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12 Jul 2017

Darjeeling unrest: Award wapsi planned, fast unto death from July 15

Pramod Giri, HT, 11 July 2017: Stepping up their demand for statehood, leaders of 15 parties supporting Gorkhaland have decided to undertake a fast unto death programme in Darjeeling from July 15. BJP will also nominate a representative. The agitation programme was finalised in a four-hour long meeting of the Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC) in Mirik on Tuesday.
The indefinite bandh that began on June 15 will also continue, GMCC decided.
A number of agitation programmes from returning awards from the state government to ‘bag rally’ were unanimously adopted at Mirik, where Trinamool Congress posted their first electoral victory in May.
The award-wapsi programme has been planned on July 13, the birth anniversary of Nepalese poet Bhanubhakta Acharya (1814-86), when the recipients of different awards from the state government will return the awards.
Incidentally, another Darjeeling resident succumbed to his injuries on Tuesday, pushing the total number of deaths, all allegedly due to police firing, in the current phase of unrest in the north Bengal hills to eight. While three persons fell to bullets on June 17, one was killed on July 7 night, two on July 8 and one on July 11.
Ashok Tamang, 36, died in Manipal hospital in Gangtok on Tuesday. “Tamang ws shot in the abdomen by policemen who opened fire on July 8 in Darjeeling,” alleged GJM assistant secretary Binay Tamang. He used to live in ward 18 of Darjeeling town.
Leaders of the Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee alleged that while the police are showing lenience to those disturbing communal harmony in Basirhat, they are firing at the agitators in the hills. “This is nothing but double standards. The police is shooting on those demanding Gorkhaland, but showing restraint in Basirhat,” alleged GJM assistant secretary Binay Tamang.
The fast unto death will start in Darjeeling at 11 am. Each of the 15 parties and organisations that constitute the coordination committee will nominate one representative each to participate in it. Though BJP hill leaders have attended each of the all-party meetings on June 13, 20, 29 and GMCC meetings on July 6 and 11, the president of the party’s Bengal unit has always emphasised that they were never in favour of Gorkhaland.
GMCC leaders also said they will move court against chief minister Mamata Banerjee for alleging that Gorkhaland supporters have links with the insurgents of the North East and foreign countries. “We have no links with any foreign country and militants from the North East. The Centre should probe the allegation,” said Tamang and Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) spokesperson Niraj Zimba.
“We are urging the chairmen and office bearers of all the 15 development boards in the hills to resign by July 14. Those who don’t will be declared anti-Gorkha,” said Tamang. Incidentally, hill parties have accused chief minister Mamata Banerjee of setting up these boards to wean away the people from Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), the principal political force in the hills.
Lashing out at the state government for blocking supply of essential commodities such as food items, Binay Tamang and Zimba said they have decided to hold a ‘bag rally’ to highlight that the hill people have been reduced to virtual beggers. “People carrying empty bags will march to Siliguri after July 17,” said Zimba.
Between July 14 and 17, the protesters will gherao all offices of district magistrates, subdivisional officers and block officers in the hills.
Speaking at a public meeting in the beach town of Digha, chief minister Mamata Banerjee lashed out at the BJP without naming the party. “They cannot protect pilgrims to Amarnath. People are dying for them in Amarnath to Kanyakumari to Darjeeling,” she said.
During the day, Calcutta high court too expressed its displeasure about the indefinite strike in the north Bengal hills.

The hills continue to be under prohibitory orders under section 144 of CrPC that prohibits the assembly of more than four persons. Internet services, too, continue to be banned.

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