GORKHA ADIVASI POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: Mamata tiptoes in hills – Trinamul chief avoids thorny assurances in Darjeeling, steps up efforts to win new friends – friends who will lay down their lives for a just cause or someday return to 1986 out of sheer frustration ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY VIVEK CHHETRI
Sept. 26: Mamata Banerjee lost her spectacles today but appeared to have negotiated the slippery political terrain in Darjeeling without stumbling in the first leg of her two-day trip to the hills.
The Trinamul Congress chief has so far managed to keep the parties in the hills happy without giving any concrete political assurance.
Any “misstep” during the trip — part of Mamata’s efforts to get a toehold in all corners of the state — will prove expensive in the plains where no party can afford to be seen as endorsing any effort to divide Bengal again.
The lone political demand put forward by a Gorkha Janmukti Morcha delegation, led by its president Bimal Gurung, was sidestepped by Mamata.
“The GJM (Morcha) requests you to take necessary initiative for the inclusion of the Gorkha-dominated areas of Terai and Dooars in the proposed interim authority,” a “political” memorandum submitted by the Morcha read.
The inclusion of the areas from the plains in the interim authority, an administrative arrangement suggested by the Centre till 2012, is a contentious demand that has been stoutly opposed by the Bengal government.
However, Mamata reportedly told the Morcha that “since the issue is being handled by the Union home ministry and since the talks are progressing, it would be apt for the home ministry to decide”.
Gurung seemed happy with the overall talks and decided not to make an issue of the absence of political commitment.
According to sources, the Morcha does not intend to push Mamata too hard now because of the “greater role” she is expected to play in the state next year. “She is visiting Darjeeling as the railway minister and we laid stress on issues regarding the development of the region and the railways,” Gurung said after the meeting.
The Morcha does not have too many potential allies to choose from. The Morcha and the CPM are at loggerheads while the hill party’s experiment of fielding Jaswant Singh has not paid off much with the exit of the BJP from power at the Centre. (*?!!)
Mamata will attend a public event, organised by tour operators, at the Mall tomorrow.
Not that the hills did not send any message to Mamata. Thousands stood along the Sukna-Rohini road, showering flowers and shouting “Mamata Banerjee welcome” and “We want Gorkhaland”, as her cavalcade of 25 cars wound its way up.
The last such rousing welcome was given to Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh when he visited the hills to file the nominations for the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
Mamata reciprocated, stepping out of the car all of a sudden and putting a khada (silk scarf) on a 60-year-old woman trudging uphill with a bundle of grass. Some drew parallels with Rahul Gandhi’s style but Mamata is no stranger to working crowds.
Once she arrived at the Darjeeling circuit house, it emerged that her spectacles were missing. However, a new set could be arranged from a local shop within an hour. “It was possible because Didi knew her (focal) power,” said one of the aides who waved a bill.
Asked if the Morcha was looking at forging an alliance with Trinamul in the coming days, Harka Bahadur Chhetri, a spokesperson for the hill party, said: “It is too early to comment. We will cross the bridge when we reach it.”
Without wasting any time, the CPM assailed her and drew a parallel with her trip to Lalgarh which, like the hills, has been out of bounds for the ruling party. “Mamata Banerjee is running to those who kill people. Days after visiting Lalgarh to align with Maoists, she now rushes to Darjeeling to join hands with the Morcha. It is the Morcha that has brought the BJP into the hills,” CPM central committee member Mohammad Salim said.
CPM state chief Biman Bose issued a statement without naming her but playing on concerns over the “division of Bengal”. “If somebody aligns with those who are trying to divide Bengal, it is condemnable,” he said. (to right the wrongs of CPM’s colonialist hegemony since 1947 on areas that never belonged to Bengal ?!!)
Mamata negotiates hill terrain, Morcha ignores set-up overlook – division of Bengal a non-issue as these areas never did belong to Bengal to Begin with, plus the 63 years of Bengal’s corrupt neglect ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY VIVEK CHHETRI
Darjeeling, Sept. 26: The need symbiotic, Mamata Banerjee today managed to keep the hill outfits — eager to be in her good books — happy without giving any concrete political assurance during the first day of her two-day stay in the region.
Known to be against the division of the state, Mamata deftly bypassed the only political demand of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha led by its president Bimal Gurung. “The government of India has proposed an alternative administrative set-up as an interim arrangement and will be operational till 2012. GJM (Morcha) requests you to take necessary initiative for the inclusion of the Gorkha-dominated areas of Terai and Dooars in the proposed interim authority,” the Morcha’s “political” memorandum read.
The inclusion of the areas in the plains in the interim authority for the hills is a contentious demand that has been starkly opposed by the Bengal government.
Mamata reportedly told the Morcha that “since the issue is being handled by the Union home ministry and the talks are progressing, it would be apt if the ministry took the decision”.
Gurung seemed happy with the overall dialogue, which took place in Hindi, and decided not to make an issue out of the lack of political commitment, a move understandable since the Morcha considers the “greater role” that Mamata will play in the state in the near future. “She is visiting Darjeeling as the railway minister and we, too, stressed issues regarding development of the region and the railways,” said Gurung after the meeting.
With the Morcha trying to separate from the CPM-ruled Bengal government and the BJP tie-up turning out to be not so successful, Mamata seems to be the only viable option for Gurung, who wants to be in her good books specially with the Assembly elections next year.
Last week, a Morcha leader, had said about Mamata: “Her political stature and the political situation in Bengal at this juncture cannot be ruled out. We are looking at the greater role she will play in the future”.
Taking a dig for touring the hills, CPM central committee member Mohammed Salim today said: “Mamata Banerjee is running to those who kill people. Days after visiting Lalgarh to align with Maoists, Mamata now rushes to Darjeeling to join hands with Janmukti Morcha. It is the Morcha that has brought in BJP into the hills and the Trinamul Congress chief is making overtures to the Morcha. She has no principles.” Later CPM state secretary Biman Bose slammed her in a statement. “If somebody aligns with those who are trying to divide Bengal is condemnable,” he said.
Asked if the Morcha was looking at forging an alliance with Trinamul in the coming days, Harka Bahadur Chhetri, spokesperson for the hill party said: “It is too early to comment. We will cross the bridge when we reach it. Even Mamata Banerjee told us that she could see for herself what the Left Front has done to Darjeeling.”
Many Morcha leaders were of the opinion that Mamata would be able to deliver “justice” to them. “This is a historic event,” said Col (retd) Ramesh Allay, president of the Morcha-affiliated ex-servicemen’s association. “We have high expectation as she is known to deliver justice to the oppressed.”
The ex-servicemen’s association wanted Mamata to pressure the state government into making public the findings of the one-man commission on lathi-charge on their rally at Darjeeling More,
Other hill parties, like the ABGL, too, thought that Mamata could deliver much to Darjeeling. “We told her that many of the demands like the one for Gorkhaland will not be solved unless the government speaks to a broad cross-section (of people). We also told her that solutions would not be achieved if only one party was engaged in talks,” said Dawa Sherpa, the working president of the ABGL. “We also demanded that the CBI take over the investigation of the Madan Tamang’s murder.”
Mamata reportedly told the ABGL delegation that she would raise the issue of inviting all the political parties during her meeting with the Prime Minister.
The Morcha also demanded that the railways should provide jobs to the next of kin of Gorkha martyrs and name a train after freedom fighters from the hills.
‘Power’ lost & restored – but needed more than glasses to see the true aspirations and consensus of the Darjeeling hearts and minds ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU
Sept. 26: The most powerful woman of Bengal carries the memory of her “power” along with her so that even after she lost it, it was delivered at her doorstep an hour later.
The shop that “powered” her spectacles delivered them within an hour after she reported to her local aides on arriving at the Darjeeling circuit house that her glasses were missing, two hours before a meeting with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha at 4pm. Kwality Stores in Chowkbazar, the aides who prepared her itinerary said, did a good job since they delivered a new set of glasses to her within an hour.
“It was possible because Didi knew the power that her lenses need,” said one of the aides as he waved a bill for the glasses, suggesting that it was not a gift from the store, which probably did not know who would be the owner of the spectacles. But it was not clear who finally settled the bill.
Earlier, during her climb uphill, the railway minister stepped out of the car all of a sudden and put a khada on a 60-year-old woman trudging uphill with a bundle of grass. Some drew parallels with Rahul Gandhi’s style, but Mamata is no stranger to working crowds.
The railway minister had started from NJP around 10.40am with a cavalcade of 25 cars. Thousands stood along the Sukna-Rohini road, showering flowers and shouting “Mamata Banerjee welcome” and “We want Gorkhaland” slogans. The last such welcome was given to Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh when he visited the hills to file the nominations in 2009.
Since then a lot of water has flowed down the Teesta and Singh had been suspended from his party and later taken back. But with the BJP out of power, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has realised that there is nothing more to be gained from the party.
Mamata sent the Intelligence Bureau personnel in charge of her security into a tizzy, when the car stopped 50 metres from the Kurseong railway station and she started walking towards the people accepting khadas, bouquets and memorandums. But soon, she was mobbed and she scurried back to the safety of her car.
At Elysia Building, the headquarters of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Mamata refused to take any question from the media, but told the railway staff: “Recruit brothers and sisters from both hills and plains.. and start functioning it in a full-fledged manner.” To the waiting journalists, she said: “We are here for tea and refreshments. Let me meet the people first.”
On being told that she was among the few ministers to visit the hills, Mamata replied: “Anyone can come here”. She reached Darjeeling around 1.30pm.
TRANSPORT: Tilted trucks block NH31 – the continued neglect of Dooars, anything new ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Alipurduar, Sept. 26: Traffic on the bumpy NH31 was disrupted for over nine hours today when two trucks tilted while trying to negotiate large potholes in Falakata.
National and state highways in north Bengal, especially in Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar districts, have been in a state of disrepair for months despite tall promises by ministers and politicians.
According to police, a truck tried to negotiate a deep pothole and got tilted on its side at Dulal Dokan More around 3am. There was sufficient space for other vehicles to pass the spot, but within 15 minutes, another truck fell on its side, blocking the highway completely. Traffic on the highway between Cooch Behar and Siliguri via Falakata was badly affected. More than 500 vehicles, including 20-25 state government buses, were left stranded on the road.
Falakata is 36km from here.
The distance between Cooch Behar and Siliguri through NH31 is 115km. Although there is a state highway connecting the two places via Mainaguri, the road is hardly used by heavy vehicles like trucks and buses as it is 170km-long.
The Falakata police pressed into service a crane around 10am to remove the tilted trucks and the road was cleared for traffic at noon.
Shantanu Sarkar, a trader from Siliguri, was on a bus that was stuck in the traffic jam. “I have an important work in Cooch Behar and I will reach there more than three hours late. I won’t be able to return to Siliguri by the evening. I am fed up with ministers like Kshiti Goswami, and politicians like Manas Bhuniya, who promised a lot on the repair of the roads when they visited here. But nothing has been done,” he said.
Paritosh Das, the secretary of the Alipurduar Byabsayee Samity, said business was being affected as trucks were reluctant to ply on the dilapidated roads.
“Even if the truck owners agree to come, they are charging double the normal fare, forcing us to raise the prices of the merchandise we sell. The entire Dooars economy is suffering as NH31, NH31D and NH31C are in bad shape. The state ministers, the public works department and the National Highways Authority of India keep passing the buck while we suffer,” he said.
EDUCATION: Students’ threat – yet another example of Bengal’s mismanagement ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Raiganj, Sept. 26: Student organisations have threatened to launch a movement against the Itahar High School authorities if they do not withdraw “unconditionally” an FIR filed against three Class XI boys.
The three had allegedly beaten up a Class V student in the school on Friday.
A critically injured Ramesh Das was taken to the Itahar hospital from where he was shifted to the district hospital the same day.
According to police sources, the senior boys had beaten up Ramesh for allegedly abusing his classmate.
The trio were picked up on Friday night after the school authorities filed a complaint with the Itahar police station. They were produced in the court of the chief judicial magistrate yesterday and released on bail.
The leaders of the SFI, Chhatra Parishad and the DSO alleged that the management had acted “vindictively”. According to them, the authorities could have settled the matter in school instead of taking it to court.
Headmaster Amit Sarkar said more than 200 people had assembled in the school along with Ramesh’s father on Friday. “I had to call the police for the safety of the three boys,” he said.
District inspector of schools (secondary) Rezanur Karim Tarafdar said he would inquire into what had prompted the school authorities to lodge a written complaint.