GORKHA ADIVASI POLITICAL FALLOUT: Bharati takes on Buddha and Morcha – Front fury for state silence – ‘Justice is getting delayed, we are restless’ – and Bengal’s tactical sloth, nothing new since 1947 & much to their needed advantage ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY VIVEK CHHETRI
Darjeeling, July 12: The Democratic Front today held its first public meeting in the Darjeeling hills where Bharati Tamang lashed out at the state government for its silence in dealing with the murderers of her husband, former ABGL chief Madan Tamang.
Standing behind Tamang’s garlanded portrait, the ABGL president who was addressing the first political meeting of her life dared the state to come out with the truth. “The Bengal government is silent on the murder despite knowing everything. Had a political murder occurred in any other district, there would have been a hue and cry but in Darjeeling everyone is quiet and justice is getting delayed. We are getting restless,” said Bharati.
Reflecting the same vigour as her husband, one of the best orators in the hills, Bharati asked the government to do its job. “I am not telling you (state government) to take a risk but am asking you to do your duty. If you cannot discharge your duties you have no right to occupy the chair. The murder is not being condemned by a single political party but only by the people of the hills. My husband was not an enemy of the people but he was killed by the people’s enemy,” she said, expressing her gratitude to the hill people for supporting her during the turbulent days following the murder. “Young and old, weak and strong, almost everyone supported us by taking part in the candle-light rallies.”
Bharati’s allegations come nearly 20 days after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said Tamang’s killers would be arrested very soon and that if the CID failed to crack the case, it would be handed over to the CBI. Tamang’s wife had met Bhattacharjee on June 23 at Writers’ Buildings, almost a month after the ABGL leader’s murder on May 21.
The ABGL had named 11 Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leaders in the FIR. The chief minister had promised the immediate arrest of the main accused. At that time the ABGL leaders had returned to the hills satisfied with Bhattacharjee assurance.
Tamang’s murder transformed Bharati from a homemaker to a leader with enough nerves to lead a blitzkrieg against the state government and the Morcha.
But Bharati was not the only speaker at the public meeting of the front — a six-party anti-Morcha alliance in the hills — at Chowk Bazar.
Gopal Chhetri, president of Trinamul Congress district committee, said: “The agitation is being carried out with the state government’s money and it is a state sponsored agitation.”
Most speakers criticised the Morcha’s 32-month agitation and accused Bimal Gurung’s party of changing issues with every passing day and calling strikes at the drop of the hat.
“They talked about Gorkhaland, then switched over to the interim set-up and have finally ended up proposing Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh. The Morcha had seized 117 files from DGHC secretaries and had promised a probe but we find that they are running the council through the back-door,” said Sawan Rai, a central committee member of the CPRM, which is also a constituent of the front. “Our children are not studying in the metros or in Australia like their children (Morcha leaders) and the strike will only inconvenience us,” said ABGL leader Pratap Khati. The Morcha has threatened to call a 40-day strike in the hills from next month if the government did not announce the date for the next round of tripartite talks on the hills.
Dawa Sherpa, who was elected as the ABGL’s working president today, said: “The recruitment process for the Integrated Child Development Scheme and for the state police has been stopped not by Delhi or Calcutta but by the very people who claim to be working for the hills. We have come to the end of a drama of songs and dances and the curtains are about to fall.”
Sherpa was referring to Morcha chief Gurung’s statement that he would achieve statehood not by using arms but by singing and dancing.
CPM wants ‘other parties’ in hill talks – separate parleys the best solution, not palatable to the CPM ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, July 12: The CPM today said it had no problem if the tripartite talks with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha resumed but demanded that other hill parties be involved in the dialogue on Darjeeling.
“It will be wrong to say that the Morcha represents the entire hill population. A number of other parties have their bases in the hills and therefore, we want discussion to be held with them too before any decision is reached on the Darjeeling issue,” urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya of the CPM said at a news conference here.
“We have no problem with the tripartite talks being held with the Morcha but simultaneously other parties also deserve a hearing. The demand has been raised by our district committee. The state committee has endorsed it and sent it to the state government.”
The next round of tripartite talks was supposed to be held in May-end but did not take place after Madan Tamang’s murder. The Morcha has blamed Bhattacharya for delaying the dialogue.
The minister, who had represented the Bengal government in the political-level tripartite talks with the Morcha held in Delhi, said the state and the Centre would decide on how the other parties could be accommodated in the talks. “They can either be included in the next round of the talks or separate parleys can be held with each of them.”
Anti-Morcha parties like the GNLF, ABGL, CPRM and the GNLF(C) have repeatedly demanded that they be included in the talks. But so far there has been no response from the state or the Centre.
Criticising the Morcha for “terrorising” the hill people, the minister said: “They (the Morcha) are creating an ambience of terror in the hills, particularly after losing their foothold. None of their agitation — the proposed indefinite strike from the end of this month or the ongoing closure of government offices — are backed by the hill people. It is because of the (Morcha’s) consistent intimidation that the people are not attending offices and remaining silent.”
The CPM, he said, wanted to make it clear that under no circumstances, would the Morcha’s pressure tactics and threats to facilitate the next round of tripartite talks succeed.
Bhattacharya, who is also the Darjeeling district convener of the Left Front, slammed the Dooars-Terai regional leaders of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad for their hobnobbing with the Morcha.
“It is not the tribal population but some so-called leaders of the Parishad, who have sold themselves to the Morcha for money,” the CPM leader alleged.
“The tribals should understand that it is the Morcha that has unleashed terror in the hills, stalled all development work and created problems in the Terai and the Dooars. The tribals should banish these leaders who are shaking hands with the hill party,” he said.
Bhattacharya also took a dig at the Parishad’s labour wing for keeping from the joint movement taken up by the central trade unions for tea workers.
“They have not participated in the recent strikes and the move, we feel, has helped the tea companies and not the workers,” he said.
FURTHERMORE A REHASH
Tribal outfit undecided on supporting creation of separate Gorkha state – but for a ‘Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh’, hang on all ?!!
FROM ONE INDIA
Jalpaiguri (West Bengal), July 12 (ANI): The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad, a tribal outfit, met in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri District, and is still indecisive about supporting the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state.
The Parishad, the dominant tribal organisation in Bengal’s Terai and the Dooars foothills region, has already released a map comprising the tribal belts demanding Sixth Schedule status, which would grant more autonomy and powers to help develop the backward tribal region.
“Yesterday, (Saturday, July 10) my party members went there and heard the views of the Morcha (Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which is spearheading the movement for the separate state). Today, (Sunday) we didn’t discuss anything about the so-called Gorkha Adivashi Pradesh. It is nothing but a slogan of the Morcha. We do not agree with their proposal. Our committee will decide whether we will go for a meeting with the Morcha or not in future. But still we demand the Sixth Schedule (status), which is our constitutional right, for Terai and Doars (region),” said Birsa Tirkey, the state president of the Parishad.
The GJM has held several rounds of tripartite talks with representatives of federal and West Bengal governments over the issue, but nothing concrete has emerged.
The Gorkha population in West Bengal is around one million out of the state’s 80 million people. An overwhelming majority is concentrated in Darjeeling.
At least 1,200 people died in the first Gorkhaland campaign in the 1980s, but protests ended a few years later after Gorkha leaders accepted limited autonomy. (ANI)
AND IN RETALIATION
Clash stops admission – and the CPM students are thus activated ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Alipurduar, July 12: Around 300 students from different parts of the Dooars could not be admitted to Alipurduar Vivekananda College on the last day of admission today because of clashes between the Chhatra Parishad and the SFI.
Despite the college authorities’ announcement that they could not take students beyond the capacity of 750, the student organisations demanded that all 970 applicants be admitted.
While the Chhatra Parishad and the Trinamul Chhatra Parishad started a relay hunger strike on the premises from Saturday to pressure the authorities to take all applicants, the SFI blocked the main road in front of the college from 11.30am to 2pm, leaving over 100 vehicles stranded.
Ratna Dey, the lecturer in-charge of the college, said they were helpless. “We cannot admit students beyond our capacity of 750. We will intimate the university about today’s trouble,” she said. So far about 500 students have been enrolled and 263 more can be admitted.
At 3.30pm, the rival student bodies took out processions and the rallyists threw stones at each other. Police brought the situation under control.
The scared guardians were seen running for cover. Ramen Bhadra, a trader from Hasimara who brought his daughter, said: “I kept my stationery shop closed incurring loss and came here for my daughter’s admission. But the environment of the college upsets me.”
Ashim Sarkar, an SFI leader in the college, alleged that a CP supporter had pushed one of his boys. “It prompted others to retaliate.” CP leader Bubai Sarkar denied the charge and blamed the SFI for attacking their rally first.
PLUS DELAY IN LIFELINE
Rain hampers repair – any excuse or for sloth, just blame the morcha bandhs, the rains too ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, July 12: The road connectivity between Siliguri and Darjeeling through NH55 is yet to be restored as frequent rain is disrupting the repair of a portion of the highway that had collapsed in a landslide at Paglajhora about a month ago.
The repair by the public works department will be delayed further if the indefinite strike announced by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha starts at the end of this month.
About 20 metres of the highway had on June 16 fallen into a 300-400ft deep gorge near Paglajhora, about 35km from here. Since then, the PWD’s NH Division IX has been trying to restore the connectivity, but hostile weather has hampered the repair.
“Continuous rain is disrupting the repair at the damaged stretch as we have to take up the work 40 metres below the road. During rain, boulders frequently slip down, prompting our men to stop work,” said Nirmal Mondal, the executive engineer of the NH Division IX .
“Apart from that, we have to take construction material from Siliguri to the affected spot through Mirik or Mungpoo as minor landslides have occurred between Siliguri and Paglajhora,” added Mondal. The PWD apprehends that if the Morcha launches an indefinite strike from the end of July, it will take more time to complete the repair.
“We are aware that an indefinite strike will be observed across the hills at July end. If it is not withdrawn or postponed, we think the resumption of traffic through NH55 will not be possible in the next two months,” said Mondal.
The executive engineer said even if there was no rain during the repair, at least 30 days would be required to restore the highway to its original form.
The distance from Siliguri to Kurseong and Darjeeling through NH55 is 50km and 78km respectively. As the road has collapsed, vehicles have to reach Darjeeling and Kurseong via Mirik or Mungpoo, the distance being more than 100km.
MEANWHILE FROM BELOW THE PLAINS OF DARJEELING
Encounter leads to arrest – BSF seizes pistol from Bangla border smuggler – CPM patronages ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Islampur, July 12: An alleged smuggler, also wanted for robbery and extortion, was arrested near the Bangladesh border after an encounter with the BSF last evening.
The encounter also injured two of his accomplices and a villager.
Abdul Haque alias Mohammed Abdul was caught by the BSF near Dhuligaon, about 25km from here, around 7pm yesterday. He was on the most-wanted list of the district since November when he and his brother chopped off the left arm of Farooq Alam, a second-year student of Islampur College and a CPM supporter.
The 40-member gang had first fired at one of the BSF vehicles travelling to the border at Kamargachh 3km away, prompting the chase. Later, the gang opened fire once more in an attempt to free their leader. The BSF then retaliated, border force sources said.
Taranjali Begum, 48, was caught in the crossfire. A bullet struck her on the chest and she was taken to the Islampur subdivisional hospital from where she was referred to the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in Siliguri. Two gang members were also injured but they escaped.
The deputy inspector-general of the BSF’s Panjipara sector, M.S. Khan, said his personnel returned fire in self-defence. “Our men fired six rounds in reply to the criminals’ 12 rounds. The gang also burst bombs while trying to free the arrested man. We have handed over Abdul to police,” Khan said. A 9mm pistol was recovered from him.
The district police chief of North Dinajpur, Milan Kanti Das, said a number of cases were pending against Abdul. “He is a notorious criminal and has been spreading terror in the Islampur area. He is also wanted in connection with a murder in Delhi,” he said.
Abdul was produced before the additional chief judicial magistrate of Islampur here today and was remanded in police custody for six days.
Sources in the Islampur police said Abdul and his gang were involved in dacoity, cross-border smuggling, extortion and terrorising the locality. “He also used to work for political parties and was utilised by both the CPM and the Congress during clashes in the Sujali area,” a source said.
The BSF arrest has come as an embarrassment to the district police. A month after Farooq’s hand was chopped off, inspector general of police K.L. Tamta had admitted before the people of Islampur his force’s failure to track down Abdul. “We had been trying to catch Abdul and his gang and made several raids but he always managed to escape,” police chief Das said.
The CPM zonal secretary, Swapan Guha, said with Abdul’s arrest peace would return to Sujali and its neighbouring area. “The police should have arrested him long ago.” Rehan Alam, the Islampur block president of the Congress, alleged that Abdul had enjoyed the CPM patronage.
Mollah veiled barb at Asok – too much on platter to chew or digest ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH STAFF REPORTER
Calcutta, July 12: Abdur Rezzak Mollah today launched a veiled attack on urban affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya, saying the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority had “misused” the land his department had leased out to it.
Mollah’s land and land reforms ministry had leased out 100 acres of land off EM Bypass to the CMDA, which is overseen by Bhattacharya, in 2003 for infrastructure development. However, Mollah told The Telegraph he had information that the land had been “misused by the CMDA”.
“I have information that the land was used for commercial purposes like the construction of shopping malls. This should not have been done,” Mollah said. “This was the government’s vested land,” he added. Mollah said he had “sought an update on the land from the CEO of the CMDA within a week”.
“The land had been leased out for infrastructure development like construction of roads, water reservoirs and housing complexes for the poor. But the same land was used for other purposes,” Mollah told a news conference at Writers’ after a meeting with CMDA officials today.
Mollah parried questions on whether Bhattacharya was his target. “I am only concerned with the CMDA,” he said.
Bhattacharya, who is in Siliguri, said: “Rezzakda is in the habit of going public on many things concerning the government.”
AND IN BRIEFS FROM THE TELEGRAPH
Siblings die in wall fall
Malda, July 12: A six-year-old girl and her elder brother died in Englishbazar when the wall of their mud house collapsed during heavy rain last night.
While Rumpa Khatoon was a Class II student, Rakesh studied in Class V. They were sleeping in the room of their house in Lakshmighat Colony when the wall collapsed on them around 11pm. The district magistrate of Malda, Pramol Kumar Samanta, said the deceased siblings’ father was a day labourer. He said financial assistance would be arranged for the family.
All rivers in the district are rising alarmingly because of the heavy rain. A round-the-clock control room has been opened in the district collectorate to monitor the water level.
Siliguri: The directorate of revenue intelligence recovered red sandalwood worth around Rs 65 lakh from a truck near Ghoshpukur on the outskirts of Siliguri on Sunday evening. The woods weighing around eight tonnes were hidden under sacks of white cement. The DRI also arrested Panteswar Burman from Assam and Md Ilias from Manipur.
Siliguri: North Bengal University on Monday announced the results of BCom, BSc and BA (general) Part III exams. The overall success rate of the candidates is 90 per cent, which is six per cent less than the pass percentage in 2009. Students can apply for reassessment till July 27.
Siliguri: The Northeast Frontier Railway has rescheduled the departure of a number of trains on Tuesday. The 4055 Down Brahmaputra Mail will leave Dibrugarh at 6.15am on Tuesday, instead of 10.45pm on Monday. The 5960 Down Kamrup Express, scheduled to leave Dibrugarh at 6pm on Monday, will depart at 5.45am on Tuesday and the 5662 Down Kamakhya Ranchi Express will leave at 5pm on Tuesday.