GORKHA POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: Hill meet fails, hint of boycott – Totally different agendas – has Bengal failed deliberately, not discussing ‘the fishing rod’, but ‘the fish’ brought to the table ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
New Delhi, May 11: The official-level talks between the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, the Bengal government and the Centre collapsed today over differences on the territory to come under the jurisdiction of the interim authority proposed for the Darjeeling hills.
The Morcha even indicated that it might boycott the political level-talks tentatively scheduled for this month end, if the governments did not agree to discuss the question of territory. It also submitted a fresh document to justify its demand for the inclusion of Siliguri and portions of the Dooars and the Terai in the interim set-up.
The meeting, a precursor to the second round of political talks, was a non-starter. Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri stood firm on his demand that no talks were possible without the inclusion of Siliguri and the Terai and Dooars in the interim authority. “We will go back to Darjeeling and decide whether to participate in the political talks.”
Bengal home secretary Samar Ghosh said the mandate for today’s meeting was a discussion on the powers of the interim authority. “A discussion on territory was not part of the mandate. There was no forward movement. We could not discuss anything.” He added that the date for next round of political talks could not be fixed and that the talks might be delayed.
Home ministry officials said the areas being demanded by the Morcha had substantial tribal and Rajbangshi population.
“The situation on the ground is quite different from what the Morcha claims about these groups supporting their cause. There is also the issue of the region being a border area and the only corridor connecting India with the northeastern states,” said a source.
At Writers’ Buildings in Calcutta, Bengal chief secretary Ardhendu Sen said the talks had not collapsed. “The talks did not collapse, only the date for the next round of talks could not be fixed today,” he said. (Panic, reconciliation or reconsideration ?!!)
Giri said the Morcha was not ready to be part of any discussion which did not include the territory. “They will have to discuss the inclusion of Siliguri and the Terai and the Dooars. The Bengal government is backtracking on its previous commitments,” he said.
Giri said a fresh document had been submitted to the Union home ministry. “We have listed the disparities in education and health, the state of the tea gardens and the other problems faced by the people of the Terai and the Dooars, justifying the inclusion of the areas in our proposed interim set-up,” he said.
Hill talks trip over territory – Political bosses know the game, Bengal wasting time and knowingly so ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
New Delhi, May 11: The official-level talks between the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, Bengal government and the Centre failed today following differences over the territory to come under the jurisdiction of the interim authority proposed for the hills.
The Morcha indicated it might boycott the political-level talks, tentatively scheduled for May end, if the governments did not agree to discuss territory. It submitted a fresh document to justify its demand for the inclusion of Siliguri and portions of the Dooars and the Terai under the interim set-up.
At the meeting, a precursor to the second round of political talks, Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri insisted that no talks were possible without the inclusion of Siliguri, the Terai and the Dooars. “We will go back to Darjeeling and decide whether to participate in the political talks,” he said.
Bengal home secretary Samar Ghosh said the meeting was meant to discuss the interim authority’s powers. “A discussion on territory was not part of it. We could not discuss anything.”
In Calcutta, chief secretary Ardhendu Sen said: “The talks did not collapse, only the date for the next round could not be fixed.”
Home ministry officials said the areas demanded by the Morcha has substantial tribal and Rajbangshi populations.
Parties request Morcha to call off shutdown – No request for Bengal, successful only in helping in delay tactics, empowerment by visible proxy ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Darjeeling, May 11: A conglomeration of seven hill parties has appealed to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha to withdraw its proposed strike on May 15 and 16 in the interest of common people.
The parties which are part of the Democratic Front said the shutdown would hit the tourism industry and common people who eke out a living by driving taxis or renting out rooms to the visitors.
Madan Tamang, the president of the ABGL, said: “On behalf of the Democratic Front, we appeal to the Morcha to withdraw their strike. We might have political differences, but at the end of the day, we are working for the welfare of the people. It is in the interest of public welfare that we are extending this appeal.”
The Democratic Front, which was formed on Saturday, includes the CPRM, the second largest party in the hills after the Morcha, the ABGL, the oldest political outfit in the hills, and the BJP among others.
“This is the fifth tourist season in the past three years that has been hampered for various reasons. Surprisingly, this year, Darjeeling is packed till June 15 and the strike will hit the common people hard. The strike could spell doom for the industry and our appeal is merely out of concern for the people,” added Tamang.
“Many hoteliers have to pay their lease. Drivers who have taken bank loans to finance their taxis live the rest of the year with profits made during the tourist season. Politically, the opposition would have gained an advantage because of the strike as people would be frustrated. But we are not looking at the political aspect. Our concern is genuine,” said Tamang.
Dawa Sherpa, the state secretary of the BJP, said: “When talks are progressing, when there is no major political development, we do not think that the strike is necessary, unless, of course, they have other compulsions.”
Sherpa did not elaborate on the compulsions.
The Morcha has called the strike to put pressure on the state and Centre before the next round of political level talks. The strike is set to affect the tourism industry as it has been called during the peak season.
Travel agents say Darjeeling can accommodate 8,000 tourists on any given day, while around 2,000 enter the hill town every day during this time of the year. A tourist, on an average, spends around Rs 1,250, a day, tour operators said.
Bimal Gurung, the president of the Morcha who takes the final call on the party programmes, was not available for his reaction to the appeal.
GJM talks inconclusive; Centre, Bengal reject demand for including more areas – naturally changing history, Subhash Ghising, Jyoti Basu or Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee now to blame ?!!
FROM THE TIMES OF INDIA
By Vishwa Mohan
NEW DELHI, TNN, May 12, 2010, 03.39am IST: Tripartite talks among the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), West Bengal government and the Centre appear to have hit a roadblock. The administrative-level consultations among the three parties on Tuesday resulted in a stalemate over the territorial jurisdiction of the recently-proposed interim set-up for Darjeeling.
GJM’s insistence on the inclusion of the Gorkha-dominated parts of the Terai and Dooars in the proposed set-up saw the discussion end inconclusively as both the Centre and the state are learnt to have outrightly rejected the demand due to security concerns.
Sources in the home ministry said that both the Centre and the state government were for limiting the proposed set-up — Darjeeling Regional Authority — to the hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong.
An official said: “The unique geographical location of the region — a thin strip of land called Chicken’s Neck which separates China (*?!!) (or Nepal) and Bangladesh and also connects India’s mainland with the North-East — is the main reason why the government does not want to look beyond the three sub-divisions.”
The Centre and state’s view was, however, not acceptable to GJM. Its leader Roshan Giri, who led the five-member delegation for the discussions here on Tuesday, told TOI that the Morcha was in no mood to discuss the issues concerning the interim set-up unless the government accepted its demand over the territorial issue.
He said: “The government insisted on discussion over devolution of power instead of considering our demand of additional territory. We cannot discuss devolution of power without clubbing all the Gorkha-inhabited areas into the proposed set-up.”
Tuesday’s discussion, attended by senior officials of the Union home ministry and the West Bengal government, was meant to prepare the groundwork for the next round of political-level talks later this month.
Asked whether the Morcha’s current stand would derail the political-level talks which might be held in the month-end, Giri said: “Let us first discuss it with GJM chief Bimal Gurung and other leaders. We may go ahead with the political-level talks, but we want the government to clear the air over the territorial issue.”
Gurung, who has been demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland since 2007, had floated a new proposal for an interim set-up in the hills till December 31, 2011.
Though the proposal was accepted by the government, further discussion faced hurdles with GJM insisting on the inclusion of additional Gorkha-inhabited areas in the interim set-up.
GJM walks out of meet, ‘talks’ take a blow – clear enough signal to Bengal and the Centre ?!!
From Express news service
New Delhi, Wed, May 12 2010, 01:07 hrs: A Gorkha Janmukti Morcha delegation on Tuesday walked out of a meeting with officials of the West Bengal government and the Union Home Ministry here. It refused to budge from its stand on the inclusion of Siliguri and Dooars in the the interim set-up proposed by the Centre for the administration of Darjeeling and surrounding areas.
The impasse has jeopardised the next round of tripartite talks at the political level scheduled to be held this month-end.
“We made it clear in today’s discussions that we will not compromise on the demand for inclusion of Siliguri and Dooars in the interim setup,” GJM general secretary Roshan Giri told reporters.
He said the West Bengal delegation, led by the state home secretary Samar Ghosh, had told them that they did not have the mandate to discuss territory in the proposed set up. Giri led the five-member GJM delegation comprising central committee members Amar Lama, Harka Bahadur Chettri and party representatives Trilok Dewan and Kitab Singh Rai.
Fresh uncertainty likely in Darjeeling Hills as talks fail – Time to again tighten belt, or gear up for more Guerrilla tactics ?!!
FROM THE HINDU
BY THE HINDU SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
KOLKATA, MAY 11: The spectre of a fresh spell of political uncertainty looms large over the Darjeeling Hills with the tripartite talks on an interim administrative set-up for the region earlier proposed by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) ending inconclusively in New Delhi on Tuesday.
“We wanted talks on the territorial status of the proposed interim arrangement but there were no discussions in this regard. As a result we did not want any further discussions,” GJM general secretary Roshan Giri, who led a delegation to the administrative-level talks, told The Hindu over telephone from the Capital.
The GJM has already called a 48-hour bandh in the Darjeeling Hills from May 15 in support of its demand for the inclusion of parts of the Terai and the Dooars in the jurisdiction of the proposed interim administrative set-up. State and Central government offices except banks and post-offices remained closed with the agitation entering its second day.
On whether the agitation would be intensified as the talks were inconclusive, Mr. Giri said a decision on the matter would be taken by GJM chief Bimal Gurung.
The GJM leaders present at the talks made it clear that there could be no discussions, till December 31, 2011, on an interim set-up, proposed by Mr. Gurung, for the Darjeeling district and certain contiguous areas it without addressing the question of its jurisdiction.
The State government as well as the Centre seemed more interested in deciding on the powers to be granted to the proposed interim set-up rather than determine its territorial jurisdiction.
“We did not agree with this stand of theirs,” Harkha Bahadur Chettri, a member of the GJM central committee who was part of the delegation, said. “Our stand is clear. We want the inclusion of Siliguri and parts of the Dooars and the Terai where the Gorkha community is predominant,” Mr. Giri said.
Discussions on matters relating to the territorial jurisdiction of the proposed administrative arrangement were “not the mandate of the meeting.” “As a result the discussions did not progress far,” said West Bengal’s Home Secretary Samar Ghosh who attended the talks. There is also a strong likelihood of the next round of tripartite talks at the political level being deferred. It was earlier scheduled to be held later this month.
WAY WAY BACK – TWO YEARS AGO
Paving the way for hill talks in New Delhi – Talks only, no action as Bengal remains inflexible ?!!
A Gorkha Janmukti Morcha team is in New Delhi to pave the way for tripartite talks to resolve the impasse in the Darjeeling hills. Though both the Centre and the state are against a separate state the Morcha is adamant the issue be on the agenda – so now Bengal and the Center are also against any ‘Special Administrative Authority Area’ proposal too ?!!
Wed, Aug 20, 2008 20:30:33 IST: IN PREPARATION of the tripartite talks to resolve the imbroglio in the hills of Darjeeling in West Bengal, a nine-member Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) delegation is in New Delhi. The team will meet external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee to pave the way for a cordial atmosphere and finalise a date for the tripartite talks.
Early this week the Morcha president Bimal Gurung had said his party would stage a walk-out if the Gorkhaland issue was not on the agenda in the tripartite meeting in New Delhi. The issue on the agenda is Gorkhaland and that was meant to be the basis of talks. If Gorkhaland is not on the agenda, the talk would be meaningless, Gurung had said.
He was reacting to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s contention in the weekend in the foot hill town of Siliguri that the state government would not take into consideration the demand for a separate state. Critical of the manner in which the Morcha was going about its agitation he had said it was undemocratic and unlawful.
The state government has also been frowning at the Morcha’s move to change ‘WB’ number-plates to ‘GL’ on hill vehicles. The Morcha has also threatened that hill residents would not pay electricity and telephone bills. In its latest act of belligerence Morcha leaders did not to allow the final rites of Gorkha National Liberation front (GNLF) chief, Subash Ghisingh’s wife in the hills. She died in Siliguri recently.
The Morcha’ contention is that what the chief minister considers to be undemocratic and unlawful is actually a non-cooperation movement.
The team to New Delhi is led Morcha central committee secretary Roshan Giri. The delegation includes Amar Lama, Taranga Pandit, Palden Lama, P. Arjun, Pradeep Pradhan, Anmol Prasad, Ram Bhujel and Dr Rohit Sharma.
The Morcha had received an invitation for tripartite talks from the Centre routed through the Bengal chief secretary. However, the date and the agenda have not yet been fixed. The delegation will ensure Gorkhaland is included in the agenda of the talks, Benoy Tamang, the press and publicity secretary of the Morcha told the media.
Meanwhile, officials from West Bengal and Delhi discussed the framework for tripartite talks. State chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb and state home secretary Ashok Mohan Chakrabarti, said the date for the talks will be decided after consulting the Union home minister Shivraj Patil and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Yesterday’s meeting over tripartite talks was chaired by Union home secretary Madhukar Gupta.
MEANWHILE IN THE PLAINS OF DARJEELING
Security plans before polls – time running out, still making hay ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, May 11: Four paramilitary companies have been sought for the May 30 polls to seven municipalities in north Bengal, half of which will be deployed in Cooch Behar district.
“Keeping in view the recent spate of political violence in Cooch Behar district and snapping of ties between the Congress and Trinamul Congress which has changed the ground scenario, I have asked for four companies of paramilitary forces for the civic polls,” said K.L. Tamta, the inspector-general of police (north Bengal).
Two companies will be deployed in Cooch Behar district, where four civic bodies — Cooch Behar, Mathabhanga, Dinhata and Toofanganj — will go to polls, Tamta said. Along with the four, elections will also be held in the Jalpaiguri municipality and the Englishbazar and the Old Malda civic bodies in Malda district on May 30.
Thousands of Trinamul Congress supporters went on the rampage in Toofanganj yesterday morning, ransacking at least a dozen CPM party offices and triggering tension. Section 144 has been clamped in the subdivisional town.
In Malda, police seized a Stengun and 40 live cartridges from a gunrunner in town yesterday and sent alerts across the state. The weapon was similar to 20 guns in the Malda police armoury, the district police chief had said. The alert was sent to find out if any security agency had reported any missing arms. The serial number and seal of the seized gun had been filed off.
Tamta said: “The remaining two companies will be distributed between Malda and Jalpaiguri districts. We are expecting the forces by the end of this week, so that they can stage a flag march in sensitive areas of the districts ahead of the elections, which will be a confidence-building measure for the residents of the areas.”
The police are apprehending breach of law and order in Jalpaiguri also since the Congress and Trinamul are contesting against each other.
Tamta said three platoons each of the Rapid Action Force and the Indian Reserve Battalion and two platoons of the State Armed Police, now held in reserve for north Bengal, would be used to keep a watch on law and order in the region during the polls.
The seven municipalities will have 259 election booths. Of them, 58 will be in Cooch Behar, 45 in Jalpaiguri and 156 in Malda districts.
“Two armed policemen will be deployed in each booth and one sub-inspector will be posted on the premises having four booths. If there is a polling centre with more than four booths, an inspector will be deployed to check untoward incidents,” Tamta said.
Clamp curtails civic campaigns – Section 144 extended till Friday in Toofanganj – another Chattisgarh in the making ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Toofanganj, May 11: The Cooch Behar district administration today extended the prohibitory orders under Section 144 in this town till Friday, virtually preventing political parties from campaigning for a good part of the week 19 days before the civic polls.
The move comes a day after Trinamul Congress supporters ransacked at least a dozen CPM party offices in the subdivisional town. Four municipalities — Toofanganj, Cooch Behar, Dinhata and Mathabhanga — in the district will go to polls on May 30.
Cooch Behar superintendent of police Kalyan Banerjee said considering the situation, the prohibitory order would remain in force till Friday. “There will be no assemblies till Friday and police will patrol the town. We have so far arrested 17 people in connection with yesterday’s violence. The situation is, however, under control,” he said.
Yesterday’s violence was triggered by an attack on a Trinamul party office by a CPM mob, allegedly led by the party’s MLA from Natabari, Tamsher Ali. Mamata Banerjee’s party alleged that Ali and his goons had stabbed at least five of its supporters during the attack. Thousands of Trinamul supporters went on the rampage soon after.
On Sunday, a CPM candidate from Ward 11, Kartik Karmakar, was beaten up and stones thrown at his house by alleged Trinamul supporters. In retaliation, the CPM had called a six-hour bandh here yesterday.
A member of the CPM district secretariat, Jaba Pal, however, said the party candidates would campaign without violating the prohibitory orders. “They will go out with not more than four persons to campaign till the orders are relaxed. There was no campaigning today as a result of yesterday’s violence. Had the police not remained inactive, such damage could not have taken place. Our cadres and supporters showed tremendous restraint yesterday,” she said.
Bibhuti Das, a Trinamul candidate from Ward 9, said no one from his party had stepped out to campaign because of Section 144. “The situation is gradually returning to normal. Let’s see if we can campaign tomorrow,” Das said.
A state secretary of Trinamul, Abdul Jalil Ahmed, blamed the CPM for yesterday’s incident. “It was their MLA who came to Toofanganj and created the trouble. We want peaceful elections. We will appeal to the subdivisional officer to relax the prohibitory orders so that we can carry out campaigning,” he said.
Sitting at his home, a jittery Karmakar said he was living in constant fear of being attacked. “I am regretting the fact that I am contesting the polls. On Sunday night my two children were injured by stones thrown at my house,” he said.
Nabin Sarkar, a taxi driver in town, said he had never felt so insecure in the past. “Ever since Trinamul wrested the two panchayat samities in the last polls, clashes erupt at the slightest provocation with people from outside creating tension. Nowadays, whenever a Trinamul procession passes through an area, people take shelter indoors,” he said.
Mahinur Rehman, who drives his own vehicle for those who hire it, however, did not fully agree with Nabin and blamed the Left party for the violence. “The CPM calls frequent bandhs in Toofanganj. There was a Bharat bandh some days ago, then there was a strike to protest the BSF killing a woman and a child and again there was a bandh yesterday. It is because of this frequent shutdowns that violence erupts and life gets disrupted,” he said.
ECOLOGY: Survey on shades of hill red – meaning political ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, May 11: The forest department along with St Joseph’s College is conducting a survey in wildlife I division, which includes a national park and a sanctuary, to assess the status of various species of rhododendrons that lend colour to the Darjeeling hills in spring.
Come spring and the hills are covered with hues of red, the colour of most species of the tree.
The survey in Singalila National Park at 4,000ft and Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary at 3,500ft, and its adjoining forest areas comes close on the heels of Sikkim celebrating a rhododendron festival, in which the Himalayan state had brought European experts to study the trees.
“Old records available with us indicate that about 28 species of rhododendrons are found in the eastern Himalayan region particularly in Sikkim and the Darjeeling hills. We felt the need to update the data and have taken up this exercise to make a status survey,” said Sumita Ghatak, the divisional forest officer, wildlife-I.
“The survey, which began last month, is being conducted with the botany department of St Joseph’s College in Darjeeling,” she added.
The rhododendrons are mostly found in Sandakphu and Phalut at Singalila and in certain places at Neora Valley National Park, also at 4,000ft, and the sanctuary at Senchal.
Rhododendrons are known to have medicinal use. Some botanists claim that petals of the species commonly known as Lali gurans are dried and can be consumed with sugar to cure blood dysentery, cough, jaundice, diabetes, and liver disorders.
Joseph Dalton Hooker, a botanist, was the first one to enlist the different species of rhododendrons found in the eastern Himalayas.
Hooker visited Darjeeling in 1846 and he had collected about 7,000 species of plants, including rhododendrons, from various places in India and Nepal. After his return to England, he classified and named them. This led to the inclusion of 25 new species of rhododendrons. Hooker published his findings in the Himalayan Journals in 1854.
“The rapid construction of houses and use of wood as fuel, along with natural calamities like landslides, are reasons why several species of rhododendrons are fast disappearing from the forests in the hills,” said a senior forest official.
“A study to know the exact number of existing species and the causes for the depletion of the others, a comprehensive conservation plan is the need of the hour,” said an environmentalist.
The divisional forest officer said the department will try to find out if any species have degenerated or is degenerating fast.
“In that case, we will try to assess the probable reasons and whether the presence of wildlife in the forests like Singalila is causing any negative impact on the growth of the rhododendrons,” Ghatak said.
According to the officer, 12 to 15 species are found in the forests under wildlife division-I.
The department had also approached some local NGOs to work with them on the survey.
“This will help our task as being locals, the NGO members are well aware of the various species and the forests and they can work better than people from outside for whom the terrain is unknown,” the forester said.
MEANWHILE – OTHER NEWS
Jawan held – with improvised gun … by ?!!
Darjeeling, May 11: A CRPF jawan vacationing at home in Chungthung was arrested with an improvised gun in Darjeeling town on Tuesday evening. Samir Dewan was picked up during a raid on an unlicensed liquor bar in the supermarket. He was posted in Patna.
Siliguri: The 4083 Dn Sikkim-Mahananda Express, scheduled to leave Alipurduar Junction for Delhi on Thursday, will not run because of the cancellation of the corresponding 4084 Up train, said the Northeast Frontier Railway on Tuesday.
Seven years for rape
Siliguri, A resident of Kelaramjote near Naxalbari was sentenced to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment by the additional district and sessions judge of fast track second court, Pulak Kundu, today in connection with a rape in 2004.
Shampa Dey, the assistant public prosecutor, said Hasimuddin had raped the woman on June 13, 2004. He was caught by the victim’s neighbours who later handed him over to the police. The court also slapped a fine of Rs 2,000 on Hasimuddin.
Alipurduar: A bison injured three persons, one of them a schoolgirl, in a village near Jaldapara on Tuesday before it died after being darted twice by the forest staff. The forest department filed an FIR against six persons for assaulting a beat officer who had visited Singhpara village. The villagers alleged that the officer was inefficient and had failed to drive away the bison.
Siliguri: Parents of students studying at Buddhabharati Bhubanmohan Vidya School and local Trinamul leaders submitted a memorandum to the subdivisional officer Rajat Kumar Saini and mayor Gangotri Dutta on Tuesday complaining about the poor quality mid-day meal served at the institution on Friday.
Jalpaiguri: Silaram Murmua, a 42-year-old resident of Khuniabusty, was trampled to death by a elephant on Tuesday afternoon.
Yet Another Press Grouping In Kalimpong – Journalists Political Club of Kalimpong ?!!
KalimNews: Kalimpong Press Forum is formed as an enlarged Press Association of Kalimpong comprising of all working journalists including Print and electronic media personnel. A joint meeting held on 11 May at Kalimpong elected Arun Kumar Rasaily of Kalimpong Press Club and Sandip Jain of Journalist Association of Kalimpong as Joint Coordinators for the Adhoc Committee.
It will work for the benefit and security and unity among the press fraternity of Kalimpong. On 23rd May it will organise an Interaction programme inviting dignitaries and Political leaders on the demand of Gorkhaland and the role of Press. Earlier both the KPC and JAK had resolved for such an association in their respective committee meeting.
(However, Kalimpong TV (KTV), and other National as well as International Journalists with provenance have abstained from joining any of the said forums “due to their parochial and confused political leanings, agenda and objectives”.)
KalimNews: Prabin Gurung Secretary of Hill Area Social Welfare and Awareness Society as well as United Form for Plantation was attaked by a group of miscreants near Mayalu Golai of Gairibas in the Jaldhaka Police Station.
An FIR is lodged in Jaldhaka Thana.
Gurung told a Press conference in Siliguri that he was attacked with punches on his face for his complaint on illegal felling of trees in that area which according to him is done with the direction of S K Mal, Manager of Rongo Medicinal Plantation.