The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shutdown in GNLF rally might

Darjeeling, Sept. 16: Living up to yesterday's claim, the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) today brought the town to a grinding halt as common people shunned work and stayed within their homes for fear of violence.

Hundreds of GNLF supporters converged on Chowrastha this morning and launched a vitriolic attack on People's Democratic Front leader Madan Tamang. The rally criss-crossed the town and passed the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League office on Ladenla Road. The office was open, the green and maroon flag was fluttering, but the rest of Darjeeling downed its shutters.

The rally was organised by the GNLF unit of the Singamari-Tukvar Valley, a stronghold of the party. Compulsory representation from each family of the area ensured a huge gathering. Other GNLF units also joined the rally.

President of the GNLF's Singamari-Tukvar unit Bimal Gurung said: 'We have waited for long but we will not wait any longer. We will not allow the PDF, which is a conglomeration of anti-people organisations, to hold any further meetings. We will come with khukuris next time.'

The PDF, which called off its scheduled rally in Chowk Bazar today to avoid a possible confrontation with the GNLF, has now decided to hold a convention in Darjeeling on September 30.

GNLF leaders asked the huge gathering to squat at Chowk Bazar until 3 pm to ensure that the PDF did not hold a meeting after they left. The supporters, half of who were women, obliged. They were later served food.

There were very few police personnel in sight. J. Chattopadhyay, the Darjeeling subdivisional officer, admitted that the 'GNLF was not given permission to hold the rally.'

'Since the PDF had applied for the meeting first, we told the GNLF that permission could not be given,' he said.

As the GNLF decided to engage in another muscle-flexing exercise, business here came to a halt as apprehension of violence gripped the town. The GNLF, however, did not provoke and the Opposition did not retaliate. There were no strike calls either, but the closed town was enough for the ruling party to send its message across.

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