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11 Jul 2017

Bury differences, Morcha MLA tells hill panel - Common agenda plea

A deserted Chowrastha in Darjeeling on Monday. Picture by Passang Yolmo
TT, Calcutta, July 10: A Gorkha Janmukti Morcha legislator today appealed to the committee formed by all hill parties to steer the statehood movement to set aside "differences of opinion" and work on a "common agenda".
The appeal by Darjeeling MLA Amar Singh Rai came a day before the Gorkhalanad Movement Co-ordination Committee is scheduled to meet in Mirik to decide on the course of the agitation. The plea hinted at the anxiety among people in the hills over the committee's tardiness in charting a roadmap to statehood.
Despite meeting four times since being formed about a month ago, the committee has not been able to take a clear stand on how to go ahead with the agitation. Tomorrow's meeting was brought forward by a week in what is being perceived as an attempt to assuage the people's concerns over the movement.
"I personally believe that the committee has not been able to work in a co-ordinated manner. There can be differences of opinion.... It will be easy for everyone if they concentrate on a common agenda," Rai said today.
The MLA said the time had come to take a "strong decision".
"I think a strong decision needs to be taken tomorrow. The decision should be such that the general public agree with it. If the decision is not accepted by the public, the importance of the committee might fade away," Rai said.
Sources said there was growing discontent among the hill residents over the course of the agitation the Morcha is spearheading. More and more people are showing signs of restlessness as the indefinite strike since June 15 has started taking a toll on the supply of essentials and daily trade.
Such is the anxiety among the residents over statehood that the Morcha had to change the venue of its all-party meetings after thousands flocked to the earlier sessions in anticipation of an outcome.
The presidents of almost all the hill parties have skipped the earlier meetings, arousing concern if they would yield anything positive.
Party representatives at tomorrow's meeting are likely to discuss the way forward for the indefinite agitation. The hill parties are yet to take a clear stand as far as the strike is concerned.
While many in the 30-member committee are in favour of continuing with the strike - which entered its 26th day today - until the Centre intervenes, some want the agitation to be relaxed, the sources said.
"Issues such as depleting liquid cash with people also need to be discussed tomorrow. The supplies of essentials have also stopped," the Morcha source said.
A Morcha leader had recently conceded that "lifting the strike without a solid ground" would not go down well with the hill residents, who have had to face hardships because of the agitation.
Rai today said the Centre should intervene immediately.
"If the Centre fails to address our concerns, the people's confidence (in the BJP) will definitely be dented," he said.
Sporadic incidents of violence continued in the hills.
There were reports of a gram panchayat building and a forest office being torched at Risheehat, about 20km from Darjeeling, last night.

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