GORKHA ADIVASI POLITICAL IMPASSE: Hints of month-end talks & longer strikes – Gurung fire for deserter Amar – impatience evident over ‘territory issue’ derailment ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Kalimpong, July 14: Bimal Gurung today told a rally here that he was “confident” the next round of tripartite talks on Darjeeling should be held on the 22nd or 23rd of this month.
While Gurung did not reveal the reason for this confidence, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leaders said their party chief was possibly talking to Delhi (or Bengal) and might have received some indications to this effect.
The Morcha president, however, stuck to his decision to organise a bandh on July 25 and longer shutdowns from August. He said his party would beat the GNLF on its 40-day bandh record. He also said the composition of the talks delegation would be worked out in the next few days.
“The talks must take place on July 22 and 23. Otherwise, there will be a huge problem. And if that happens, the Centre and the state governments should shoulder the blame,” he added.
Although Gurung did not link the talks and the strikes, indications are that the party will call off its shutdown even if only the date is announced before the Morcha’s deadline ends.
“Going by the track record of the Morcha, it is safe to assume that the party is using the threat of strike to have its way vis-à-vis the sixth round of tripartite talks,” said an observer.
Minister Asok Bhattacharya, who is one of the state’s two representatives for the political-level talks, said the Bengal government had no information on when the next round of tripartite talks would be held. “We have no idea about this,” he said.
The Morcha president said the over 40-day strike beginning from August 4 would be preceded by two rounds of shutdowns: a 24-hour strike on July 25 and a 72-hour bandh from the 28th of the month. “When we had earlier announced the 40-day strike, people sniggered and said we were imitating the GNLF. Now we will go in for an even longer strike, which will be not less than 40 days…we will show how to make a success of it,” he added.
About 2,000 people braved the scorching afternoon sun to listen to Gurung, who spoke for close to one-and-half hours in his usual fire-and-brimstone tenor. The number of people was higher before Gurung began his speech when the weather was more pleasant.
The Morcha has been facing the heat since the murder of ABGL chief Madan Tamang. Today, the party president lashed out against his one-time confidant Amar Lama, even implying that he could have had a hand in Tamang’s killing as the two were siblings and might have had some rivalry over property.
“They (Amar and Madan) could have had a dispute over property or money. Amar Lama was with me for months (preceding Tamang’s murder). He suddenly left on May 19 (two days before the ABGL leader was killed in Darjeeling). Why? Don’t forget he was implicated in the 7 Gomti incident,” he said.
The “7 Gomti” is a place in the Kurseong subdivisison where an attempt was made on the life of GNLF president Subash Ghisingh on February 10, 2001. Lama had been arrested, but had to be let off and the charges against him dropped as there was no evidence against him.
Gurung, it appeared, is still smarting from Lama’s decision to quit the party. Lama, a central committee member, had walked out of the Morcha after his brother’s death. “Amar Lama is not my own brother, or my uncle. He is the blood brother of Madan Tamang.
We are all saddened by the Madan Tamang’s killing, which should have never happened. But Amar Lama can’t maintain his silence at a time when our party is being implicated. He must stand up for the party,” Gurung said. (does silence now speak louder than words ?!!)
More pleas to DM for safe passage – released on bail, no charges yet ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Darjeeling, July 14: Three GNLF leaders who had been hounded out of the hills following the murder of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha member Pramila Sharma in June 2008 have decided to return home.
The move comes five days after the peaceful return of Dawa Pakhrin, a former Kalimpong branch president of the GNLF, to his home.
Pramila was killed allegedly by a bullet fired from the house of Deepak Gurung, the GNLF’s Darjeeling unit president. Following the incident, the houses and vehicles of GNLF leaders, including Gurung and Pakhrin, were torched.
“Aitaraj Dewan, Jigme Sherpa and Tika Khati have written a letter expressing their desire to return home,” said Darjeeling district magistrate Surendra Gupta today.
Dewan, a former DGHC councillor, and Sherpa a former commissioner of the Darjeeling municipality, had been arrested in the Pramila murder case. They were later released on bail. Khati was an active member of the GNLF and also an officer (on contract) with the council’s information and culture department.
The district administration is bound to provide a safe passage to the GNLF leaders and ensure their security following a National Human Rights Commission’s directive to the government. Pakhrin had approached the NHRC, which directed the state on March 4 to ensure the security of all the “affected people” (who had been chased out ) along with him. “Since the direction is for all affected people, we are duty bound to provide a safe passage as and when they decide to come back,” said Gupta.
Arrest warrants – chipping away at the Darjeeling psyche ?!!
The chief judicial magistrate of Darjeeling has issued arrest warrant against 11 Morcha activists who were allegedly involved in the murder of Madan Tamang on May 21.
The warrants have been issued against Nickole Tamang, Dinesh Gurung, Kismat Chhetri, Keshav Raj Pokhral, Puran Thami, Tenzing Khambachay, Alok Kanti Mani Thulung, Dinesh Subba, Suraj Singh, Devendra Sharma and Sanjoy Tamang.
Sources said the arrest warrant was a step towards attaching the properties of the accused.
“Since the offence was cognisable, police can arrest them without a warrant. However, a warrant will be helpful if the accused are to be arrested from other states,” a source said.
The CID, which is investigating the case, had made a prayer to the court saying that the accused could not be arrested despite repeated raids. It is now expected to tell the court to proclaim all the 11 as offenders after which notices will be issued to the accused to surrender before the court. If they fail to surrender, the agency will again pray to the court to attach their immovable properties. The CID has also written to all banks in Darjeeling to provide it with the account numbers of the 11 accused and to freeze them temporarily.
Front mulls inviting tribals to broaden Dooars base – ABGL broadening consensus base under Bharati Tamang’s leadership, woman of substance or manipulation ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, July 14: The Democratic Front today said it might seek the support of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad to restore peace and democracy in the region, an indication that the anti-Gorkha Janmukti Morcha conglomerate is getting ready to spread its network in the Terai and the Dooars.
The support of the Parishad is important as it is one of the major organisations that represents the tribal population in the foothills, said Dawa Sherpa, the working president of the ABGL and the convener of the front, today.
“We will urge the tribal leaders to decide whether they want to go with a party (read Morcha) that has created terror and tension in the hills or strengthen our hands to restore democracy and peace. There had been some informal talks with the Parishad earlier but so far no formal invitation is being sent to them to join the front,” Sherpa said and added that if the Parishad expressed solidarity with the front, it would be welcomed “heartily”.
The front held its first political meeting in Darjeeling on Monday which was addressed by ABGL president Bharati Tamang.
Another leader (who ?!!) of the front hoped that the Parishad might find the hill conglomerate more appropriate and democratic than the Morcha.
“If they (tribal leaders) join hands with the Morcha, they will have to accept Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh which has already created a rift among them. On the other hand, if they join the front, they can carry out their movement for Sixth Schedule as our common agenda does not include Gorkhaland or separate statehood. All the constituent parties have different stands,” the leader said.
“If the Parishad becomes a constituent of the front, it will win the front support like we are backing the ABGL over the issue of Madan Tamang’s murder, even though we differ in political stands.”
Govind Chhetri, the organisational head of the CPRM, another front constituent, also hinted at talking to the Parishad leaders. “We will talk to them and want to fight together for restoration of democracy in the hills and peace in the region,” Chhetri said. “The Parishad leaders are divided over extending support to Morcha. We are keeping a close watch over the political developments and may approach them after knowing their final stand.”
The Parishad leaders, however, said they were yet to receive any invitation from the front. “If we receive any correspondence from them, we will definitely give it a thought and discuss at various levels before taking any decision,” said John Barla, the president of the Dooars-Terai Regional Unit of the Parishad.
Work, stay at single point – Green links houses to factories – the ‘development carrot’ now in areas unclaimed by the GAP ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, July 14: A park with industrial and commercial units and residential complexes, swathed in green, is coming up at Fatapukur in Jalpaiguri district.
The Kanchanjungha Integrated Park, a Rs 500-crore project, is being developed on 124.5 acres of land in between Siliguri and Jalpaiguri and is expected to generate jobs for 60,000 skilled and semi-skilled workers. The park is a joint venture between the West Bengal Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (WBIIDC) and Calcutta-based Shristi Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited.
“This is our first venture in north Bengal and this will be a one-of-its-kind project in the sense that it will have well-defined industrial, residential and commercial zones, all in the same area. What prompted us to launch the project here is that Siliguri and Jalpaiguri are growing in terms of industry and infrastructure and NH31D is well-connected by air, rail and road,” said Rahul Verma, president (special initiatives) of Shristi Corporation.
“The location is just an hour away from Calcutta by flight and the New Jalpaiguri station is nearby. Siliguri is a gateway to the Northeast and the park is located close to various export corridors to Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and China,” Verma told journalists during the launch of the project today.
The project, along NH31D, will be completed in three phases in five-seven years. The land is owned by the WBIIDC that has a 26 per cent stake in the park.
“We have earmarked 64 acres of land for industries which will be developed in the first phase. A survey by us has found that the area is suitable for industries like food processing and beverage production, flour and rice mills and ayurveda-based companies. Such industries will co-exist with a residential zone in the park and it is important for the area to be non-polluted,” said Verma. The process of attracting entrepreneurs and investors to the industrial zone has just begun, he added. Fatapukur is 25km from here.
Gautam Malik, the chief executive officer (CEO) of the park, said a 33KV power substation was already there at the site and 80 per cent of the roads had been completed.
“Developed plots with required infrastructure for bungalows will also be completed in the first phase on 31 acres. Row housing and apartments, educational institutes and healthcare facility will be developed in the later phases. The residential area is being built near the industrial zone so that the workforce, whether it is the senior management or mid-level management, can stay within close proximity to the factories,” said Malik.
Around 30 acres of land have been earmarked for a “green area” where roads, recreational parks and water bodies will come up.
“The green area will act as a buffer zone between the factories and the residential zone,” said the CEO. The commercial zone, which will occupy six acres, will comprise offices, retail outlets, and recreation centres.
“Jobs will be generated for at least 60,000 skilled and semi-skilled people during and after the construction stages of the project,” said Malik.
Highway hit by tilted trucks and blockades – strange co-incidence for 3 in a row ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Alipurduar, July 14: Three trucks loaded with coal tilted on NH31 after being stuck in deep ditches near Falakata this morning, leaving at least 300 vehicles stranded.
Another 200 vehicles were blocked by people demanding electricity elsewhere on the highway in the Alipurduar subdivision.
While the trucks were pulled out of the gutters by cranes at Dalimpur at 5pm, the blockade at Kalipur was withdrawn around 3 in the afternoon.
The trucks were going from Assam to Uttar Pradesh when they jumped into deep ditches on the highway at Dalimpur in Falakata block around 5am.
The trucks tilted on the road and all efforts to bring the vehicles out the gutters were in vain till this evening. No official from the public works department had reached the spot.
Gyanprit Singh, the driver of one of the trucks, said: “We were going with coal from Jogigopa in Assam to UP. We started last Tuesday and we had already lost three days because of poor condition of road in Assam. We are stuck here again.”
At least 300 vehicles, including buses and cars, were held up at either end of the spot, 44km from here.
Rama Lama and Sita Karji were among 600 people left stranded at Dalimpur. “We were coming from Birpara for BA admission to Falakata College. We reached the college after travelling 25km extra in an auto-rickshaw,” said Karji.
Two cranes were brought to the spot by police, but they failed to pull the vehicles out of the ditches. Later, the coal was unloaded into two other trucks and the three vehicles were lifted. The traffic was cleared around 5pm.
People of Kalipur, about 30km from here, began the blockade on NH31 at 8am. They were demanding electricity in the village. More than 200 vehicles were stopped at both ends of the protest spot, throwing a spanner in the plans of around 400 people. The road is used by vehicles from Alipurduar to reach Siliguri and Jalpaiguri.
Ratan Kundu from Samuktala had an appointment with a private firm. “I have to attend an interview in a private company. But we are stopped here by the protesters. I do not know whether I will be able to attend the interview or not,” said Kundu.
Although police had reached the spot, the protesters said they wanted to talk to civic officials about their demand. The picketing was withdrawn at 3pm after local officials assured the villagers that the government would look into their demand.
IN BRIEFS FROM THE TELEGRAPH
Stabbed, thrown into river
Malda, July 14: A man stabbed his wife and threw her into the the Mahananda with the four-year-old son near Old Malda last night.
Fulrani and the baby were pulled out of the river and admitted to the district hospital by the local people. But the mother died around midnight. The deceased’s sister has lodged a complaint against the husband, Prasanta Ravidas, with the Old Malda police. Prasanta is absconding. District superintendent of police Bhuban Mondal said Prasanta had taken his wife to a rath mela at Chhatiyan Crossing last evening. When they came close to the river, Prasanta stabbed Fulrani and pushed her into the Mahananda along with the baby.
Malda: A team from the Election Commission will arrive here on July 16 to supervise the revision of voters’ list. District magistrate of Malda Pramal Samanta said the revision had started on July 9. The officials will stay here till July 20.
Siliguri: A 12-day workshop on home nursing was inaugurated by the Siliguri mayor Gangotri Dutta at the Siliguri centre of St John Ambulance Association on Wednesday. Two workshops on cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and snakebite management will be held from July 24 to August 1. The youths will be trained in first aid.
Islampur: Ashwinikumar Das, 45, a resident of Pouriwal near Chakulia, died after he was struck by lightning on Tuesday. Police said he was planting saplings in a field when the lightning struck him.