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24 Jun 2017

Gurung resurfaces to say ‘arrest me if you want’

Jayanta Gupta, Deep Gazmer & Dwaipayan Ghosh | TNN | Jun 24, 2017, DARJEELING/ JALPAIGURI: A belligerent Bimal Gurung came out of two weeks of hiding on Friday and dared the police to arrest him, barely a day after the Bengal government's decision to slap murder charges on him and his wife, Asha.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief addressed the media at his party's Patlewas office and said there would be no going back on the indefinite bandh, refusing to acknowledge the Calcutta high court ruling against the bandh and rejecting outright the peace appeal from the state government.
Gurung's press conference, however, unwittingly provided a glimpse of the intense politicking that seems to be going on behind the scenes when he mentioned the word "backstabbing", while appealing to all Hills parties to sink their differences and come together for the cause of Gorkhaland. "I am staying here and am not going to leave the place under any circumstances. Let the police come and arrest me if they want," the GJM president said, setting the stage for a full-scale — and what now seems to be, a long-drawn — "war for Gorkhaland". GJM supporters have planned a mahamichhil from the Mall to Chowkbazar on Saturday, when Gurung himself will resign from the post of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration chief executive officer.
This possibility of a weekend showdown prompted senior police and district administration officials to sit together and draw up plans to pre-empt a repeat of the Singmari violence of June 17 in which three GJM supporters died.
The GJM chief's planned scale-up of the offensive came a day after Sikkim chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling iterated his support to the Gorkhaland cause. But the Sikkim CM's letter to Union home minister Rajnath Singh came in for some heavy criticism from the Bengal government. State parliamentary affairs minister Partha Chatterjee on Friday shot off a terse letter to the Union home minister, expressing the Bengal government's dismay over Chamling's interference in matters pertaining to another state. "This is unconstitutional," Chatterjee said.
The minister, in his letter, also gave a detailed account of how the GJM resorted to violence during the Bengal cabinet meeting held in the Darjeeling Raj Bhavan on June 8 and called the situation the result of "political hooliganism".
The state BJP, too, was forced to react to the situation, perhaps to take care of the sentiments in the plains where people might be confused about its stand on the Gorkhaland stir. State BJP president Dilip Ghosh said in Malda: "BJP never supported the demand for a separate state, based on language or ethnicity. We do not support Gorkhaland but we honour the contribution of the great Gorkhas and support the demand of their development."
In Patlewas, 43 GJM sabhasads flanked their chief on Friday, flaunting their resignation letters from Bengal's second vehicle of autonomy for Hills: GTA. The resignation, politicians said, was something other Hills parties had been insisting on since 2013 to lend the stir for Gorkhaland more credibility. Gurung is waiting for the resignation formalities from GTA to be over by June 26 and so shifted the meeting of the Hills parties to June 29 (from June 24) to clear misunderstanding about GJM's role.
GNLF spokesperson Neeraj Zimba: "We will attend the meeting for a collective decision on the demand for a separate state. The GNLF is ready to give unconditional support to GJM. We only expect them to stick to the Gorkhaland cause." The Hills did not see too much violence on Friday but, at Phulbari near Siliguri, GJM supporters torched an NHPC vehicle to show what might be in store in the future.

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