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12 Jul 2017

Fast unto death plan in hills -- Senior leaders to take part in agitation; hint of contact with Centre

TT, Calcutta, July 11: The Gorkhaland Movement Co-ordination Committee (GMCC) has decided to intensify the statehood agitation through a fast-unto-death protest by senior hill leaders from all parties from July 15.
Sources cited two immediate objectives: exert pressure on Delhi and keep the morale of the foot soldiers high.
The Centre has till now maintained a stoic silence on the statehood demand. The failure to attract any attention from Delhi has raised question marks over the ability of the committee to steer the movement.
The GMCC, a conglomeration of 14 political and apolitical organisations from the hills, had held four meetings before the one today. It has been under severe pressure to deliver something concrete to keep the ranks active.
"The movement would suffer without the foot soldiers.... So, they had to announce something potent," said a senior police officer.
The committee today announced a series of decisions that have the potential to prolong the agitation.
Even before the start of the meeting in Mirik today, it was clear that the committee could not afford to relax the general strike. Hundreds took to the streets, raising slogans against providing any relaxation.
News that one more Morcha supporter, Ashok Tamang, 36, from Darjeeling had died following injuries suffered during the July 8 violence added to the charged atmosphere. Tamang had been admitted to a hospital in Gangtok.
The police did not confirm any death in firing but panel members said that since June 8, seven people had died.After a four-hour meeting, Binay Tamang, the assistant general secretary of the Morcha, said: "Senior leaders of the GMCC have decided to sit on a fast-unto-death at Chowrasta from July 15. Leaders at the level of general secretary and assistant general secretary of the respective parties will take part in the agitation."
Tamang has decided to represent the Morcha, while GNLF spokesperson Neeraj Zimba will represent his party. "From the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League, the party's general secretary, Pratap Khati, will be joining us," Tamang said, adding that names from other political parties would be submitted by July 14.
Tamang said: "The agitation will only intensify further. It would be wrong to say that this is our last resort."
The committee members hinted that a communication channel had opened with the Centre.
"Our committee leaders are communicating with Delhi but everything cannot be divulged to the media," said Zimba.
Even though the committee has not finalised a date, it has decided to send a delegation to Delhi soon.
The committee today asked the chairpersons, vice-chairpersons and other members of the various development boards to resign within 6pm on July 14. "If they fail to resign, they will be branded anti-Gorkhaland," said Tamang.
Of the 16 development boards, only the chairman of the Rai board has resigned so far.
There are also plans to celebrate the birth anniversary of Nepali poet, Bhanu Bhakta, which falls on July 13 as "Gorkha Unity Day".
The Morcha accused the police of stopping the hill residents from bringing ration from the plains. Tamang said the party would gherao the offices of the district magistrates, sub-divisional officers and block development officers from Thursday.

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