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25 Jul 2017

Strike at 40: GNLF then, Morcha now

The DGHC agreement being signed in Calcutta on August 22 in 1988 in the presence of then Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu, Union home minister Buta Singh (sitting second from left) and GNLF chief Subash Ghisingh (sitting extreme right)
TT, Calcutta, July 24: The indefinite strike called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today entered Day 40.
Nearly 30 years ago, the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) which was spearheading the statehood agitation then, had called a " chalis din, chalis raat" (forty days, forty nights) "pahar bandh" (closure of hills).
For the past three decades, the 40-day continuous strike has been the most-talked subject with reference to the statehood agitation and many in the hills had felt that such complete shutdown would never be repeated. During the July-August-September agitation of the Morcha in 2013, the party did close the hills for 44 days but in a staggered manner.
As the continuous strike record is set to be broken, The Telegraph compares the two strikes:
Starting Date
GNLF: February 10, 1988
Morcha:June 15, 2017
Leader at the helm
GNLF:Subash Ghisingh
Morcha:Bimal Gurung
Strike run-up
Morcha: An immediate "indefinite strike" was announced around 11am on June 15 when police started raising Gurung's office at Patlebas in Darjeeling, provided little time for the common people to be prepared.
GNLF: The party, while announcing the strike, had claimed that it was to oppose police atrocities. Ghisingh, in 1989, however, clarified that the 40-day strike had been called over the nomenclature of the autonomous set-up that he had agreed during a meeting with then Union home minister Buta Singh and CPM leader Harikishen Singh Surjeet in New Delhi on January 12, 1988. Ghisingh wanted the word "Gorkha" for the new body while the Centre and state leaders had stressed the word "Darjeeling".
Ultimately, the body was named Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC). Ghisingh also wanted some areas in the Terai to be brought under jurisdiction of the new body.
Morcha: The hills were simmering over the alleged imposition of Bengali language on hill schools. Clashes broke out between police and Morcha supporters in Darjeeling on June 8, 2017, less than 200 metres from Raj Bhavan where chief minister Mamata Banerjee was holding a meeting of the Bengal Cabinet.
On June 15, 2017, police raided Gurung's party office at Patlebas and the party called an immediate indefinite strike. The contours have changed now with both the Morcha and an all-party committee called the Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee calling it a strike for a single point agenda of Gorkhaland.

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