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March to push statehood limit

Darjeeling, April 13: Sixteen youths from across the Darjeeling hills today set off on foot to “fortify the Gorkhaland area” till its last frontier, the Sankosh river on the Dooars bordering Assam.

The mission is to plant Gorkha Janmukti Morcha flags along the stretch, a distance of about 290km from here.

“Siliguri and the Dooars must be included in Gorkhaland. We will not let go an inch,” said Hemant Rai, the team leader. The march is also a protest against the lathicharge on an ex-servicemen’s rally in Siliguri last week.

The initiative taken by the Gorkha Janmukti Agsu comes at a time when the Morcha is set to organise political rallies in the Dooars. “We appeal to hill residents to join the marchers and help fortify the Gorkhaland area,” said Ravi Shankar Sharma, the president of the Gorkha Janmukti Agsu.

The All Gorkha Students’ Union, or Agsu, was an apolitical organisation till it merged with the Morcha last year.

The team was flagged off from Chowrastha by Morcha president Bimal Gurung during the Ekta Diwas celebration. The Morcha Agsu also felicitated Indian Idol winner Prashant Tamang at the same venue.

“Let the Bengal police beat us like they did to our ex-servicemen but we will not budge from our stand,” said Sharma.

The team will cover about 20km a day and is expecting “Gorkhaland supporters” to help with food and lodging. The team of marchers, however, has not obtained any permission conforming to Gurung’s earlier announcement. The Morcha president had said after the lathicharge that no permission would be sought from now on for political programmes. The party had alleged that violence could have been avoided if the district administration had given permission to the ex-servicemen to bring out the rally.

Rahul Srivastava, the Darjeeling police superintendent, said: “If the group is small and does not disrupt traffic or normal life, we can allow them to move.”

Kalimpong protest

Kalimpong today welcomed the Nepali new year in complete silence as a mark of protest against the police assault on the ex-servicemen’s rally, reports our correspondent.

Every year on this day, cultural organisations bring out processions to herald the beginning of the year according to the Nepali calendar. However, no such celebrations took place today. “At a time when a part of our Gorkha family is still to recover from the shock of the police assault, how could we have fun?” asked Rajen Gurung, the president of Lok Sanskriti Sansta which chose not to hold street corner concerts on New Year eve last evening.

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