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Gurung vows to intensify stir as GTA members quit

By Pradipta Tapadar
June 23, 2017 23:00 IST
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All the elected members of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, including its chief executive Bimal Gurung, resigned on Friday from the administrative body in the trouble-hit Darjeeling hills with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha vowing to intensify the stir for a separate state.

The indefinite shutdown entered Day Nine crippling normal life in the hills where an uneasy calm prevailed with small processions supporting Gorkhaland seen on the streets.

The elected members of the GTA belonged to the GJM which is leading the stir.

Gurung, also the GJM supremo, who was not seen in public for the past several days, appeared before the media at Patlebas in Darjeeling, a party stronghold.

Taking a confrontationist stand, he said, "The agitation for Gorkhaland will continue. We have resigned from the GTA. Our one point demand is Gorkhaland. I will fight till the end."

He said, "I am not Kishenji (Maoist leader) who can be eliminated in a police encounter. I have not taken up arms against the country. I am fighting for the identity of the Gorkhas and in a democracy I have every right to do that."

Meanwhile, the evacuation of students, stranded in several boarding schools, took place today as the GJM had given a 12-hour window till 6 pm to allow them to leave the hills safely.

The boarding schools arranged for buses to send the students to Siliguri in the plains, from where the guardians will pick them up.

Father Shanjumon at St Joseph North Point school which has nearly 400 boarders, said, "We arranged fifth-four buses to take the students to Siliguri. All the boarders have been evacuated."

Alleging that the police had opened fire in the hills on June 17 in which three GJM activists were killed, Gurung said, "We (the GJM) have the video footage of the incident. I demand a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) inquiry."

It was the state government which has violated human rights and slapped false cases against the GJM, he claimed.

A case of murder, arson, assault on police personnel and conspiracy to incite violence on June 17 has been filed against Gurung and his wife Asha.

Asked about the Centre's response to the GJM's demand, Gurung said, "Talks are on with the central government and we hope something positive will come up soon."

GJM general secretary Roshan Giri said that the resignation letters were being forwarded to the GTA principal secretary.

The party decided to burn copies of the GTA Accord, reached in 2011 among the Union home ministry, the West Bengal government and the GJM, on June 26 and 27.

The state government had on Thursday offered a dialogue to defuse the crisis with Home Secretary Malay De saying that the doors of the government were 'open for talks to restore normalcy in the hills'.

State education minister Partha Chatterjee reiterated that the police did not open fire.

"They (the GJM) are continuing the agitation holding the hill people as prisoners. What they are saying is not the voice of the people. Doors are open for discussion. But they are fomenting trouble," he said.

"Why have they (the GJM) resigned (from the GTA). The term of the GTA will end on June 30," he added.

Tourism minister Gautam Deb said the way the GJM was throwing challenges was not correct. "We know how to alienate and tackle them in a democratic way."

The Calcutta high court, during the day, directed that notice be served on Gurung by all means possible in a PIL challenging the indefinite bandh called by the party in Darjeeling.

A division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Nishita Mhatre and Justice T Chakraborty asked the Darjeeling superintendent of police to serve the notice personally on Gurung or send it to his office.

A police official in Darjeeling said Internet services remained suspended in the region for the sixth day.

IMAGE: A GJM supporter shouts slogans at a protest rally during their in Darjeeling. Photograph: Ashok Bhaumi/PTI Photo

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Pradipta Tapadar
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