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Siliguri faces rally threat
- 100-odd Gorkhaland marchers eye route through heart of trade hub on way to the Dooars

Siliguri/Darjeeling, April 16: Around 100 supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha Agsu today reached Sukna, having walked 70km from Darjeeling on their way to the Sankosh on the Bengal-Assam border, the last frontier of the new state that they are demanding.

“Our aim is to garner support for Gorkhaland from people who live along the route,” Ravi Shankar Sharma, the president of the students’ body affiliated to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, said this evening.

Till late in the evening, the marchers had not decided whether they would bypass Siliguri or not. Some favoured walking to Sevoke through NH31, which skirts Siliguri town, while others wanted to walk along Hill Cart Road from Darjeeling More and head for Salugara via Panitanki More and Sevoke Road.

Sharma, however, said they planned to enter Siliguri and halt at Sevoke, the entry point to the Dooars, tomorrow night. “We will have 100-120 marchers (a few people from Sukna will join),” he said. Only 16 people had started off from Darjeeling on April 13.

“If we can start early, our plan is to go up to Court More (in the heart of Siliguri town) and then take Sevoke Road. If it is late, we would take Sevoke Road from Sevoke More, covering a portion of Hill Cart Road. The district police administration has allowed us to take the route,” Sharma said.

The district superintendent of police of Darjeeling, Rahul Srivastava, however, said he had no information in this regard. Rajesh Yadav, the additional superintendent of Siliguri, said: “I don’t know about any decision so far. My seniors will decide.”

Siliguri could witness more activity in favour of Gorkhaland in the coming days with lawyers from across the Darjeeling Hills deciding to hold a rally in the plains soon.

Poonam Kumar Sharma, the secretary of the Legal Aids Awareness Forum, said: “We will hold a rally in Siliguri on April 22 to protest against the lathicharge on ex-servicemen at Darjeeling More on April 9.” The police had acted to stop a rally of the ex-servicemen from entering Siliguri town.

The Forum is an apolitical body of lawyers in Darjeeling but their counterparts from Kalimpong and Kurseong are expected to join them for the programme.

“We will start from Gurung Bustee More (along Hill Cart Road) and proceed towards Court More where we will submit a memorandum to district officials,” said Poonam Sharma.

The rally will also raise the demand for Gorkhaland inclusive of Siliguri and the Dooars.

“Siliguri and the Dooars have always been integral parts of the Darjeeling district. That is why we want to include Siliguri within our Gorkhaland demand,” said Poonam Sharma.

The Morcha, too, is expected to hold a meeting at Bagajatin Park in Siliguri on April 27.

The lawyers and Morcha leaders have not yet sought permission from the authorities, but said they would do so in a couple of days.

District magistrate Rajesh Pandey had yesterday announced that all applications seeking permission for organising political meetings in Siliguri would henceforth be referred to the Bengal government.

Joy ride spoiled

Tourists could not enjoy the toy train trip from Darjeeling to Batasia today despite the Morcha keeping the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway’s joy ride out of the purview of its indefinite shutdown of government offices across the hills. Railway sources said the service was withdrawn because all the booking counters were closed. Other tourist spots and facilities remained open.

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