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9 Jun 2017

Pushed to corner, Morcha hits out

A Morcha supporter throws stones at a policeman as two others
threaten him in Darjeeling on Thursday. Pic: Passang Yolmo
Vivek Chhetri and Avijit Sinha, TT, Darjeeling, June 8: The turmoil in the hills today is being seen as an outburst of a pent-up anger of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha cadres and their apparent apprehension about the party's performance in the GTA elections in the wake of Trinamul gaining a toehold in the region, political observers have said.
Trinamul has made recent inroads into the hills by winning the Mirik civic seat and has managed a section of people on its side by forming 15 development boards for communities. The Trinamul-led government has also been pushing forward its development agenda - upgrading Kalimpong into a district and Mirik into a sub-division.
Although the government's decision to make Bengali compulsory in schools had stirred the hill sentiments to the Morcha's advantage, Mamata Banerjee had blunted that too to some extent by announcing that the language would be made optional.
A political observer pointed out that the state government's sustained campaign to push the Morcha to the wall was being felt not only by the senior leaders but also its cadres and the party was desperate to make its presence felt.
"For the past few days, the chief minister and her government have time and again deflated any Morcha agitation. In fact, after she declared that Bengali will not be compulsory in the hills, questions were raised on the justification of the Morcha's calls for strikes and agitations. The hill party was desperate to consolidate its support base by playing the Gorkhaland card and by fuming at the state again. This led to today's outburst," the observer said.
Trinamul leaders in the hills iterated that the Morcha's anger was the result of the ruling party's attempts to corner it.
"We could sense that there were instigations over the past few days and today, the party indulged in violence. This is because they have no political issue to counter Trinamul as we are solely working on the agenda of development and gaining support everyday," said Binny Sharma, a spokesperson of Darjeeling district Trinamul.
He alleged that the violence today was a "planned move".
"The chief minister has been consistently coming to the hills and announcing projects every time. It is because of this agenda of development that we won the Mirik municipality and secured seats in three other civic bodies of the hills. Now that the GTA elections are ahead, Morcha leaders and cadres are worried if they can win a majority of the seats this time. It is more so because in the past five years, the GTA has failed miserably in meeting the aspirations of the hill people," he added.
Morcha chief Bimal Gurung had yesterday accused Mamata of dividing the Gorkha community.
"You come here so many times and every time you come, you wipe the smile out of people's face. But you keep saying that the hills are smiling. You are dividing our community into bits and pieces. Your intentions are not good for the hills," he had said.
"Trinamul will collapse in two minutes if they don't have the police on their side," he added.
Another Trinamul leader alleged that the Morcha was trying to divert the people's attention from the promises made by its ally BJP over Gorkhaland before it came to power at the Centre.
"Since 2014, when the NDA government came to power with the assurance that it would sympathetically consider the demand of Gorkhaland, there hasn't been an inch of progress. Only some more assurances have flown in from the Centre. Some other hill parties had become vocal against the Morcha for clinching to the GTA and not doing anything on the statehood issue," said Rajen Mukhia, the president of the Darjeeling district Trinamul.
Morcha ally BJP attacked Mamata over the unrest and her decision to call the army.
"She has been going to the hills every month. We keep hearing that the hills are smiling. If it is so, why does she need to call the army?" asked BJP state president Dilip Ghosh.

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