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Ban order to defuse hill tension

Darjeeling, July 2: The district administration today avoided a possible confrontation between GNLF and PDF supporters in Mirik, around 35 km from here, by implementing Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The order, which forbids a gathering of more than five people at any given time, was issued by Bhismadeb Bhattacharya, the subdivisional magistrate of Kurseong. Justifying the order Bhattacharya said: 'With both the parties were preparing for a showdown, peace of common people was at stake.'

The clampdown forced the People's Democratic Front to cancel its scheduled public meeting at Mirik today and also resulted in the GNLF withdrawing the strike call. The hill opposition coalition had called today's meeting to talk about the Rs 5.5 crore Sarva Siksha Abhiyan scam that has rocked the hills recently.

Tension was simmering in the town since the GNLF called a general strike in the area to stop the PDF from holding its meeting. Despite the threat, the PDF had maintained that it would go ahead with the meet, fanning the possibility of a bloodbath.

GNLF leader and chairman of Mirik municipality LB Rai today said: 'Our objective was to refrain the PDF from holding their meeting and since it cannot be held today there is no need to call a strike.'

Despite the GNLF's call for normality, life was partially affected in the region. Though most shops remained open, traffic was less than normal, causing problems for the general public.

An undeterred PDF, however, maintained that it would 'see how long the GNLF could stop them from holding a public meeting'. The coalition, has decided to reschedule their meeting on July 9.

'The GNLF has lost its political strength and their strategy speaks for itself. We have however decided to reschedule the meeting', said PDF convener Madan Tamang.

Earlier the GNLF had held a meeting at Mirik and given their 'clarification on the scam' and had also burnt an effigy of Madan Tamang. Though the GNLF is bent on disrupting the public meetings, Tamang, maintained that the PDF was ready to get to the bottom of the scam.

Tamang, who returned from Delhi on Friday, said: 'he had met everyone except the prime minister', and added that the grounds were being prepared to get to the truth. Though Tamang did not specifically mention the names of the central leaders he had met in Delhi, there are indications that the PDF has demand a CBI inquiry into the scam.

The Bharatiya Gorkha Janjati Manyata Samity ' a body demanding that all the hill communities should be made tribals ' sent a fax to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, today, about their demand before the government's crucial meeting with Subash Ghisingh tomorrow.

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