GORKHA POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: Bandh gets an apolitical highway ride – Stay-away plea flies against SC order – to get worse or better, if Bengal continues bifurcation of Darjeeling area tricks ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU
May 12: An “apolitical” outfit supporting the Gorkhaland cause has appealed to people to stay away from the national highway to Sikkim on May 15 and 16, the two days on which the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has called a bandh.
The “appeal” is expected to hit Sikkim-bound traffic despite a Supreme Court directive to the Bengal government and the Centre to keep NH31A, the lifeline of the Himalayan state, free of blockades.
However, keeping in mind the apex court order, the Morcha had announced that it would not picket on the highway during its two-day bandh.
But the National Highway Protection and Welfare Association, which claimed it was apolitical but supported the Morcha cause, today said it would “appeal” to all concerned to refrain from plying vehicles on the road during the strike.
The apex court order had come on a petition filed by a Sikkim resident. Frequent strikes called in Bengal by those supporting and opposing the Gorkhaland agitation had been affecting traffic on the busy highway.
This time too, despite the court directive, owners and drivers of vehicles, especially those ferrying tourists, are reluctant to ply on NH31A during the bandh. Moreover, the three companies of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) that arrived on February 23 in compliance with the apex court order to keep the highway free of blockades left the region on May 4.
“On February 18, four vehicles on way to Siliguri were vandalised by an unidentified group during a general strike called by the Gorkha Janmukti Vidyarthi Morcha. After the incident, all vehicles bound for Siliguri returned to Sikkim,” said a Gangtok-based tour operator.
The general secretary of the Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim, Lukendra Rasailly, said there was already a shortage of vehicles in the Himalayan state. “There could be more shortage as vehicle owners will not take the risk of plying them on the strike days,” Rasailly said. He added that the Darjeeling strike had caused overcrowding in Sikkim with tourists cancelling their bookings and moving to the Himalayan state.
The secretary of the Siliguri Taxi Owners’ Association, Kamal Khawas, however, was non-committal about the “appeal”. “About 200 vehicles run between Siliguri and different destinations in Sikkim. Let us see what happens when the strike begins,” he said.
Despite the Morcha keeping NH31A out of its protests after the court intervention, there were instances in the past when stones were thrown at vehicles plying the highway. Under the circumstances, it is unlikely that anyone will drive their vehicles on NH31A, especially with an apolitical organisation backing the shutdown call.
“We are an apolitical organisation consisting of educated youths living along the stretch between Mungpong and Rangpo. We fully support the Morcha’s statehood agitation. We, therefore, appeal to all concerned not to ply their vehicles along NH31A during the strike,” said Ajay Diyali, the general secretary of the association.
Diyali, however, said they would not picket on the highway. “It’s only an appeal. We are confident that everyone supporting the statehood demand will heed our request,” he said. On February 26, then chief secretary of Bengal Asok Mohan Chakrabarti had assured his Sikkim counterpart T.T. Dorji that the highway would be kept open at all times.
K.L. Tamta, the inspector-general of police, north Bengal, while confirming that the CRPF had left, said: “With the agitation being renewed and given the state of affairs, we have asked for four companies of the CRPF to be deployed in the hills and the highway.”
The police chief, however, ruled out the use of force to clear blockades on the highway during the Morcha strike. “In case any blockade on NH31A is reported, we will approach the agitators and remind them of the Supreme Court verdict and tell them that it should not be violated under any circumstances,” he said. “There is no question of applying force to clear the road.”
Guv briefed on Gorkhaland stand – workable compromise to keep the ‘Dooars Agitation’ on the backburner for now, but to first get back Darjeeling District ?!!
From The Statesman News Service
KOLKATA, 12 May: The chief minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today briefed Governor MK Narayanan, who is scheduled to visit Darjeeling on 16 May on the state government’s stand on Gorkhaland after the tripartite talks at the administrative level held in New Delhi yesterday ended in an impasse.
The discussion between the two lasted an hour. The Gorkha Janmukti (corrected) Morcha (GJM) leaders are expected to meet the Governor during his stay at Darjeeling from 16 May to 6 June.
The draft proposal placed by the Centre for the Hills is short of giving statehood to Gorkhaland but the autonomous interim authority replacing Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) would have legislative powers too. However, they would require the nod of the Governor of West Bengal to implement the legislation.
Meanwhile, the state home secretary, Mr Samar Ghosh who had represented the state at the tripartite talks, today categorically stated that the state government was not ready to concede to the territorial demands of the GJMM, which includes Dooars.
Mr Ghosh said: “ The proposal to include Dooars is not at all acceptable to the state government.”
The home secretary today briefed the chief minister about the fallout of the tripartite meeting.
He added that the state government was willing to discuss the administrative, taxation and legislative powers that would be given to the interim authority. (but where ?!!)
They would be abolished and the state and the Centre were keen to discuss on the initial composition of the interim authority to ensure the development of the Hills but the GJM leaders struck to their demand to decide on the territorial issue. (and Bengal chose to ‘rightly’ ignore the most sensitive issue of unconstitutional Darjeeling District bifurcation ?!!)
Officials of ministry of home affairs said that they did not have the mandate to discuss the issue of territory and hence the talks broke down.
Asked what would be the next step to resolve the deadlock, Mr Ghosh said it is for the Centre to decide.
COMMUNIST ACTIVITIES IN THE DARJEELING PLAINS
ABAVP: Dooars joins strike race – show of strike power for ‘strength or protest’ ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, May 12: The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad has called a 72-hour strike from May 17. The bandh comes close on the heels of another strike — a two-day shutdown called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha from May 15.
The Parishad strike — in demand for recruitment of Hindi-speaking teachers in the primary schools of the Dooars immediately — has nothing to do with its bete noire, the Morcha.
Besides, the Morcha bandh on May 15 and 16 is limited to the hills. But the back-to-back shutdowns have left the tourism sector and the business community jittery. Added to this is a 24-hour strike called by the Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee on May 14 to protest the decision to form an interim set-up for the hills.
Raj Basu of the Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators’ Association said the nature of the strikes was such that it would affect an entire circuit for six days. “Cancellations of bookings has already begun in Darjeeling but we had managed to shift some tourists to the Dooars. But now that the 72- hour strike has been called in the Dooars, there is hardly any option left for us.”
Biswajit Das, secretary of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, North Bengal, said transport of goods would be affected the most. “It is true that these strikes will affect specific areas at a time but trade is inter-linked — from the plains to the hills to Sikkim.”
About 5,000 supporters of the Parishad arrived at the Sports Complex in Jalpaiguri a little after noon.
Hindi not Bengali – Bobbbc perplexed ?!!
“We had written to the district primary school council on May 5 that those who have studied in Bengali medium schools cannot teach students in the Dooars. We need Hindi-speaking teachers,” said John Barla, president of the Dooars-Terai regional unit of the Parishad. “We have called a three-day general strike throughout the Dooars from May 17 to 19.”
With the Parishad members agitating at the Sports Complex, police asked the DPSC officials to meet the protesters. They arrived after three hours at 3.30pm.
Kaushik Roy, the district inspector of schools (primary) of Jalpaiguri, said he would inform the school education department about the Parishad demand.
TOOFANGANJ: Deserted, but not a bandh – Fear keeps all inside – restoring lasting Peace ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Toofanganj, May 12: Monday’s violence has left this subdivisional town dry of the municipal poll fervour with people hurrying to reach home and shops downing shutters as soon as darkness descends.
With prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code in force since Monday evening, the electioneering has already taken a back seat as assemblies of more than five persons have been banned.
Supporters of the Trinamul Congress from outside town descended on Toofanganj on Monday and ransacked CPM party offices following rumours that the CPM MLA from Natabari, Tamsher Ali, had led an armed attack on their members at their office close to the police station. A day before, a CPM candidate had been beaten up and his house attacked allegedly by Trinamul supporters.
Cooch Behar district magistrate Smaraki Mahapatra said the subdivisional officer of Toofanganj had been asked to convene an all-party meeting tomorrow to review the situation. “If the administration feels that the situation has returned to normal and the parties promise to control their rank and file, the prohibitory orders could be lifted,” the district magistrate said. She added that Section 144 had been imposed till Friday.
However, the residents of Toofanganj, particularly those with leaning towards political parties are staying indoors fearing more clashes.
While the parties are blaming each other for the violence, the women of the house are restraining the men from going outside. “Yesterday I wanted to go to the market, but my wife insisted that I should not venture out in the evening,” said Tapan Ganguly, a resident of Thanapara.
Subrata Ganguly, who runs a hardware shop, said business had taken a back seat after Monday. “I had never experienced anything like this before. Shops are closing down and I am also following suit when darkness comes. It is like an unannounced bandh,” he said.
Cooch Behar superintendent of police Kalyan Banerjee said no fresh incident of violence had been reported since Monday. “We are keeping a watch on the situation,” the district police chief said.
The district Trinamul president, Rabindranath Ghosh, blamed the administration for clamping prohibitory orders, which he claimed, were working in the CPM’s favour. “The CPM knows that it has lost ground, and with Section 144 in force, we are unable to campaign. That is to the CPM”s benefit. The town becomes deserted after sunset,” Ghosh said.
Tamsher Ali pointed a finger at Trinamul. “The people are living in terror because of them. The people have seen the true face of the party even before the results of the elections are out,” the MLA said.
NATIONAL SECURITY: Maoists blow up culvert – moving up the sensitive ‘Chicken’s Neck and Siliguri Corridor Areas’ or satisfactorily confined by Bengal ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Midnapore, May 12: Suspected Maoists in West Midnapore’s Salboni last night triggered a blast and damaged a culvert on the road connecting Midnapore town and Lalgarh.
The road is one of the two taken by joint forces to ply between Midnapore town and Lalgarh, the other being via Dherua.
District superintendent of police Manoj Verma said Maoists had triggered the blast to “hinder the movement of the joint forces”. “But it would not be a problem as we have an alternate route,” he added.
Vehicle movement on the road has not been affected by the blast as in the dry season, cars can also ply on walkways through the fields on either side of the road.
The blast came a day before a 24-hour bandh called by the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities today to protest alleged CPM atrocities at some villages in Jungle Mahal. Shops, offices and other establishments in Jungle Mahal remained closed today because of the bandh and public transport remained off the road.
The People’s Committee has also announced they will block roads in the tribal-dominated areas in Jhargram subdivision indefinitely from tomorrow. “CPM activists are entering our villages, torturing our supporters, ransacking and looting their houses. Some of our supporters were also forced to flee their homes. The CPM goons have taken shelter in a high school in Salboni’s Sitanathpur,” Asit Mahato, a committee leader said. The outfit could also block trains and NH 6.
Bimal Gurung in Kalimpong
Bimal Guring President of GJM is currently in Kalimpong. He met Hari Dahal Secretary of JSTO, injured during an intra party attack on 8th May.
Ex-KMC Councillor attacked
Tikaram Chettri, Ex Kalimpong Municipality Councillor and a GNLF supporter, was seriously injured and hospitalised in Siliguri.
Chettri, according to family members, was attacked by some miscreants and found in an unconscious condition by his family members and taken to Siliguri.
According to family sources, his condition is critical. No FIR has been lodged as yet, as confirmed by the Kalimpong Police station.
Siliguri: Members of the Intuc-affiliated North Bengal State Transport Corporation Workers’ Union organised an hour long “chakka jam” at the Tenzing Norgay Central Bus Terminus on Wednesday.
They were demanding their provident fund dues, the new pay scale and permanent jobs for the recruited employees.
Siliguri: To celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore a film festival will be organised here at Dinabandhu Mancha from May 15-21.
Sumendranath Bera, the minister of state for information and culture, will inaugurate the event on Saturday.
The fest will begin with the screening of Tin Kanya directed by Satyajit Ray.
Seven films will be screened at the week-long festival. They are Debi, Charulata, Ghare Baire, Khokababur Pratyabartan, Streer Patro and Atithi.
The event is being organised by the Siliguri Mahakuma Rabindra Janmo Sardho Shatobarsha Udjapon Committee along with the Siliguri Cine Society.
Siliguri: The north Bengal branch of the National Association for the Blind on Wednesday released Gitanjali and Gitabitan, two masterpieces of Rabindranath Tagore, in Braille.
The association said till date, visually challenged persons could not read the great works, but can now enjoy them.