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Morcha calls 96hr bandh

Darjeeling, Nov. 20: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today declared a four-day shutdown across the Darjeeling hills from November 22 in demand of Gorkhaland.

Bimal Gurung’s party is against the inclusion of the hills in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. The former GNLF leader had been expelled for “anti-party” activities more than a month ago and had gone ahead to form the Morcha. His call for Gorkhaland has come as a direct challenge to Subash Ghisingh’s party. For the GNLF, the Sixth Schedule is the trump card.

The bandh has also been called to protest against Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s three-day visit. The Bengal chief minister will be here to attend the CPM’s district conference, which is being held here for the first time in 40 years.

Vehicles carrying water and emergency services have been kept outside the purview of the strike.

Announcing the party decision at a public meeting in Peshok, 25km from Darjeeling, Gurung said: “Let him (Bhattacharjee) now come and address the Bhanubhakta statue.”

He was referring to Chowrastha where the chief minister is scheduled to address his party workers on November 25. Md Amin, a state secretariat member, will accompany Bhattacharjee to the conference to be held at Gymkhana Rink Hall. Around 350 delegates are expected to attend it.

S.P. Lepcha, the district secretary of the CPM, had earlier requested the hill parties not to disrupt the conference. “In a democratic country, everyone has the right to hold party meetings. We will also invite other parties to meet the chief minister to talk about the status,” he had said.

Binay Tamang, secretary of the press and publicity cell of the Morcha, said since his party has rejected the Sixth Schedule status, there was no question of discussing it with Bhattacharjee. “We apologise for inconveniencing people, but this is a question of our identity.”

A five-member delegation of the Morcha, led by its vice-president K.S. Ramudamu, today met Union home minister Shivraj Patil in New Delhi. “We told the home minister that the Sixth Schedule will only divide the Gorkhas on communal lines and is unacceptable to the people of the hills. We have requested him to seriously look into our 100-year-old demand for a separate state,” said Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the party, over phone from Delhi.

With the GNLF having already announced that it will oppose the ABGL bandh on November 22, the party today made it clear that 96-hour shutdown, too, will not be welcome.

“People do not want bandhs and we will oppose them. From business establishments to education institutions (which are currently holding their annual examinations), everything will be affected,” said Deepak Gurung, the president of the GNLF Darjeeling Branch Committee.

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