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7 Jul 2017

Sikkim threat to sue Bengal for 'losses' of 60 thousand crore

TT, Calcutta, July 6: Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling has said the state had merged with India not to be "sandwiched between China and Bengal" and threatened to drag the Bengal government to the Supreme Court for losses incurred by the Himalayan state because of repeated agitations in Darjeeling since the 1980s.
The remarks by Chamling yesterday and today come at a time Sikkim-bound trucks ferrying ration and other goods have been attacked in Siliguri, prompting the vehicle operators to go on a strike. The Himalayan state is also at the centre of a border stand-off between Indian troops and the Chinese army over the construction of a road.
"These days, our vehicles are being vandalised in Siliguri, rations are not being allowed.... We merged with India and showed our desh bhakti (patriotism). We did not merge with India to be sandwiched between China and Bengal," Chamling said during an event yesterday.
He continued with his attack on the Bengal government today, saying the state should be held responsible for the losses suffered by Sikkim since the Gorkhaland agitation began in the 1980s.
"We have incurred losses to the tune of Rs 60,000 crore in the past 32 years," Chamling said at Jorethang today. "We will move the Supreme Court against the Bengal government for this. The Bengal government has to give this compensation."
It was not immediately clear how Chamling arrived at the figure.
The Sikkim chief minister said he was in "constant touch with the Centre" over "incidents" in the Darjeeling hills. Chamling is known to share a cordial relationship with the Centre and comes across as a leader who is always measured in his statements.
Sikkim, which merged with India in 1975, has been repeatedly affected by the Gorkhaland movement since 1986.
"The Himalayan region provides water to Bengal and Bihar. In return, why should our roads be closed? Our roads have been closed for 30 years. For 30 years, our roads have been vandalised," Chamling said.
Sikkim is connected with the rest of India through National Highway 10 that passes through Darjeeling and Kalimpong. Any strife in the Bengal hills has almost always affected the Himalayan state.
During the last phase of the Gorkhaland agitation started by the Morcha in 2007, Sikkim resident O.P. Bhandari had moved the Supreme Court, which had directed Bengal to ensure that NH10 was not blocked during any agitation.
At the programme yesterday, Chamling referred to the recent stand-off between India and China.
"There is unrest in the border near Nathu La. We have concerns both from there and the plains (Siliguri). They are not allowing rice to be brought here. What is this? Are we not Indians? Don't we have the right to live in this country as Indians," asked Chamling.
Chamling reminded the Centre that the people of Sikkim were working like "unpaid soldiers".
"We have kept Sikkim peaceful for 23-24 years. What more should we do? In this border area, we are guarding like unpaid soldiers. This is our contribution," he said, "Everyone must understand the value of peace and security."
Trinamul leaders in the Darjeeling hills said Chamling should not have overtly shown support for Gorkhaland.
"We are against any vandalism or any such move that can affect the supply of food to any state. Nothing as such has happened in Siliguri, but there have been protests following hi

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