are getting affected because of the non-supply of essential items like diesel, steel, cement, rods and bitumen
“We do have a storage facility but our resources last only a few days,” said Col Singh.
The official said even when bandhs were not happening in the Darjeeling hills, counter bandhs in Siliguri, from where most of the supplies come, also affect the work.
“If things go on and we lose valuable working days it will have an impact on our project completion date of 2014-15,” said Col. Singh.
Apart from the work on NH31A, Project Swastik is also undertaking two road widening projects on the North Sikkim highway and the Gangtok-Nathu-la road, both scheduled to be completed by 2015.
Officials said the BRO had approached the Sikkim government to communicate with the West Bengal government.
“The state government has assured us that they are getting in touch with their counterparts in West Bengal and we want the crises to be resolved once for all,” said Col Singh.

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