GORKHA ADIVASI POLITICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Hill set-up delay spurs GNLF revival – Morcha peace plea at flashpoint – first Bengal cries that there is no democracy in the hills, then creates pockets of resistance for Gorkhas to fight Gorkhas … so Bengal can continue ruling from Siliguri ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY VIVEK CHHETRI
Darjeeling, Dec. 6: For the first time in three years, the GNLF today held meetings in more than a dozen venues across the hills to revive its political fortunes while there is a delay in setting up the interim authority.
At all the meetings today, the demand for the inclusion of the hills in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution was once again raised.
The party went on revival mode by deciding to celebrate the signing of the memorandum of settlement on this day in 2005 between the Centre, state and GNLF president Subash Ghisingh to confer the Sixth Schedule status on the hills.
The GNLF managed to raise the party flags and organise feasts for supporters at nearly 16 places in Darjeeling, Kurseong and the Terai region.
Although no untoward incident was reported, there was palpable tension across the hills today.
“There was a possibility of a confrontation between the supporters of two political parties in various places but police managed to cover all the areas and there have been no untoward incidents. So far there has only been one complaint with the Mirik police station where a GNLF supporter has alleged that his house was targeted by the Morcha,” said D.P. Singh, Darjeeling superintendent of police.
The GNLF’s programmes were mostly confined to the rural areas of the hills, which had once been its stronghold before the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha was formed in 2007.
Ghisingh’s party went on revival mode after it became clear that the Morcha was going to the people with an interim set-up and not Gorkhaland. Besides, the delay in establishing the set-up because of contentious issues also spurred the GNLF activity.
In such a situation, the Morcha is worried any effort to stop rival outfits may lead to violence, something that Bimal Gurung cannot afford now. For it would mean a further delay in the establishment of the set-up as the government would cite law and order problem to defer the talks on the interim authority.
“The GNLF is also going to the people saying that even the Sixth Schedule is only a stepping stone towards Gorkhaland just as the Morcha is claiming about the interim set-up. The Morcha cannot indulge in any form of violence, least it hampers the negotiations,” said an observer.
Shivraj Thapa, the media and publicity secretary of the GNLF’s Darjeeling subdivision committee, said programmes were held in Pubung Phatak, Borobatey, Risheehat, 86 Division, Chungtung, Liza Hill, Rimbick, Maneybhanjyan, Lodhama, Tamsong, Runglee-Rungliot, Bahunpokhri (Garidhura), Naxalbari, Monteviot and Panighatta, to name a few.
At Senchel Dairy Line on the outskirts of Darjeeling town, GNLF members planted the green party flag early in the morning even as a section of supporters occupied vantage points to pre-empt any political attack.
Around 11am, a large number of Morcha supporters brought out a rally and decided to head towards the Senchel Dairy from Jorebunglow — a distance of about 3km — and a clash seemed imminent.
But Morcha assistant secretary Raju Pradhan urged the crowd to refrain from indulging in any act of violence.
“This is nothing but a ploy of the state government to create unrest in the hills so that the interim set-up is derailed. We appeal to all our supporters to refrain from indulging in violence which will only delay the signing of the set-up,” he told the crowd. The mob then dispersed.
The scene was similar in many places across the hills. The Morcha supporters gathered near the GNLF meeting venues but clashes were avoided at all the places.
Shanta Chhetri, the GNLF MLA from Kurseong who had been hounded out of the hills by the Morcha two years back, said party supporters had only been lying low till now.
“They had said Gorkhaland would be achieved by March 10, 2010, and that was why we were keeping low. Now they are talking about an interim set-up but there is already an interim authority in place as an administrator has been running the DGHC since March 2008,” she said.
In Kurseong, a bandh called by a drivers’ union affiliated to the Morcha to protest bad condition of the roads and alleged police harassment coincided with the GNLF meeting. Earlier too, the Morcha called for shutdowns on days when rival outfits arranged for public meetings.
Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri refused to read much into the GNLF political activity. “It was like celebrating a dead man’s birthday. The Sixth Schedule has been rejected by the hills and organising a political activity with a handful of people in pocket areas does not bother us much.”