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4 May 2017

Promise to ban Chowrasta events - Morcha's election offer for Darjeeling

Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, May 3: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has promised to ban all political and government programmes at Chowrasta and the surrounding area if it is voted to power in Darjeeling municipality, an announcement which was not immediately opposed by the Trinamul Congress given the support for such a move.
Trinamul, however, did sound cautious and said the move might have been prompted to stop Mamata Banerjee from reaching out to the hill masses as Chowrasta was the chief minister's favourite venue for public address in Darjeeling.
The promise was made in the manifesto the Morcha released today for Darjeeling civic polls. "Keeping in mind that Chowrasta is the haunt of tourists and local people alike, we will ensure that there is a ban on political and government functions there," said Binay Tamang, the assistant general secretary of the Morcha.
Before the rise of the Morcha in 2007, government and political programmes used to be organised in Darjeeling's most prominent promenade, though not too frequently. However, soon after the formation of the Morcha, the hill party started holding political meetings there regularly. After the GTA was formed in 2012, the hill body also conducted programmes at Chowrasta.
Mamata had come up to the Darjeeling hills more than 40 times in the past six years. During most of her visits, Mamata has addressed people from Chowrasta, much to the dismay of the public.
During every visit of the chief minister, huge pandals are erected at Chowrasta as is done during the Morcha's events, spoiling the ambience of the promenade.
N.B. Khawash, the working president, Trinamul (hills), when told about the Morcha's Chowrasta mention, said: "Let us first see what they would do. However, there is also a thought that maybe, they have raised this issue keeping in mind that the chief minister prefers to address gatherings from Chowrasta. They probably want to stop her from visiting the hills but this will not be the case as the chief minister is serious about developing the hills."
Khawash added: "During election time, they are talking about heritage structures and the need to preserve them. The Morcha was responsible for destroying the heritage buildings of Darjeeling. Sailabash was razed to the ground by them and not us."
Sailabash, the over-a-century old summer retreat of the royal family of Digapatia, which is in Bangladesh now, was brought down to set up a modern hotel management institute by the GTA.
Common people, however, are in favour of banning all political and government events at Chowrasta. "Such nuisance at Chowrasta should be stopped. Other venues in Darjeeling can be used for programmes. This should be the agenda of not only political parties but also the government. In fact, public meetings should also be banned from Chowk Bazar as it disrupts normal life," said a Darjeeling resident.

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