GORKHA ADIVASI POLITICAL SIGNIFICANCE: DM reaches office in state car – Rival rally in the time of shutdown – Bengal looking for an alternative ally within the Gorkha ranks ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
(Syntax remixed for clarity of context)
Darjeeling, June 21: The district collectorate remained open for the first time today during a Gorkha Janmukti Morcha strike, the state government testing waters as the hill party kept its cadres off the roads to avoid confrontation and delink itself from the violence it has come to be associated with after Madan Tamang’s murder.
However, the Morcha threatened to intensify its agitation by starting an indefinite hunger strike from June 27 to press for demands like judicial inquiry into the lathicharge on its supporters in Kurseong on Wednesday.
At 11am, Darjeeling district magistrate Surendra Gupta along with two additional district magistrates, the subdivisional officer and about eight deputy magistrates entered the office.
In every bandh that the Morcha had called in the past, it had put up pickets in front of the district magistrate’s office to prevent the entry of officials. The party has made an exception this time and has not come out onto the streets to enforce the bandh.
While Gupta came in his official vehicle, the others arrived in government jeeps that had “on law and order duty” stickers pasted on the windscreens.
“As government officials, we are duty bound to attend office,” said Gupta, refusing to take any further questions. During the earlier shutdown called by the Morcha, the district magistrate always functioned from his residence, which also has an office. Most of the government officials discharged their duties from the DM’s bungalow in the past.
Sources said this time the state government had instructed the officials to attend work during the shutdown to send a message to the Morcha.
The government has been stepping up heat on Bimal Gurung’s outfit since Tamang’s murder and the anti-Morcha backlash that it triggered.
The state had not only implicated the Morcha in the killing, but had also started asserting the writ of administration in the hills taking advantage of the people erupting in anger over Tamang’s murder.
As a first step, three companies of the CRPF were deployed in Darjeeling town for the first time since the Morcha was formed in 2007.
This was followed by DGHC administrator B.L. Meena filing FIRs against Gorkhaland personnel — a Morcha squad of lathi-wielding volunteers —occupying government properties for the past two years.
The Morcha has countered this by mounting pressure on the government by calling an indefinite strike in the hills. But it has been careful in avoiding confrontation and distancing itself from all violence by ensuring that its cadres do not come onto the streets to enforce the bandh, especially with the CRPF patrolling the roads.
“The government is hatching a conspiracy to derail the statehood movement. We have called a strike to protest the police excesses on our party supporters at Kurseong. We demand a judicial inquiry into the lathicharge on a peaceful demonstration. If the state fails to act, seven members each will sit on an indefinite hunger strike at Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong from June 27,” said Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the Morcha at a media conference.
Lashing out at Meena, Giri said: “He is inefficient and is issuing statements as if he is a political leader. We don’t want an administrator who works from Siliguri despite having his headquarters in Darjeeling. The government must not give him any further extensions after his tenure ends on June 30.”
Asked about the district magistrate’s decision to function from his office during the shutdown, Giri said: “We have not stopped anyone from working.”
Binay Tamang, an assistant secretary of the Morcha, said the Gorkhaland Personnel would not vacate the government buildings. “The Kalimpong police station yesterday sent a notice to the camp at Chest Clinic (a DGHC owned community hall) but the GLP will not vacate the property and we have already written to the administration conveying our message.”
Also, despite the bandh, around 250 ABGL supporters brought out a peace march in town from Clubside motor stand where its leader Madan Tamang was hacked to death exactly a month ago.
In the meantime, an ABGL seven-member team will leave for Calcutta tomorrow to meet chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
“The team would discuss the prevailing situation in the hills,” said ABGL leader Mohan Sharma.
Govt sends warning to GLP – showdown expected ?!!
From The Times of India
KOLKATA / DARJEELING, Jun 22, 2010, 07.29am IST (TNN): The government on Monday said it was planning to crack down on Gorkhaland Personnel (GLP), the parallel police wing of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), and also warned that GLP camps in the Darjeeling Hills might be forcibly dismantled to vacate the properties they are occupying.
Police had asked GJM to vacate the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) bungalows from where the GLP camps were operating. This triggered a strong reaction from GJM, which called an indefinite strike in the Hills from Saturday and sought the transfer of some officials, including DGHC administrator B L Meena.
Now, the government is planning strong action against GLP and also considering the use of force to evict GLP cadres from the DGHC properties.
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has held discussions with urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya in this regard.
“The state government will not tolerate such terror tactics any longer,” said Bhattacharya. “GJM’s strike has made life very difficult for the people of the Hills. Also, tourists get stranded in Darjeeling due to frequent bandhs. Because of this, they are now apprehensive about going to the Hills.”
Bhattacharya hinted that GLP might not be allowed to operate in future. “If necessary, we will dismantle them by using force,” he said.
The minister said there was anger against GJM in the Hills, but common people were too scared to speak out against the party. “To bring the situation under control, the CM is looking for more forces from the Centre. He is also sending additional police personnel to Darjeeling for this,” he added.
DGP Bhupinder Singh said the Darjeeling SP has submitted a report to the DM about the situation. He, too, asserted that police would remove the “illegal occupants”.
Singh said so far nine people have been arrested in connection with the murder of ABGL leader Madan Tamang.
Asked if GJM would vacate DGHC properties occupied by GLP, party leader Benoy Tamang answered in the negative. “We will neither disband GLP nor remove its personnel from DGHC properties. GLP is doing social work by helping people in various ways. We don’t think it is against the law to do social work,” he said.
Government determined to demolish Darjeeling GLP camps – but how, the same way as Madan Tamang ?!!
FROM THE PRESS TRUST OF INDIA STAFF WRITER
Kolkata, Jun 21, 2010, 22:28 HRS IST (PTI): The West Bengal government today said it was determined to demolish all illegal camps allegedly raised by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in the Darjeeling hills.
State urban development and municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya said he had discussed the issue with Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee who had approved the decision to demolish these camps.
“The Police has to act tough since a positive change in the hills has been discernible after the killing of All India Gorkha League chief Madan Tamang,” the minister said.
If required, the government would demand more CRPF personnel to restore law and order and peace in the hills, he said.
State DGP Bhupinder Singh said the Darjeeling SP has submitted a report to the DM on the issue.
“All GLP camps in the hills have been forcibly set up on government land.
MEANWHILE FROM THE PLAINS OF DARJEELING
Unions try to woo tribals – Bengal’s mismanagement & misinformation to continue ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, June 21: The poor response of tea garden workers in the plains to its June 7 strike has prompted the Co-ordination Committee of Tea Plantation Workers to invite the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad’s labour wing for a joint movement to demand interim wage hike and better living conditions for the labourers.
Only 25-30 per cent of the gardens in the Dooars and the Terai were closed on June 7 as the Progressive Tea Workers’ Union of the Parishad had asked the labourers to defy the strike called jointly by the Co-ordination Committee and the Defence Committee of Plantation Workers’ Rights.
“Considering the response from labourers on June 7, we found it important to mull over the factors that discouraged a section of the workforce to abstain from strike. A meeting of the Co-ordination Committee was held here today and it was decided that the Progressive Union would be requested in writing to participate in a joint movement in July for common issues like revision of wages and improvement in living conditions of workers and their families,” said an Intuc leader. The Intuc is a constituent of the Co-ordination Committee.
“We plan to sit with leaders of the Defence Committee, the Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union, affiliated to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, and the Progressive Union on June 24. If they respond, we will insist on the formation of a common platform to spearhead a joint movement in the brew belt,” said the Intuc leader.
A political observer said after the strike, the Citu and the Intuc were left with no option but to sort out issues with the Progressive Union and if possible, include it as a constituent of an apex body.
Tezkumar Toppo, the vice-president of the Progressive Union, said: “We are yet to receive any invitation from the Co-ordination Committee. In case we receive it, we will definitely contemplate on the issue and decide our response.”
Officers at work, govt tests Morcha bandh – Closure delays pay for jumbo victim kin – Bengal’s Jumbo deception & excuse ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, June 21: The families of three persons who were killed in elephant raids in the past few days have become the major victims of the agitation by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
The forest department is unable to open its offices in the hills because of the strike and hence, it cannot pay compensation to the next of kin of the deceased persons.
“The strike has led to the closure of most government offices in the hills and our department is not an exception. So, we could not arrange for funds to be disbursed to the families of the elephant attack victims,” said an officer of the Kurseong forest division today.
“According to rules, 25 per cent of the compensation should be paid in cash immediately after death. The rest can be disbursed once investigations are over. As of now, Rs 1 lakh is the total compensation that a victim’s family is entitled to.”
While two men were trampled to death in Ajmabad Tea Estate last night, a woman was killed in Uttamchand Chhatbusti on Saturday evening. The foresters said a herd of 100-odd elephants was behind the attacks in Naxalbari block.
“We have been spending sleepless nights because of frequent elephant raids in villages and tea estates in the Naxalbari area for the past one week,” said a forester.
“The animals have killed three persons and damaged about 20 huts in the past 48 hours. People are already aggrieved over the attacks and want us to work round-the-clock to stop the elephants from causing further damage. Since we could not pay the first instalment of the compensation, we apprehend a violent response from the villagers in case any more elephant depredation occurs in the next few days. Some of the residents have already started asking our men why the families have not yet been given the compensation.”
Foresters said they were trying to drive the herd into Kalabari forests located close to India-Nepal border.
“The herd has 103 adults and seven calves. They have been roaming in the border villages and tea estates for the past seven days. We have begun a drive to steer the animals to the Kalabari forest. Once the elephants are pushed back from the fringe villages, chances of further raids are minimal,” said Y.T. Eden, the divisional forest officer of Kurseong.
The irate villagers had ransacked two vehicles, one of the forest department and the other of police, after the raid. “We could have calmed down them to some extent if we had paid the compensation immediately. With the further delay, we are apprehending more problems,” said a forest officer.
Eden is camping at Tukriajhar range office with other senior foresters and the Naxalbari police.
KLO touch in pump robbery – Bengal’s new bogey to contend with, Maoists of Lalgarh not enough ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Alipurduar, June 21: A petrol pump employee was robbed of Rs 1.4 lakh at gunpoint by a three-member gang near Madarihat this morning. Police suspect that the motorbike-borne attackers are members of the KLO, which is trying to regroup and revive its activities in north Bengal.
Pujan Sha was waiting near the pump along NH31C at Khayerbari for a Madarihat-bound bus about 11.5am. He was carrying a bag with Rs 1.4 lakh to be deposited in a bank at Madarihat. Suddenly, three persons on a black motorbike accosted Sha and hit his head with something hard.
“As other employees of the pump ran to his rescue, the gang pointed a gun at Sha and snatched the bag from him. The trio, who had come from Birpara side on the highway, sped off towards Madarihat,” said an officer at Madarihat police station. Sha was admitted to a private nursing home in Siliguri. His condition is stated to be critical.
Khayerbari is 62km from Alipurduar.
The police believe the robbery was carried out by KLO militants. Tirtha Barman alias Chila Roy, an active KLO militant who was arrested from near Siliguri on Friday, have told the police that the outfit was trying to rear its ugly head again in north Bengal.
“When the KLO is trying to regroup, they need a good amount. The outfit used to extort money from pump owners when it was very active in the region,” said a police officer.
OPINION: Blessing in disguise for Gorkha outfit – really so ?!!
From The Pioneer
By Shikha Mukerjee
Tuesday, June 22, 2010: The re-induction of Jaswant Singh in the BJP is being viewed as a boon by a resurgent Gorkha Janamukti Morcha which is banking on him to re-establish credibility eroded by the brutal killing of Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League’s Madan Tamang
With the increase in the supply of oxygen to the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha it is acquiring a fresh lease of vitality to move forward, perhaps even aggressively, on its demand for a division of the West Bengal State and the creation of a Gorkha homeland that includes the Dooars and the Terai.
The revival has two parts, the last being the strongest boost, namely the return of Mr Jaswant Singh to the Bharatiya Janata Party fold and the first being the disinclination or disability of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in occupying the political vacuum that emerged after the audacious murder of Madan Tamang in the open in broad daylight and the revulsion in Darjeeling against the GJM and particularly its leadership.
Unsurprisingly therefore the reinstatement of Mr Singh has produced a change in mood — “boon for the Gorkhaland movement” — within the GJM. For it found to its cost that a Mr Singh de-linked from his party was not as effective, even though “free of party fetters” as a Mr Singh who has gone back to the BJP fold.
It was Mr Singh’s ringing declaration, despite his subsequent explanations, that he favoured the rights of the Gorkha to a separate homeland that made him enormously valuable to the GJM. That he won the Darjeeling parliamentary seat was but natural given that he received massive support from GJM.
The respectability that the GJM lost after the murder of Tamang evident in the slate of resignations of the leadership from the party and the response of the urban population is beginning to creep back.
The return of some of the leaders who quit, including spokesperson Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the capacity of the GJM to call meetings in Darjeeling evident in the triumphant return of Mr Bimal Gurung to the town indicates that the demand for separation of the hill station from the State of West Bengal is as strident as it was before.
Because of the murder and the sudden dip in GJM’s standing the possibility of a quick and early solution to the separation demand is now unlikely. Eleven leaders including the wife of GJM supremo Gurung were named in the First Information Report filed by Tamang’s family after the murder. The connection of GJM to the heinous crime was apparent even if the evidence had not been established through a police and legal process.
Conspiracy or otherwise, the fact that Tamang was the sole voice of opposition to GJM’s watered down plans for separation from West Bengal and his elimination has removed the only political obstacle, has affected the status of GJM vis-à-vis the demand and its solution.
For its survival, GJM will have to restart from the point of appearing to be immovable on the demand for separation. It was Tamang’s opposition to the diluted solution for an administratively autonomous Darjeeling as against the demand for a separate State and his insistence that the process by which this ought to be achieved be democratic that caused his clash with Mr Gurung and GJM.
To re-establish its credentials with the urban population in particular and the rural and tea garden population generally, GJM needs a third party agency to clear its name, that is, endorse that its leadership was in no way instrumental in provoking the murder of Tamang.
Given that Tamang’s wife, Ms Bharati Tamang who has taken over as the chief of the All India Gorkha League had accused the GJM leadership of being responsible for her husband’s murder has added to Mr Gurung’s problems of credibility.
The re-induction of Mr Singh, therefore, is a significant morale booster because it will ease the process of Mr Gurung’s political rehabilitation in Darjeeling. Whereas no other political leader from any of the mainstream parties has so openly espoused the cause of Darjeeling’s separation, how exactly Mr Singh proposes to do so now is a matter of speculation.
The issue of Darjeeling’s separation is emotionally explosive for three different sets of West Bengal’s population. The first set includes obviously the “Gorkhas” and other hill people, including the tribal Lepchas, Bhotis and those who claim tribal status such as Gurungs, Nehars, etc.
The second set includes the Adivasi populations in the Dooars and Terai, who have opposed the inclusion of their areas within the territory of a Darjeeling State. The third set includes the Bengali population both in the hills, Dooars, Terai and the plains, particularly Siliguri.
Darjeeling’s separation has consequences for not only West Bengal and Sikkim, it would affect the access of Bhutan as well as the politics of southern Bhutan. The geo-political significance of Darjeeling, particularly Kalimpong and Kurseong, are the other factors that have to be weighed in terms of the separation demand.
How Mr Singh plays his hand will affect the fortunes of the BJP in the rest of West Bengal that is no longer the CPI(M)’s impregnable fortress. The Trinamool Congress’s success in opening up the political space has created opportunities for smaller parties, including the BJP.
An enthusiastic Mr Singh could hamper the advantage that now exists, even though it would assure the BJP a permanent seat in the Lok Sabha from Darjeeling for as long as GJM and its separation demand determine the future of the hills.
EDITORIAL – FROM THE TELEGRAPH
LAST HURRAH – yet still against justice to the Gorkhas or the Adivasis ?!!
If old age is a problem in life, thirty-three years in government is equivalent to senility in politics. There is thus very little surprise in the fact that the Left Front finds itself lost and in steady decline after completing thirty-three years in office in West Bengal.
The stridency of power has yielded to the quiet acceptance of losses in elections and erosion of its popularity. Arrogance has reconciled itself to the inevitability of defeat in the not-too-distant future.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist), the driving force of the Left Front, can go on believing in the impersonal forces of history as its ideological touchstone but the fact of the matter is that the CPI(M) is the main reason behind the present plight of the left in West Bengal.
The CPI(M) led the Left Front to victory in successive elections over three decades. These triumphs carried with them the mandate to bring about major changes and developments in the state. The CPI(M) squandered that mandate by nurturing its vested interests at the cost of developing West Bengal.
It blurred the distinction between the party and the government; it destroyed work culture through irresponsible trade unionism; it promoted its own cadre and unions in hospitals and educational institutions; it strangled dissent by the widespread use of terror and violence.
Its failure to carry out any economic development in the state is admitted by the chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who in an open letter confessed that the “industrial sector… took a rear seat in the state.” His efforts to assign it a seat in the front row now lie in tatters.
The mood in West Bengal, if the results of elections are any indication, is in favour of a change in the political dispensation. Whether this includes a desire for changes in the economy is something that the future will reveal.
In the recent past, all political forces in West Bengal have shown a reluctance to support the creation of the conditions necessary for rapid industrialization — the transfer of land from agriculture to industry.
Various forms of populism have scuppered this process. The Left Front may not be able to celebrate another anniversary of its term in office but this may not mean that West Bengal’s tryst with economic development will become any less elusive.
The defeat of the state of West Bengal could very well become permanent.
BENGAL’s OPINION: Growing uncertainty in the hills – uncertainty about separation from Bengal, unambiguous consensus ?!! culture totally different and totally unacceptable ?!!
From The Statesman
By Romit Bagchi
Now placed in an unenviable predicament, with an erosion of public support coming to the fore, what will the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha do to hold the fort? Romit Bagchi cuts to the chase.
THE much-hyped rhetoric by Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung regarding a Gorkha-Adivasi Pradesh reminds one of what legendary leader of the erstwhile Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev said years back — politicians are the same all over; they promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.
It is difficult to understand what the GJMM expects to extract from what can easily pass for a gimmick, save for the fact that the craftily drafted stratagem might drive a wedge amongst the Adivasi community inhabiting the Dooars. Gurung might win a section of the community over to his side by way of his forced empathy for a cause, but the matter ends there.
The mainstream Adivasis are most unlikely to enthusiastically jump onto the GJMM bandwagon in the hope that the newly coined statehood concept will become a reality and the Gorkha leadership will take care of the under-development woes the Adivasis, as a community, keep grappling with over the years.
It can serve another purpose, though — to extricate the GJMM from the interim council entanglement. But this is now a remote possibility, following the Madan Tamang assassination.
Tamang once derailed the interim talks through belligerent campaigning, branding the GJMM climbdown as one of the series of bluffs. Though now dead, he could definitely preside over the burial of the proposed arrangement.
Now placed in an unenviable predicament, with an erosion of public support coming to the fore, what will the GJMM do to hold the fort? It might revert to a prolonged statehood agitation, as the party apparatchiks have threatened. But the prospect does not hold much hope for the apparently beleaguered GJMM.
For, in that case, it would play into the hands of the state government, which seems bent on scuppering the three-way dialogue, citing the loss of credibility for the preponderant hill-based party in the wake of the Madan Tamang assassination.
And quite predictably, with the GJMM having done a somersault, uncertainty hangs over the continuance of the dialogue.
The question is: will the people, seemingly tired with the ceaseless statehood rigmarole, brook another prolonged shutdown phase? It is doubtful. Though having proved adept at bulldozing the backlash, as is evident in the wake of its comeback bid amidst the tumultuous upheavals following the assassination, the party might land in serious trouble if it proceeds to ram a shutdown down the collective gullet in the name of chimerical consummation.
There might be another angle to view the dragging tangle from. The GJMM might be keen to maintain the status quo till the assembly elections next year, for it looks invincibly convinced of a regime change in the state.
But how far the new regime they long to see in the seat of power will prove beneficial to their cause is anybody’s guess. And assuming that such a consummation is inevitable — given the torrents pushing the Red redoubt – that possibility is still a long way off for one year is a pretty long time given the imponderables involved in the realm of politics, particularly when the hill trajectory seems to be moving at a breakneck pace.
Many things might happen in the crucial interregnum. The so-called pro-democracy forces represented by the recently floated Democratic Front, a conglomeration of seven political parties, might intensify activities in time to come. And if they do, it would be difficult for the GJMM, now evidently on the back foot, to stem the tide.
One thing has become as clear as a bell: the preponderant hill-based party has forfeited the moral standing following the All India Gorkha League leader’s daylight assassination. And given the apparent deepening of the political crisis in the anguished hills, the future round of tussles might remain focused on platitudinous moral-immoral postulates.
The high moral ground so far deemed to be the GJMM forte, given its snooty espousal of Gandhian shibboleths, might prove a costly luxury for the party. But how the present moral voice will remain moral with the theatre of politics’ fast shifting focus remains to be seen. For, according to conventional wisdom, the so-called new morality is too often the old immorality condoned.
Another thing might happen to raise the pitch of agony for the struggling GJMM. As per reports pouring in from CID sources — it is probing the Madan Tamang murder — the noose seems to be tightening around the GJMM neck. Some arrests have been made and more are likely. And, quite predictably, taking advantage of the fluid situation the AIGL keeps mounting pressure on the administration to push the GJMM in a tighter corner.
The state government, given its palpably discernible anti-GJMM streak, is most likely to precipitate a situation from the drift of which it would be increasingly difficult for the principal hill outfit to wriggle out of.
And to top it all, if the Centre remains unenthusiastic about carrying on with the tripartite talks, prodded by the present anti-dialogue of the state government, it would prove a veritable mess for the GJMM. There is little doubt that the GJMM derives its clout principally from the soft-pedalling restraint by the Centre.
In case the UPA government hardens its stand — and this is natural given the threatened shifting GJMM stance regarding the proposed interim hill council around which the previous rounds revolved — the GJMM would be in for trouble in its hitherto deemed impregnable political fiefdom.
The only silver lining for the GJMM is that its BJP ally seems to stand rock-like by its side. And despite its dwindling clout against the spiralling Congress curve in national politics, it is still a force to reckon with. And the role of the politically ascending Trinamul Congress on the hill issue is ambivalent, to say the least. If the GJMM thinks that it will have to kill time before a regime change turns the long existing political equation in the state upside down, it should remember an adage: man talks of killing time, while time quietly kills him.
Whither are the hills moving now — with rapprochement options being wasted — is the question looming large over the hazy horizon. It is said that political parties die from swallowing their own lies.
A feeling seems to be gaining ground in the hills on whether it is wise to leave a serious matter like politics to the exclusive care of politicians, for politics has become an art of preventing people from minding their own business. (True Lies ?!!)
Won’t accept 1972 demarcation by Assam: Meghalaya – more atrocities against innocent Nepalis and Indian Gorkhas impending ?!!
FROM THE PRESS TRUST OF INDIA STAFF WRITER
Shillong, June 21, 2010, 19:23 HRS IST (PTI): The Meghalaya government today said it would not accept the 1972 demarcation done by Assam wherein a number of areas were included in the then Mikir Hills district, further intensifying the boundary dispute between the two states.
“The block-I and block-II areas were included in the Mikir Hills (now Karbi Anglong). The survey was done unilaterally by Assam. We cannot accept that,” state Home Minister H D R Lyngdoh told reporters here.
He said once the areas of differences are resolved, Meghalaya will demand re-transfer of these areas to the state.