Gorkhaland Movement Leaders of Hill outfits to begin fast-unto-death from July 15

The boards — set up by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for different communities — have been a bone of contention between the state government and the GJM, with the latter accusing Mamata of trying to divide Gorkhas on lines of caste and community.

Written by Esha Roy | Darjeeling | Updated: July 12, 2017 3:21 am
Gorkhaland supporters in Darjeeling on Tuesday. Partha Paul

THE GORKHALAND Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC), in a meeting on Tuesday, decided that while the indefinite shutdown in Darjeeling Hills will continue, leaders from all political outfits in the region will go on a fast-unto-death from July 15 in support of a separate state of Gorkhaland.

The committee also decided to demand a CBI probe into the deaths that have taken place in the Hills as a result of alleged police firing. While the leaders claimed that seven persons have died in police firing since the agitation began, truck driver Aniket Chetri — who had received burns when his truck was set afire on June 20 allegedly by GJM members — had succumbed at a hospital in Kolkata on Friday. On July 15, which will mark one month of the indefinite strike, leaders from all parties, including the BJP and Congress, will go on an indefinite hunger strike at Chowrasta in Darjeeling. While party spokesperson Neeraj Zimba will represent GNLF in the hunger strike, GJM will be represented by assistant general secretary Binay Tamang and Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League by Pratap Kerri. All other parties will nominate representatives over the next two days.

July 13, which marks Bhanu Jayanti, will be observed as Gorkha Jaati Ekta Diwas. Chaired by GJM, GMCC has 30 members representing all outfits in the Hills, including the Congress and BJP. The district president of NCP — led by Sharad Pawar — on Friday attended the meeting, indicating the party’s support to the movement.

In the four-hour meeting, the committee also gave an ultimatum to the chairmen and vice-chairmen of all the 15 development boards in the Hills to submit their resignations by 6 pm on July 14.

The boards — set up by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for different communities — have been a bone of contention between the state government and the GJM, with the latter accusing Mamata of trying to divide Gorkhas on lines of caste and community. The boards were set up ostensibly to ensure development of specific tribal committees and included disbursement of funds to these communities. The GJM had maintained that the development of the entire region was the function and the responsibility of Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA), which it headed.

While many members from different boards have over the last 10 days submitted their resignations in light of the Gorkhaland movement, the chairmen and vice-chairmen had so far refused to do so. Further, the committee decided that all awards given by West Bengal government will be returned and offices of the DM and SDO will be gheraoed in protest against the blockade of transportation of essential goods.

“We have decided to write to the President, Governor of West Bengal, Governor of Sikkim, our MP S S Ahluwalia and Sikkim MP P D Rai to raise their voice in support of the issue in the Monsoon Session of the Parliament. Besides demanding a CBI inquiry, we will also write to the NHRC to look into the matter of police brutality. Police have so far denied opening fire…there have been allegations and counter allegations… the inquiry will make everything crystal clear,” said GNLF spokesperson and committee member Neeraj Zimba.

While a number of sub-committees have been set up under GMCC — including human rights, intellectual, legal and media committees — there was still no clear consensus on who will lead the Gorkhaland movement from the front or if at all, there will be one leader or party, which will spearhead the stir. “There has been no consensus. It is a people’s movement now and the people will lead it, we will simply coordinate,” said Zimba.

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