The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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GNLF paints the hills green
- Supporters still not sure what pact means, but celebrations roll

Darjeeling, Dec. 6: They were ready since morning with their drums ' dhumphus and madals ' waiting for the good news to reach.

When it did come ' after Subash Ghisingh signed the memorandum of settlement in Delhi ' a little after 3 pm, residents of the hill town broke into celebrations.

Many of them, however, did not know what they were celebrating. While some thought that all residents had been given tribal status, others were of the opinion that the hills had already been included in the Sixth Schedule.

No one cared, though. Only the 'victory' mattered. Implications could come later.

As GNLF supporters burst crackers and danced to the beats of dhumphus at Chowkbazar, leaders flooded the marketplace with green (the colour of the GNLF flag) gulal.

Traffic came to a halt with onlookers stopping to watch the 'fun', if not partake of it.

For Pranay Rai, the GNLF commissioner, this was an historic moment ' the path for conferring of the Sixth Schedule had been cleared. 'After all it is a new beginning for the hill people,' Rai said.

The wall in Chowkbazar, popularly called poster wall, virtually turned into a commentary field with supporters jostling for space. While placards wishing Ghisingh 'best of luck' were plastered in the morning itself, those thanking the GNLF chief were put up in the evening.

Party followers singing Nepali numbers and shouting slogans went around the town waving flags and anointing passers by with green tikas.

Many also headed for Chowrastha for yet another round of celebrations, which started around 5.30 pm.

GNLF supporters from the Singamari-Tukvar area near here competed with their counterparts in downtown Darjeeling and extended the revelry by another two hours.

Although most people seemed unaware of the powers and functions of the Sixth Schedule, they are ready to wait for Ghisingh to explain it to them on January 1 at Vah Tukvar, the place where it all started a year ago.

In Kalimpong, GNLF supporters took out a rally and burst crackers. MLA Gaulan Lepcha said: 'We are happy that the Bengal government finally agreed (to our proposal).'

Asok seat

The settlement signed between the Centre, the Left Front government and the GNLF might adversely affect the poll prospect of urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya, the CPM's Siliguri MLA.

Two mouzas ' Sevoke Hill Forests and Sevoke Forests ' that were within his Assembly segment, will go to Kurseong subdivision, under Kurseong constituency. GNLF's Shanta Chhetri represents Kurseong.

Last time, the minister won by around 22,000 votes, most of which came from the two mouzas that have around 15,000 voters, party sources said in Calcutta.

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