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19 Mar 2017

Morcha joins statehood protesters

Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, March 18: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has decided to launch its Gorkhaland demand afresh by joining hands with those seeking separate states for Bodoland, Vidarbha and Bundelkhand.
Many fear the Morcha's decision to join the National Federation for Smaller States for a joint movement could create trouble again in the Darjeeling hills, where no major law-and-order problem has been reported since 2013.
Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said: "We, along with the All Bodo Student Union, the National Democratic Front for Bodoland, the People's Joint Action Committee for Bodoland Movement, the Bundelkhand Rajya Nirman Sangharsh Samity and the Vidarbha Rajya Aghadi, have all agreed to launch a joint movement demanding separate states."
Nabanna sources said the Bengal government was keeping a tab on the developments.
Senior officials believe the Morcha's move is a desperate attempt to stay afloat in the hills ahead of the elections to the four civic bodies in the region and the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), particularly after chief minister Mamata Banerjee initiated steps to curb the monopoly of the party in the region.
"The Morcha seems to be losing its support base fast and the Trinamul Congress is making headway in the hills after the chief minister started several development projects there. The plan to create a Kalimpong district and the setting up of development boards for various hill communities have also gone in favour of Trinamul," an official said.
Morcha sources said they would go ahead with the new movement although the state government would "come down heavily on us".
The Morcha is under pressure from its youth wing to restart its statehood agitation.
Recently, Prakash Gurung, the president of the Morcha's youth wing, resigned from the GTA "to work for Gorkhaland". Today, the Morcha youth arm started a symbolic gesture of collecting "a fistful of food grain" from people to start the agitation.
"If the party ignores the demand of the youth wing, it will be tough to counter the Trinamul," a source said.
Morcha leaders are hopeful that their demand would not fall on deaf ears as the NDA had advocated smaller states in the past. "We are confident that the Centre will sympathetically look into the issue of smaller states. It was the NDA that had formed Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand," Giri said.
Giri and Morcha assistant general secretary Binay Tamang left for Mumbai today to attend a meeting of the National Federation for Smaller States to chalk out the final plan for the joint movement.
The groundwork for launching the joint movement had started with a meeting in Kokrajhar, Assam, on February 15. Morcha leaders had attended the meeting.
"The agreement for the joint movement was finalised at the Assam meeting. Recently, Shrihari Aney, the founding president of the Vidarbha Rajya Aghadi, and S. Sanyal, its working president, wrote to Morcha president Bimal Gurung about the plan," a Morcha source said.

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