GORKHA POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: GJM withdraws interim set-up proposal, demands separate state

GORKHA POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: GJM withdraws interim set-up proposal, demands separate state – a brief but overall accurate report ?!!    

(BSNL still down – photos finally uploaded, against all odds ?!!)    

FROM HINDUSTAN TIMES    

Darjeeling, May 30, 2010, 21:40 IST (PTI): In a U-turn, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) on Sunday said it was withdrawing its proposal for an interim set-up, scheduled to be taken up at the next tripartite meeting, and wanted a separate state.    

GJM chief Bimal Gurung told a rally at a school campus, 5 km from Darjeeling, that they would henceforward carry on movement for a separate state which would be known as the ‘Gorkha-Adivasi Parishad’ and not Gorkhaland.    

In an obvious attempt to enlist support of the estranged adivasis who are opposed to the creation of a separate state encompassing Dooars and Terai where they are a majority, Gurung said they would no longer press for an interim set-up which the West Bengal government and the Centre were insisting upon.    

GJM-supported Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh said that the hill people’s long-standing dream of a separate state was nearing fulfilment.    

“Ever since I became an MP from the region, I have taken the hill people’s dream to Parliament,” Singh said.    

He, however, appealed to the people to keep their movement peaceful.    

Gurung also told the rally that the GJM’s proposed 10-day Darjeeling bandh from June 12 had been withdrawn.    

GJM general secretary Roshan Giri said his organisation had no hand, direct or indirect, in the murder of All India Gorkha League chief Madan Tamang and demanded a CBI inquiry to find out those responsible.    

THE GJM RALLY STATEMENT IN DARJEELING ON MAY 30, 2010

An enviable and totally peaceful, but ‘Massive Show of  Gorkha/Adivasi Political Force’ in Darjeeling, in an age when only the strangulating ‘Voice of Violence’ dominates the world political statements…  Is there anyone ‘out there’ in India listening to a ‘Just and Constitutional’ voice of the common people ?!!   

(Captions by Himal News) – Photos from Darjeeling Times and Himalayan Beacon – by Chendup Lepcha, Mrinal Rana & Rabin Rai…    

 
 

Bimal Gurung waving the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha flag to music just before speaking at the Maha Rally held in Darjeeling’s North Point ground on 30th May 2010 – The ‘Master Gorkha Choreographer’ at work ?!!

People begin filing into the North Point venue in Darjeeling in the early hours of Sunday morning, May 30th, 2010 – from all the far-flung areas of Gorkha dominated Siliguri and Dooars - under the watchful eye of the GLP Ladies - while Bengal is undergoing its Municipality ‘Semi Final’ elections for political change down under – to finally shrug the yoke of 4 decades of Communist misrule – from the ‘Richest State’ to one of the ‘Poorest States’ in India ?!!

A Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporter holds a GJM flag at the GJM maha rally – fear palpable on his face (as reported by Bengal leaning media) or a grim determination with no coercion at all ?!!

And… the numbers slowly and steadily swell – waiting for an announcement of ‘The Idea’ that can well determine their future in a ‘Just and Equitable’ India ?!!

The Indian Media personnel to cover the Maha Rally - the fate of so many Gorkha and Adivasi supporters, in the hands of so few Bengal leaning journalists – fair coverage or distorted representation or maybe just simply ignored and passed over by media frenzy for 'violence, blood and gore' ?!! The 'Sea of People' – is Bengal only afloat ?!!

The ‘Sea of Faces’ – is Bengal only looking ?!!

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha Dias with GLP Ladies managing the groundswell of people from Darjeeling and Dooars – discipline and authority that Bengal detests, a wholesome cultural difference ?!!

Gorkha Supremo and GJM President Bimal Gurung, dressed in his traditional Gorkha best, walks towards the dias – no kissing the ground and removing shoes, no Khukuri (traditional Gorkha knife) on his waist-band to complete the picture ?!!

Bimal Gurung with wife, Asha Gurung in the background listening in, waving and smiling – eyes that make every Gorkha distinct from those in and under Bengal’s Communist and Colonialist misrule, even after 63 years of India’s independence from Britain’s Colonial subjugation – a hasty unthinking negligence on the part of the British when they quit India ?!!

Bimal Gurung sitting proud behind a phalanx of unseen GLP cadres – private army of Gorkha Youths raised from the unemployed and trained by ex-Indian Army Gorkha Servicement to keep social ‘disasters at bay’ as well as enforce order and peace – an ‘Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove’ that has Bengal most riled and the British most envious ?!!

Bimal Gurung and GJM Secretary, Roshan Giri – the side of GJM that keeps Bimal Gurung and the GJM strong, or vice versa. Roshan Giri’s delegation walked out of ‘Tripartite Talks’ in Delhi on the 11th of May 2010, when even after the 1st Political Level Talks it had been agreed that the next agenda would be the “Territorial and Administrative” jurisdictions and the Bengal delegation arrived in Delhi without a “mandate” on the most important “Territorial Issue” – Bengal deliberately pushing to test the Gorkha resolve but ultimately losing out ?!!

Bimal Gurung with Darjeeling MP, Stalwart Jaswant Singh, a veteran Indian Politician with an unsurpassed Political Provenance since independence in 1947, well versed in the echelons of Indian Parliamentary Powers that be; now anxiously speculated to be returning to the BJP fold after its evolvement; cancels medical treatment abroad to return at short notice from Delhi to Darjeeling for the greater ‘Gorkha Cause’ – the real cutting edge “Diamond” in the Gorkha ring ?!!

Darjeeling MP, Stalwart Jaswant Singh, speaks most eloquently with a starting rally cry that may be heard in the ‘Corridors of Parliament’ in Delhi – no louder voice for ‘Peace, Justice and Economic Equality’ did the Gorkha ever have, while Indian Parliamentarians still count votes, electoral alliances and pathways to power or emergencies ?!! The most basic issues of Water Infrastructure – that Bengal has so blatantly ignored and thereafter systematically and irreversibly lost all moral authority and trust ?!!

As well as the Medical Infrastructure, that Bengal so injudiciously only concentrated in Siliguri – ignoring the Hills it wants to control, but creating the very rift that it now must suffer ?!!

So, Bimal Gurung speaks, beginning with a vote of thanks for the overwhelming show of support of the masses; then switches to change in ‘nomenclature’ from ‘Gorkhaland’ to ‘Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh’ and no more ‘Interim Setup’ and onwards towards full fleged Indian ‘Statehood’; an opportunity of ‘State within a State’ that Bengal so dearly lost – still under duress, that the urban intellectuals just wont care to understand but criticize they must ?!!

 

Bimal Gurung thunders on… warning people about the ‘conspiracies’ against the peoples aspirations, under the snide and surreptitious designs (Bangal ko khema) of the powers that be in Bengal, ticks off those who handed in their resignation and upon his personal appeal that ‘really hurt him’ withdrew it subsequently… by asking if they had considered the “Greater Gorkha Issue and its Consequences” as well as refers to accepting the resignation of those who almost had him selling the “Gorkha Cause” under the RAW directives – another ‘Hitler with a touch of George Bush’ or a not-so-literate Gorkha son of unprecedented oratory and political perception and experience as well as one with the people support and power displayed at the Maha Rally in Darjeeling on May 30, 2010 ?!!

The ‘other’ and ‘ wilder’ side of some of the upcoming Gorkha generations of the more educated Gorkha parents, making a fashion statement…(that makes the young in Darjeeling so much more fun and rather groovy)…. ”Check our 32 month history”, says Bimal Gurung, “we have made people dance, pray and wear ‘dawra-suruwal’ not brandish Khukuris and so we are labelled as being ‘Taliban’ dictators, where have we resorted to brutally beating up students and murdering them ?”, referring to Bengal which lathi charged ex-servicemen and students in Siliguri and is well fooled by their love of ‘distorting, deleteting and generalising’ all information that comes their way – transference on the way to power ignored ?!!

And finally,  the Great Indian Gorkha mother’s dread ….

 

Every Gorkha mother’s ‘extreme - but necessary - dread’ of the ultimate step, yet to be taken, if Democracy pays no heed in India – Lalgarh and “Naxal – Maoists” an example of everything that can go wrong in the ‘Peace Loving Hills’ of Darjeeling and its plains ?!!

NOTE: Photos earlier surreptitiously removed and still stuck by illegal hackers – nothing better to do – any wonder why ‘murders’ happen ?!!

MEANWHILE FROM THE TELEGRAPH 

Statehood cry with gesture to Adivasis – Bengal misses compromise chance of ‘A State within a State’ ?!! 

BY VIVEK CHHETRI 

Darjeeling, May 30: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has decided to discuss nothing less than the demand for a separate state with the Bengal government and the Centre, putting an end to talks on an “interim set-up”.

Morcha leader Bimal Gurung said today at a large gathering at the St Joseph’s School (North Point) grounds: “The interim set-up is now a closed chapter.” The Morcha has rechristened Gorkhaland as Gorkha-Adivasi Pradesh to make the demand palatable to the Adivasis living in the Dooars and the Terai.

Gurung announced that the plan for a 10-day shutdown from June 12 had been dropped and the strike in government offices would be withdrawn from June 2.

Today’s rally had been touted as a “show of strength” following the act of defiance by residents of Darjeeling during the funeral of the slain Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League leader, Madan Tamang, on May 24. People had then shouted anti-Morcha slogans, blaming Gurung for the killing, and tore down the party’s posters and flags. A defiant Gurung returned to Darjeeling leading a cavalcade of a hundred cars the very next day and announced today’s rally.

Tamang was hacked to death at the Clubside motor stand in the heart of the town on the morning of May 21.

Gurung today expressed his displeasure over the state and the Centre’s refusal to include areas in the Dooars and the Terai in the proposed set-up that was under discussion. “They are talking about granting only 22-23 mouzas from the Dooars. We were not asking for Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s and (urban development minister) Asok Bhattacharya’s personal land. We are asking for areas where our people are in the majority but now the issue of interim set-up is over,” said Gurung.

He said that since there was opposition from the Adivasi community to the nomenclature of Gorkhaland, “We will name the state Gorkha-Adivasi Pradesh. Both the communities have been deprived and we will fight together to create a state.”

The term Gorkhaland had been coined by Subash Ghisingh, who had led a bloody 28-month agitation from April 1986. Other names conceived by protagonists of a separate state in the past were North-East Frontier State, Uttarkhand Pradesh and Gorkha Pranta but none gained the currency of Gorkhaland.

Gurung urged the leaders of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad to sit for a meeting. “They must also hold a meeting with us now since we have changed the name of our proposed state to accommodate them. After meeting the Parishad leaders we will hold three meetings.”

The party has decided to suspend its agitation, which included the closure of government offices from June 2 and a 10-day general strike from June 12, till a party meeting on June 14. “We will look at the response from the state and Centre on the statehood demand and will announce our programme on June 14,” Gurung said.

The Morcha’s announcement, rejecting the interim set-up and changing the nomenclature of the state it is demanding, is being seen as a strategy to silence the voices that have opposed it. Since all Darjeeling-based political parties are also demanding a separate state, the Morcha had come under criticism only after it started talking about a “secret proposal” it had sent to the Centre last January.

“It must be understood that the interim set-up was offered to us by the Centre. However, since we did not agree to what they sent us, we had merely sent our own proposal for the set up to Delhi,” said Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the party.

The Morcha leadership had revealed the “secret proposal” on March 15 in the form of the interim set-up that would last till December 31, 2011. The talks, however, fell through with the state and the Centre not accepting the territory being demanded by the Morcha.

The change in nomenclature is also a clear indicator that the Morcha is aware that it needs the support of the dominant tribal community in the Terai and the Dooars even if it wants only those areas in the region where Nepali-speaking people are in the majority.

Jaswant Singh, the Darjeeling MP, said at the meeting that he would always work for the creation of a separate state. “One must however be patient and must always maintain peace.”

Not just Gorkhaland, now adivasis too – or else a home with no door ?!!

FROM HINDUSTAN TIMES
By HT Correspondent

Darjeeling, May 31, 2010, 00:24 IST: Gorkhaland, the proposed home state of the Gorkhas, has undergone a metamorphosis to become ‘Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh’.

The change in nomenclature, announced by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) president Bimal Gurung on Sunday, is designed to assuage the feelings of the tribals and to justify the inclusion of the Dooars region in Jalpaiguri district, where the adivasis are in a majority.

GJM’s demand for the inclusion of nearly the entire Dooars has met with stiff resistance from the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikash Parishad (ABAVP).

“We have nothing to do with Gurung’s announcements. Our problems are unique and not similar to the Gorkhas,” ABAVP state president Birsa Tirkey said. “Our demand is the inclusion of the region in the sixth schedule of the Constitution to safeguard the rights of the scheduled tribes.”

Appearing at a public rally to emphasise he was in charge after the murder of All India Gorkha League chief Madan Tamang on May 21, Gurung said, “We had given enough time to the government to implement our interim proposal …. As the government failed to do so, it will be the separate state demand henceforth.”

He said Siliguri would be an integral part of the new demand.

“We need the (New Jalpaiguri) railway station and (Bagdogra) airport as we are landlocked and will be handicapped without them,” he said. “We will not accept a separate state comprising the three hill sub divisions alone.”

According to the demand, the new state would have four subdivisions — Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong, Siliguri— of Darjeeling district and nearly the whole of Jalpaiguri, totalling 6,450 sq km.

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Welcome back to Darjeeling – Stalwart Jaswant Singh & Co from Kanchanjunga – at this ‘Politically Sensitive’ time for the All India ‘Gorkha Cause’ …

(Photos cannot be posted today as BSNL still down for over 5 days – Bengal to be blamed consistently – maybe situation will improve after Bengal is finally ousted ?!!)

GORKHA POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: Security tightened in Darjeeling town as GJM plans rally

GORKHA POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: Security tightened in Darjeeling town as GJM plans rally – Peace at all costs, under Bengal ?!!

(Photos cannot be posted today as BSNL still down – Bengal to be blamed consistently ?!!) 

From The Press Trust Of India

Darjeeling, May 29, 2010: Security has been beefed up in Darjeeling with Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and police personnel posted due to Gorkha Janamukti Morcha’s (GJM) proposed rally to demonstrate its show of strength after the brutal killing of Gorkha leader Madan Tamang.

Adequate security measures have been made in the entire hill town to maintain law and order due to the GJM rally as police said they would take no chance.

Police was also posted in strength at North Point School ground, venue of the rally.

GJM president Bimal Gurung had earlier announced to gather five lakh people at tomorrow’s rally as most of the political parties, particularly CPI(M), claimed that Morcha’s support was diminishing after the angry protests following the murder of Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League chief on May 21.

Meanwhile, a condolence meeting was held here this afternoon, which was attended, among others by GNLF, CPRM, BJP and allies of 7-party democratic alliance formed by Tamang.

Tamang’s widow Bharati demanded arrest and exemplary punishment of her husband’s killers.

An all-faith prayer was also held at the meeting.

MEANWHILE

A gush of Gurung – The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader thrives on maximalism

From The Business Standard
By Aditi Phadnis

New Delhi May 29, 2010, 0:19 IST: If it had been anyone else, you could have said he was hamming it up.

But when it comes to Bimal Gurung, chief of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), it seems perfectly natural: Before making his way to the podium to give a speech, he takes off his shoes, kisses mother earth and climbs up the stage to deliver a fire-and-brimstone speech in Gorkhali, the very sound of which brings tears to the eyes of hundreds of thousands of Gorkhas living in various parts of India.

His friends confess that they are a bit frightened of him — they say his speeches are Hitler-like with a bit of George Bush thrown in. He is utterly self-possessed and apparently utterly ruthless as well.

The West Bengal police says it has found a GJM connection in the killing of Madan Tamang, leader of rival Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League, in Darjeeling earlier this month. A contract killer, by the name of Kayla (a Gorkha from Sikkim involved in other killings as well) is supposed to be on the run. Tamang was a big critic of Gurung. And the stakes in Darjeeling are very, very high.

Everyone knows Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) supremo Subhash Ghisingh was evicted from power in 2007. It was Bimal Gurung who did this –— and he understood the meaning of the word mobilisation when he saw the Great Gorkha Unification behind Prashant Tamang.

Those who are not so familiar with the musical programme Indian Idol can be forgiven for asking “Prashant who?”. Tamang was a Gorkha policeman who featured in the third season of Indian Idol, a vote-based programme where people, through exorbitantly-priced text messages from their cell phones, vote for a singer. Quite understandably, community plays a big part in this. Prashant Tamang symbolised the coming together of all Indian Gorkhas and helped them discover their common identity. Indian Gorkhas are distinct from Nepalese Gorkhas, and are scattered all over the country, notably in J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, north Bengal, Sikkim, Dooars and North East, and like Israelis once, are in search of a homeland. Perception, differences and government policy have simultaneously blurred and accentuated the identity crisis.

Gurung used this mobilisation against the West Bengal government as well as the central government to further integrate the Gorkha opinion and revive the demand for Gorkhaland. Other organisations like the Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh under former MP Dil Kumari Bhandari of Sikkim and Dehradun-based Gorkha Democratic Front, despite the physical separation of organisations, strive for a national identity. Indian Gorkhas united to showcase Prashant Tamang as an Indian idol and secured a Gorkha victory.

The largest concentration of Indian Gorkhas is in north Bengal in the hill district of Darjeeling comprising subdivisions of Kurseong, Kalimpong, Darjeeling and parts of Dooars. It has a Gorkha population of nearly 22 lakh compared to six lakh in Sikkim, which became a state in 1975 following Indian annexation. The region is of great strategic value. It is contiguous — or nearly contiguous — to Nepal, China, Bhutan and Bangladesh. The vulnerable Chicken’s Neck and Siliguri Corridor and the National Highway 31A to Sikkim along with the only road and rail links to the North East along the Tiger and Sevok bridges lie in this area.

The demand for Gorkhasthan was made much before independence and even accepted by the undivided Communist Party of India. Although Ghisingh started the Gorkhaland movement in the late 1980s, he left behind a legacy riddled with corruption and tarnished with the charge of sleeping with the enemy — West Bengal. Ghisingh secured the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) in 1988 and by 2006, its inclusion in the Sixth Schedule, incorporating the status of a tribal area. The struggle for statehood got lost in the politics of survival till a new leader, a Ghisingh protege, Bimal Gurung was born.

Gurung thrives on maximalism.“Ghisingh betrayed the Gorkhaland cause by accepting the Sixth Schedule, an option we have rejected outright. There can be no alternative to statehood,” he said in an interview. The organisation adopted Jaswant Singh and stuck by him when his own party deserted him. Bulk of Singh’s Lok Sabha speeches are about the injustice done to the Gorkha people.

Madan Tamang, till he was alive, showed there were Gorkhas who didn’t agree with Gurung’s politics, and that he has no time for them. His wife Asha heads the GJM’s women wing. As is the case with family politics elsewhere, here too, it is bound to have its critics.

Right now, however, the priority is the performance of the GJM in north Bengal in the forthcoming West Bengal assembly elections. An independent backed by the GJM, Wilson Champamari won the Kalichini by-election last year in the Jalpaiguri district of north Bengal. This was a shock for the Left Front, but it also illustrated the trend.

Bimal Gurung and the GJM are here to stay. The Left Front’s neglect of north Bengal is the subject of another essay. But watch out for the khukuris (knives).

MEANWHILE

Jaswant Singh may return to BJP soon – arrives in Darjeeling

Earlier From The Economic Times

NEW DELHI: Nine months after he was expelled from BJP for publishing a book lavishing praise on Mohammad Ali Jinnah, former Union minister Jaswant Singh is set to return to the party.

Mr Jaswant Singh, who was elected to the Lok Sabha from Darjeeling in the general election held last year, has since his ouster from BJP been in political hibernation.

All that may end soon, thanks to the efforts of former deputy prime minister L K Advani, who has been egging on his party colleagues to re-embrace the former Union minister.

A formal announcement about the decision to reinduct Mr Jaswant Singh is, however, likely to be made only after BJP president Nitin Gadkari’s return from his European tour.

The ice between the veteran leaders was broken when Mr Advani invited his estranged colleague to accompany him to Jaipur last week to attend former vice-president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat’s cremation.

“I think it was very courteous of Advaniji to invite me to join him and some of his other colleagues who were going to Jaipur for Bhairon Singhji’s cremation. I was very touched that Advaniji asked me to go with him,” Mr Jaswant Singh told a news channel on Friday.

“I find that this is a commodity that is essential between colleagues who have worked together. Why should all of it automatically be attempted to be poured into a jar of political convenience,” he asked.

When asked whether he was returning to the BJP, the Darjeeling MP replied. “I’m not affirming. Did I?” On being asked whether he felt he still belonged to BJP, he said: “I spent 32 year there (BJP). How can I get it out of my blood stream?”

He, however, was unapologetic about his biography on Jinnah. “Oh no, absolutely not, certainly not. That (the book) is an expression of my views.”

It was the publication of the book “Jinnah: India Partition Independence” which had led to his ouster from BJP on August 19 last year. The party had simultaneously disassociated itself from Mr Jaswant Singh’s assessment of Jinnah, as also Sardar Patel, the country’s first home minister.

However, while Mr Advani may have succeeded in persuading his party colleagues to take back Mr Jaswant Singh, he had no such luck in his attempts to facilitate the return of another estranged colleague, former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Uma Bharti.

The mercurial leader’s endeavour to snuggle herself back into the party fold — she quit the outfit she had earlier formed, the Bharatiya Janashakti Party to signal her readiness to return to the BJP — was resisted by all the senior leaders, as also by almost the entire Madhya Pradesh unit.

Reports of her possible return to BJP was opposed by almost all the top-ranking leaders in the state, who felt that she’ll make things difficult for chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

Mr Advani also appears to have upset the BJP’s Bihar unit, and its coalition arrangement with the JD(U), by trying to impress upon them the need to induct another former Union minister Mr Digvijay Singh into the party.

The Banka MP shares a very hostile relationship with chief minister Nitish Kumar, and was one of the co-sponsors of the Kisan Mahapanchayat — a platform of upper caste leaders opposed to the chief minister — held earlier this month in Patna.

Nitin Gadkari expected to arrive in Gangtok, Sikkim TODAY – 30th May 2010 – from SHEEM news service

Fully charged

Having spent much of his energy in trying to put together a government in Jharkhand, the BJP chief, Nitin Gadkari, has left for Germany to study latest developments in renewable energy. Gadkari is already a pioneer in the production of biofuel.

His business trip will take him to Güssing, which has the European Centre for Renewable Energy. The mayor of Güssing is supposed to receive Gadkari and make him a presentation. Gadkari may visit other places as well. So expect a recharged BJP chief back home.

SAD ANNOUNCEMENT: Father LeClaire passes away at 82

SAD ANNOUNCEMENT: Father LeClaire passes away at 82 – Days after Fr Burns passed away – May God rest his soul too with Eternal Peace …

Rev Father Gerald E LeClaire, SJ

FROM KUENSEL

29 May, 2010: Father Gerald E LeClaire, SJ, former principal of Sherubtse College in Kanglung, passed away at the Jesuit infirmary in Pickering, Ontario, on Sunday May 23. He was 82. 

A selfless and dedicated educator, Father LeClaire, from Montreal, Quebec, served as principal of St Joseph’s college in Darjeeling, before taking over as principal of Sherubtse college in the late ‘70s, when Father Mackey moved to Khaling to establish Jigme Sherubling higher secondary school.

Although stern sometimes, he always lent an attentive ear to the students’ various grievances. He had many old Sherubtse history students enthralled with his lively and fascinating classes. 

After his tenure in Sherubtse college, which ended in 1989, Father LeClaire worked in Darjeeling till 1999 when, on a visit to Canada, he suffered a massive stroke that left him paralysed. Since then he had been living at the Jesuit infirmary in Pickering, Ontario. 

In his letter of condolence to Father LeClaire’s family, Bhutan’s ambassador to Canada, Lhatu Wangchuk, said, “With the demise of Father LeClaire, the Kingdom of Bhutan lost yet another great humanitarian and selfless Canadian, who touched thousands of Bhutanese lives.” 

Father LeClaire was buried at the Jesuit cemetery in Guelph yesterday.

BENGAL POLITICS: Open and shut polls? Need not be so

BENGAL POLITICS: Open and shut polls? Need not be so – Really now ?!!

(No photos posted as BSNL still down – Bengal at fault so consistently ?!!)

BY ASHIS CHAKRABARTI

One more election in Bengal and Mamata Banerjee one more step closer to smiling into the chief minister’s office at Writers’ Buildings next year.

It’s not just her hope, it’s also the general assumption. The big push that she had started in the panchayat polls of 2008, riding on the crest of her agitation against land acquisition for Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s aggressive industrialisation drive, got bigger in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.

The Left was left far behind also in the Assembly by-elections that followed — in Sealdah, Bowbazar, Alipore and Belgachhia East — and in the two civic bodies at Asansol and Siliguri. If the results of the 2009 Lok Sabha polls were to be extrapolated for the Calcutta civic area, the Left with 22 wards trailed far behind the 119 of the Congress-Trinamul Congress alliance.

So these civic polls offer a simple and entirely possible scenario of Mamata winning two more battles — one for Calcutta and another for Bengal — before the final showdown in 2011.

For the CPM, the loss of the civic bodies in Calcutta and Salt Lake is a possibility, but the real concern is how much of the lost ground it can recover — in Calcutta and the rest of Bengal — so that it is fit again to fight back in 2011.

But there is a possible second scenario and thereby hangs a different tale.

Consider the differences and ponder the questions they raise. The first and the most obvious difference between 2009 and these polls is the break-up of the Congress-Trinamul alliance. The question is not about the Congress being a small force in Bengal compared with Trinamul or even about the two parties making up yet again for the Assembly polls next year.

The real questions that the break-up raises are about the 2009 poll results. Everyone agrees the verdict was more an expression of anger at the CPM than a sudden surge of love for Mamata.

In 2009, the alliance’s vote rose to 44.67 per cent, but the big change in Mamata’s fortunes was primarily because of a 7.5 per cent drop in the CPM’s vote share from what it had been in both the 2004 Lok Sabha and the 2006 Assembly elections — a little over 50per cent.

But, despite the erosion of the Left vote, the difference between it and the Congress-Trinamul alliance in 2009 was just 1.6 per cent.

The collapse of the alliance has created two major grey areas in these civic polls. One, what was the Congress’s share in the alliance’s total vote and how much of its success was because of the national factor, i.e. the all-India swing in favour of the Congress?

There’s no doubt, though, that the Congress’s vote share was much smaller than Trinamul’s, for the simple reason that the former fought for half the number of seats that Trinamul contested.

But how small is the Congress’s own vote? Interestingly, the Congress and Trinamul have never fought an election to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation in an alliance. In the districts, lower-level adjustments among them and also the BJP, however, have long been an accepted practice.

The results of Assembly and parliamentary polls since 2001, however, make one thing clear — a Congress-Trinamul alliance’s share is far larger than that of a Trinamul-BJP tie-up. These polls also show that, despite its decline since Mamata took away a large chunk of the anti-Left vote in Bengal, the Congress has had an average of 14 per cent vote of its own. The last two civic polls in Calcutta in 2000 and 2005, when also the Congress and Trinamul fought separately, the former had a vote share of about 13 per cent.

So what happens if Mamata loses most of that Congress vote? Even if the Congress’s vote isn’t enough to fetch it many seats in Calcutta or most of the other 80 civic bodies that go to the polls on Sunday, it may cause much damage to Mamata’s fortunes. The question is how much. It’s easier to figure it out in an Assembly or parliamentary election. But in civic polls, with their small constituencies, small vote shares can have a big impact on the main players’ fortunes.

Then there is the other big question that the break-up of the alliance raises — how would the Muslim vote behave in this changed scenario? If the Muslims deserted the CPM in large numbers in 2009, this clearly had two broad reasons — one, the anger and fear in the community over the CPM’s land-for-industry policy and two, the community’s anxiety not to let the BJP come back to power at the Centre and hence its decision to flock to the Congress and its allies (Trinamul in Bengal). Which one was a bigger factor? Did the Muslims in Calcutta see things differently from their compatriots in the Bengal districts?

The massive erosion in the Left vote was mainly in the rural areas, though the overall political pattern showed as strongly in the districts as in Calcutta. According to an analysis of the 2009 results by the New Delhi-based Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, the Left and the non-Left had an equal share of votes — 44 per cent — among the professional and salaried people in urban areas.

Among the skilled and semi-skilled workers in urban areas, the Left was still ahead with 57 per cent of the vote, compared with the non-Left’s 37 per cent. It is among the business classes that the Left suffered the biggest reverse in the towns.

Finally, there is the question whether 2009 was an aberration or spike, as statisticians call it, because of a sudden and dramatic change in the normal voting pattern. In most elections in Bengal since 1984, except between 2004 and 2006, the vote shares of the Left and its opponents had been roughly equal.

If one week is a long time in politics, one year could be an eternity. The CPM hopes that the passing of one year has lessened the intensity of the anger against it. It points to the student union elections earlier this year as evidence of the changing mood.

For all the advances made by Trinamul, the SFI, the students’ wing of the CPM, won 252 of the 406 college polls and its allies another three. Trinamul and the Congress student bodies got 151. For the 88 colleges in Calcutta, the tally was 64 for the SFI and allies and 24 for the Trinamul students’ wing. (In 2008-2009, the comparative figures were 71 and 19).

The Left camp also argues that increasing lawlessness and disruptions in public life could make more sections of the people sceptical, even fearful, about Trinamul’s agenda for change.

But that’s a fear the CPM has tried to arouse and exploit in this campaign. The question is whether it can be more powerful than the hope for change that Mamata dangles before Bengal.

Mamata refuses to quit, pushes for CBI probe – not CID as in Darjeeling ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

Calcutta, May 29: Mamata Banerjee today dismissed the question of her resignation in the wake of the Jnaneswari Express tragedy, turning her focus to persuading the Centre to order a CBI probe into the derailment.

“What did the chief minister do when the Stephen Court tragedy took place in March claming 43 lives?” the agitated railway minister asked this evening, referring to the fire in the city in March.

The Trinamul leader was responding to a question if she would offer to resign like her cabinet colleague Praful Patel. The civil aviation minister had offered to quit after the Mangalore plane crash a week ago but it was rejected by the Prime Minister.

Mamata had stepped down as railway minister from the BJP-led NDA government in March 2001, demanding the resignation of the then defence minister, George Fernandes, in the wake of the Tehelka expose.

On her return to Calcutta from the train tragedy site yesterday morning, Mamata spoke to the Union home minister to ensure that the CBI probes the incident, Trinamul sources said.

According to rules, the Centre cannot order a CBI probe without a state government’s consent, though higher courts can do so in extraordinary circumstances.

Sources in Delhi said they did not get the impression that the Bengal government would oppose a CBI probe.

Asked if the matter has been discussed with the Centre, Bengal chief secretary Ardhendu Sen said in Calcutta: “I’ve spoken to (Union home secretary) G.K. Pillai about the matter. However, this is not an opportune moment to discuss it and I will comment on it later.”

Mamata today seemed to blame her political rivals for the disaster. “Yesterday’s train disaster was a sabotage and a deep-rooted political conspiracy, hatched by some persons just two days before the civic polls. This was a heinous crime. This is why I asked for a CBI probe to identify those involved. The home ministry has agreed to conduct a CBI probe on the basis of a letter from the railways,” she told a media conference at her Kalighat residence.

Mamata condemned the manner in which the CPM had planned to “exploit the train disaster”. “The CPM had decided to take out a condolence procession yesterday hours after the train disaster in an effort to exploit it for cheap political gains. The party’s main purpose was to slight me before the electorate on the eve of civic polls. But the State Election Commission thankfully stopped it. Going by all this, only a CBI probe can identify the persons behind the train disaster,” Mamata said.

On the Maoists’ involvement, Mamata, however, remained non-committal.

Asked why the names of the Maoists did not figure in the FIR lodged with the police yesterday, the Trinamul chief said: “This is a matter of investigation. The FIR was lodged by the driver of the train who had heard an explosion. This is why a case was registered under the Explosives Act. Now I want the police to probe the matter and find who the culprits are.”

Told that People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities had pointed fingers at the CPM, Mamata said: “I don’t know who said what. I will wait for CBI to identify the culprits.”

Silent on clips

Mamata said there were no fish plates on the tracks, but did not refer to the clips that were removed. “This is a long-welded track and this is why fish plates are not required,” she said.

Fish plates link rail tracks while Pandrol clips fix them to the sleepers. At Rajabandh, the clips were removed on a 50-metre stretch on two tracks.

Mamata shielding Maoists: Yechury – but naturally, the blame game ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

New Delhi, May 29: CPM leader Sitaram Yechury today accused Mamata Banerjee of using yesterday’s rail tragedy to influence public opinion on the eve of civic polls in Bengal while shielding the “culprits” by suggesting that Maoists might not be behind the crash.

The politburo member also urged the Maoists to emulate their counterparts in Nepal and enter the political mainstream.

Yechury expressed displeasure over the railway minister’s insinuations that the CPM could be behind the train disaster. “It is cynical…. All this is being done to influence the public before tomorrow’s municipal polls in Bengal.”

The CPM leader said the Trinamul Congress chief had failed to discharge her duties as minister and was attempting to cover the lapses by shielding those responsible for the incident. “She has chosen to shield the actual culprits by suggesting that Maoists may not be behind the sabotage,” he said.

“The Union railway minister continues to maintain that there was a blast that led to the accident, while the Union home minister has denied that possibility. It is clear that the Union railway minister is seeking to cover up for the serious lapses in her leadership of the railway ministry.”

He added: “Let the Maoists here join the political mainstream.”

Play-safe whiff as CM cancels meet – from red courage to ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU

Calcutta, May 29: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee cancelled a news conference scheduled at Alimuddin Street today, with party sources hinting the chief minister wanted to avoid “unpleasant questions” on yesterday’s train tragedy.

However, the CPM did not let go of the “opportunity” to “discredit” railway minister Mamata Banerjee. The party brought together a host of Left-leaning film personalities and writers at Rabindra Sadan this evening to condemn the Jhargram attack.

The assembly, which included Mrinal Sen, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, and Papiya Adhikari as well as former cricketer Sambaran Banerjee, also took part in a candlelight vigil.

The CPM had earlier wanted to take out a procession condemning the attack. However, the party was restricted to the candlelight vigil after the Election Commission objected to the rally plan, saying it would amount to violation of the election code of conduct with only a day left for the civic polls.

Last evening, Sen, Gangopadhyay, Soumitra Chatterjee, Tarun Majumdar, Nabaneeta Dev Sen and Rituparna Sengupta had joined others in issuing an appeal to the people to make today’s “protest assembly a success”.

CPM mouthpiece Ganashakti too carried the reactions of personalities such as Nirendranath Chakraborty, Usha Ganguly, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Abul Bashar and Chuni Goswami, who condemned the attack on the passenger train. Many of them made an appeal through the newspaper to mobilise public opinion against the Maoists.

Asked why Bhattacharjee had called off today’s news conference, CPM state secretariat member Mohammad Salim said: “The death toll from yesterday’s crash is rising. In the midst of this, it would not have been prudent to get into political wrangling. That is why the chief minister cancelled the briefing.” He added that it would not be right “to attribute motives to an assembly of intellectuals who came to condemn the incident”.

Some party sources said the chief minister wanted to avoid uncomfortable questions on whether the state government had taken adequate measures to ensure security in Maoist-hit areas.

“Mamata had said yesterday that law and order was a state subject. Buddhababu could have faced questions on security, which would have been embarrassing for him ahead of the civic polls. The elections are just a day away,” a CPM leader said.

“Journalists could have prodded him to react on Trinamul MP Sisir Adhikari’s remarks yesterday that the incident (the train derailment) was the handiwork of ‘evil forces who are out to vilify Mamata’. The chief minister does not want to get into such controversial issues now.”

If the candlelight vigil by Left-leaning artistes left a tacit message, some of their counterparts who support Trinamul were not to be left behind. They went a step further.

At a news conference held at the Press Club to condemn the “dastardly act”, Bratya Basu, Suvaprasanna, Samir Aich and Debobrata Bandopadhyay labelled the train derailment a “sabotage” orchestrated by the Left. “If Trinamul has an entente with the Maoists, then why would they want to destroy our image? So it’s obvious who the beneficiary is,” Bandopadhyay said.

With TV channels beaming the Press Club event “live”, the state poll panel objected. Police commissioner G.M. Chakrabarti sent a team to the venue and the meeting was called off abruptly.

Bengal ready for ‘semi-final’ today – Darjeeling not in the Bengal political game any longer ?!!

FROM THE PRESS TRUST OF INDIA

Kolkata, May 30, 2010 at 0159 hrs IST (PTI): Seen as a ‘semi-final’ before the 2011 state Assembly elections, the electoral battle for 81 municipalities in West Bengal will be held on Sunday.

For the ruling Left Front, which is in power in most of the civic bodies, it will be a litmus test after the string of electoral defeats since the 2008 panchayat polls and last year’s Lok Sabha elections. It is to be seen if it will reap dividends from the Congress-Trinamool split. For the Trinamool and the Congress also, it will be a test to ascertain if the individual strengths of the two parties can see them through.

The 141-ward Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) has emerged as a bone of contention between Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and WBPCC President Pranab Mukherjee with the duo trading barbs thick and fast. The war of words between the Trinamool and the Congress started with the former unilaterally announcing its candidates for the KMC and offering its ally just 24 of the 141 wards.

The Congress had demanded 51 wards, including the ones where it either came first or second in the 2005 KMC polls.

Banerjee had even accused the Congress of helping the CPM by dividing votes and taken potshots at them by claiming that her party was not in the UPA at the “mercy” of anyone, but on its own strength.

The WBPCC chief, on the other hand, criticised Banerjee for attempting to marginalise his party in the state. Mukherjee had questioned whether the Trinamool had won 19 Lok Sabha seats in 2009 on its own strength or with support from his party.

The two parties, however, have reached local level adjustments in some municipalities including those in Burdwan district.

West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacherjee, meanwhile, had also recently torn into the Trinamool Congress, accusing it of being a lawless party.

Interestingly, the civic polls will be contested at the backdrop of Banerjee’s claims of a possible

advancing of next year’s Assembly elections.

Of the 81 civic bodies, 51 are held by the Left Front. These include those in districts like North 24 Parganas where the Left citadel has crumbled. Of the 21 municipalities, Left runs the board in 19.

Poll hours:

7 am to 3 am (Voters to carry voter identity cards or any other valid residential proof)Counting and results: June 2

Important numbers:

State Election Commission — 2280-1392/ 5277/ 5805 Kolkata Police Control room — 2214-3024 / 2214-3230 / 2214-1310

Municipalities going to polls:

* Kolkata Municipal Corporation

* Hooghly district — Twelve muncipalities

* Burdwan district — Six muncipalities

* Birbhum district — Three municipalities

* Bankura — Three municipalities

* West Midnapore — Six municipalities

* East Midnapore — Two municipalities

* Howrah — One municipality

* North 24 Parganas — 21 municipalities

* South 24 Parganas — Three municipalities

* Nadia — Seven municipalities

* Murshidabad — Six municipalities

* Jalpaiguri — One municipalities

* Malda — Two municipalities

* Cooch Behar — Four municipalities

* Purulia — Three municipalities

(NOTE * – And Darjeeling District’s 4 municipalities ?!!)

All booths in Kolkata, Salt Lake high-sensitive

As Bengal goes to polls, security concerns are paramount in the state following police reports apprehending violence and bloodshed on election day. The CPM and Trinamool Congress had also expressed similar fears earlier.

The state government has, meanwhile, declared all booths in Kolkata and Salt Lake as highly sensitive.

“We are not taking any chances and are deploying forces to the maximum strength to prevent any untoward incident during poll day. For the past few days, strict checking at the borders of districts are being conducted,” said DGP Bhupinder Singh.

The state government, which asked for 135 companies of Armed forces from other states and the Centre, has got only 68 companies. Armed forces have already started patrolling the streets of Kolkata, including sensitive areas. Apart from CRPF, armed forces of Punjab Police, SSB jawans, Kerala Police and others have been pressed into action in Bengal.

GORKHA POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: Jaswant meets Chidambaram for peace in Darjeeling

GORKHA POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: Jaswant meets Chidambaram for peace in Darjeeling – at last some positive action, a small but important step forward ?!!   

Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh & P Chidambaram - old colleagues ?!! (File Photo)

FROM THE PRESS TRUST OF INDIA   

New Delhi, May 28 (PTI) Lok Sabha member from Darjeeling Jaswant Singh today met Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and appealed to him to ensure peace in the hilltown in wake of the killing of top Gorkha leader Madan Tamang.    

“I have appealed to the Home Minister to ensure peace and law and order in Darjeeling. The GJM is for peace and tranquillity,” Singh told reporters after meeting Chidambaram.    

Singh said he will visit Darjeeling tomorrow and attend a peace rally there.    

On being questioned on allegations of involvement of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) for Tamang’s murder, Singh said the CBI could be asked to probe the incident.    

“Let the CBI probe the murder and the truth will come out,” he said.   

Cellphone & video footage clue to killers – minister comes to darjeeling to meet tamang’s family – (much fairer headline ?!!) 

A Memorial at Gorkha Leader Madan Tamang's murder site - GJM, as the moral power in Darjeeling, to help in the murder investigation ?!! (Photo by Suman Tamang

BY VIVEK CHHETRI    

Darjeeling, May 28: Sleuths probing the murder of ABGL chief Madan Tamang are relying on telephone numbers and video clippings to identify the killers.   

Sources who are in the know of things maintained that the investigators started making headway after tracking down various mobile phone numbers.   

They also said that a cellphone was also found at Clubside motor stand, the site where Tamang was hacked to death on May 21, but there was no confirmation from the investigators. “We are tracking a few numbers and the investigation is heading in the right direction,” a source added.   

In fact, the CID team has already detained a dealer of a cellular service provider as some of the SIM cards had been issued from his shop. “The SIM cards seem to have changed hands and we are trying to verify who were using the cards,” an investigator said.   

Apart from the SIM cards, police have also found a 32-inch long patang, a sharp weapon. The patang might not have been the murder weapon but investigators believe that they can locate the area where it was made. “Different places use different material, depending on the locally available resources, to make the handle of such weapons. The area where it has been made has more or less been identified,” said a source.   

The police have also laid their hands on a video footage in which some of the members of the gang that had attacked Tamang can be seen. “We can see one of them chasing the ABGL supporters right till the end of the Clubside motor stand before retreating,” said an officer, refusing to reveal the source of the footage.   

There are strong suggestions that the group might have come only to disrupt the ABGL meeting that Tamang was supposed to address. “Even though these people had an opportunity to assault other ABGL leaders, they did not. The leaders were seen running away. No one was hurt. The idea might have been to disrupt the meeting but on seeing Tamang rooted to his place someone might have hacked him,” a source said, claiming that it was purely his “personal view”. This, however, does not absolve the people of the murder charges, he added.   

Investigators believe that they have “more or less” identified the group involved in the attack. However, they are trying to find out the masterminds of the crime.   

“The CID is trying to gather as much evidence as possible before making any arrests,” said a source.   

But amid the CID investigations, there has been a growing demand for a CBI probe into the murder.   

Asok Bhattacharya (extreme left) on his way to Madan Tamang’s house - just paying respect or garnering 'anti-Gorkha' support ?!! (Photo Suman Tamang)

State urban development minister, who arrived in Darjeeling today to express his condolence to the late ABGL leader’s family, said he would convey the demand to the chief minister in deference to the “wishes of the hill people.”   

Almost all the hill parties, including the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, whose members are widely believed to have carried out the murder, have demanded a CBI probe, expressing their lack of faith in the state controlled CID.   

Bhattacharya, who visited Darjeeling after more than two years, said: “Since it is the hill people’s wish to involve the CBI in the investigations, I will convey the message to the chief minister.”   

The CPM MLA from Siliguri also maintained that people in the hills wanted peace. “The people of the hills wish for peace and want the law and order machinery to function properly. I have also asked the police to maintain law and order,” said Bhattacharya, who had represented the state government along with health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra in the first round of political level talks on Darjeeling.   

Bhattacharya said he had come to Darjeeling only to offer condolence to the bereaved family.   

“I have not come to indulge in politics,” he said, adding that the party leaders would meet Bengal governor M.K. Narayanan when he returned to Darjeeling on June 2. The governor is in Goa now.   

Mohan Sharma, the general secretary of the ABGL’s trade union, while demanding a CBI inquiry iterated that the lack of security had led to Tamang’s murder. “Had there been adequate protection, the incident would not have taken place. It is only obvious that doubts over the state’s role in failing to protect Madan Tamang arises,” said Sharma.   

The ABGL has, however, decided to hold a condolence meeting at the site where Tamang was murdered at 10am tomorrow. “Leaders of other political parties especially the Democratic Front would also be present,” said Sharma. Tamang’s family member have already constructed a memorial at the site where Tamang was hacked.   

Rally permission – thank you DM, “Peace at any cost” ?!!   

The Morcha has been given permission to hold a public meeting at St Joseph’s School grounds on Sunday. Raju Pradhan, assistant secretary of the Morcha, said the venue of the meeting has been changed from motor stand to accommodate more supporters.   

Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh, who said he would attend Sunday’s rally, today met Union home minister P. Chidambaram and appealed to him to ensure peace in the hill town in the wake of Tamang’s killing, reports PTI.   

“I have appealed to the home minister to ensure peace and law and order in Darjeeling. The GJM (Morcha) is for peace and tranquillity,” Singh told reporters in Delhi after meeting Chidambaram.   

Asked about the alleged Morcha role in Tamang’s murder, Singh said the CBI could be asked to probe.   

“Let the CBI probe the murder and the truth will come out,” he said.  

MEANWHILE  

Asok promises CBI probe into Tamang killing – still ‘upto tricks’, with ‘anti-Gorkha’ activists: but naturally ?!!   

Asok Bhattacharya - last hurrah, soon to lose all power after Municipality polls on May 30, 2010 ?!!

From The Statesman News Service  

SILIGURI, 28 MAY (SNS): The state urban development minister Mr Asok Bhattacharya has assured the slain Gorkha League chief Madan Tamang’s family of raising their demand for a CBI probe into the assassination with the chief minister. (finally ?!!)
  
Mr Bhattacharya made the assurance, by visiting the bereaved family at their Gandhi Road residence in Darjeeling this morning. He was accompanied by the CPI-M Darjeeling Rajya Sabha MP Mr Saman Pathak and the party’s state committee member Mr Jibesh Sarkar.  

Today’s was the urban development minister’s first Darjeeling visit in a year, after the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM) barred the entry of state ministers’ to the Hills. Mr Bhattacharya had last visited Darjeeling in May 2009, during the Lok Sabha polls. 
  
“The minister came to out residence at around 10:30 a.m. today and extended condolence to my mother and other family members. He also listened patiently to all our grievances against the local administration and assured placing our demand for a CBI probe to the chief minister by meeting him in Kolkata tomorrow itself,” informed the slain Gorkha League chief’s son Mr Sanjyog Tamang.  

“I have asked the administration to stand by the Hills people, especially when they were raising voice against the GJMM atrocities,” he said. Towards afternoon, the Darjeeling district Left Front brought a protest rally in Siliguri, condemning the Maoist violence and the assassination of Madan Tamang, where Mr Bhattacharya also participated.  

Meanwile, Lok Sabha member from Darjeeling Mr Jaswant Singh today met Union home minister Mr P Chidambaram and appealed to him to ensure peace in the hilltown in the wake Tamang’s killing.  

“I have appealed to the Home Minister to ensure peace and law and order in Darjeeling. The GJM is for peace and tranquillity,” Mr Singh said. Mr Singh said he will visit Darjeeling tomorrow and attend a peace rally there.  

AIGL, CPRM to launch stir – for more turmoil  and ‘anti-Gorkha’ activities again and again, enough is enough ?!!
 
Apparently to counter the GJMM campaign denying its involvement in the Madan Tamang murder case, the AIGL and the CPRM are busy making groundwork to launch a movement once the mourning period for slain AIGL leader is over.  

Confirming they would not sit idle in the changing political landscape in the Darjeeling hills, the leaders of the two parties said that the state government seemed to have bungled again with the situation, letting those allegedly involved in the butchery roam free.  

(More posts only after BSNL gets their act together – still no connection, BSNL an important tool for playing Bengal’s snide politics – sever all communications, real Democratic to let the hills suffer ?!!)  

TEA WATCH: Kanthalguri to go organic

TEA WATCH: Kanthalguri to go organic

Better days ahead: The factory of the Kanthalguri tea estate that will reopen on June 2

AVIJIT SINHA

Siliguri, May 28: Kanthalguri Tea Estate, which will reopen on June 2 after eight years, will be developed on the lines of Makaibari not only in terms of organic production but also participatory management where “workers will be partners”.

“We have a plan to uproot the tea bushes and start organic production, the future of the industry that can largely contribute to the sustainable development of the garden as well as those associated with it,” said Rajah Banerjee, the owner of Makaibari Tea Estate, today — a day after Calcutta-based Airon Private Limited announced the take-over of Kanthalguri

Banerjee, who is associated with Airon, said: “We have decided to adopt the holistic approach of participatory management where workers will be partners and together we will strive for comprehensive development of the garden and produce the best quality of organic tea.”

Efforts would be put in to revive and conserve the environment through the production of bio-gas, maintenance of greenery and render an improved and refreshing look to the garden much like Makaibari.

Dubbed as the “garden of death” — at least 340 worker deaths were reported in the past eight years in Kanthalguri — the estate in Banarhat had closed down on July 14, 2002 with 1,487 workers. Since then, there had been several initiatives to reopen the estate, but the state government found it hard to buy any prospective buyer.

“It was really nice to hear from the representatives of the company yesterday evening that they will reopen Kanthalguri on June 2. It was a long-standing task which we, with the help of all stakeholders, could finally complete,” said Vandana Yadav, the district magistrate of Jalpaiguri.

“In yesterday’s meeting, it was decided that of the 1,112 workers’ families, employment will be provided to one member each,” Yadav said. “In the next seven years, members from the 340 families (where worker deaths were reported) will be provided jobs.”

Usually, a garden worker gets employment for 280 days a year. “As of now, the new management will provide employment for 180 days while the government will offer jobs under the 100-days’ work scheme to make up for the shortage. Other welfare schemes will continue,” an official said.

Trade union leaders have welcomed the move. “Kanthalguri was like a nightmare,” said Mani Kumar Darnal, the joint general secretary of the Intuc-affiliated National Union of Plantation Workers. “It is indeed an achievement that the garden will finally open.”

Tea workers demand wage hike outside pact

FROM THE HINDU
BY INDRANI DUTTA

May 27, 2010: Tea workers are demanding a slice of the improved fortune that the industry has been enjoying for some time with prices ruling firm for nearly two years in a row. They are demanding an interim wage hike outside the existing accord saying they need protection against the current inflationary spiral. Although a three-year tripartite wage agreement was sealed between the industry, the workers and the government in May 2008, the workers employed in many gardens of the Dooars, Darjeeling and Terai regions in north Bengal are demanding a wage-hike saying that they should get an interim wage increase to buffer against the increase in prices of essential commodities, especially food items. They also want a wage board for the tea industry.

Through the two tripartite meetings that have been held so far, one in the presence of the state labour minister and the other in the labour director’s office, the industry has said that it is unable “to budge on the issue and the workers are requested to wait for the next agreement which falls due in May 2011,” a source in the apex industry association told The Hindu.

EARLIER

Darjeeling tea garden managers’ role suspected in Tamang murder – no more ‘broken leaves’ smuggled in from Nepal ?!!

FROM DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS (DNA)
By Sumanta Ray Chadhuri

Kolkata, Wednesday, May 26, 2010 1:56 IST (DNA): West Bengal Police probing the murder of Gorkha leader Madan Tamang has come across some clues that hint at a nexus between Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leaders and some present and former tea garden managers in Darjeeling.

It, however, isn’t sure if they played a role in Tamang’s murder.

Darjeeling had witnessed a rise in the growth of small tea gardens, which GJM favoured.

Tamang, however, protested against it claiming that the tea gardens were formed by illegally acquiring fields. “Many tea garden managers in Darjeeling, who were later posted elsewhere, have remained in touch with GJM leaders,” sources said.

“We found clues like mobile phone calls lists and emails, which prove there is a nexus between the two,” police said. In fact, a particular tea garden manager of a reputed Darjeeling tea company is under the scanner.

“Last year although his company transferred him, he still maintained his links with GJM. He frequently came to Darjeeling and held meetings with GJM leaders. He also played an active role in building links between GJM leaders and the present set of tea garden managers in Darjeeling,” he said.

He, however, ruled out the possibility of summoning any tea garden associate.