|(From top) Bimal Gurung, Asok Bhattacharya, Madan Tamang: To meet soon?
Siliguri, May 7: The Darjeeling district administration today granted permission to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha to hold a rally in Sukna tomorrow despite stiff resistance from the anti-Gorkhaland outfits in the plains who have decided to oppose it tooth and nail.
The permission for the rally at the BB Gurung Memorial High School grounds, around 10km from here, came in the evening.
This is supposed to be the second largest public meeting of the Morcha to be held in the plains. After the first one was held at Indira Gandhi Maidan on the outskirts of Siliguri in July 2008, the administration had refused to allow the hill party to hold any rallies in the plains citing law and order problems.
“We have received the permission from the subdivisional office in Kurseong to hold the public meeting,” said Raju Pradhan, the assistant general secretary of the Morcha. “Our party president Bimal Gurung, general secretary Roshan Giri and all other top leaders will address the meeting, scheduled to start at 11am.”
Kurseong subdivisional officer Suden Tshering Bhutia has confirmed that the permission has been granted.
According to Pradhan, the meeting will be attended by Morcha workers and supporters of the Siliguri subdivision, that is, the town and the Terai region, with an expected audience of around 40,000.
The threat of a confrontation, however, continues to loom over the rally as Mukunda Majumdar, the president of the Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee, today iterated that it would organise a march to Sukna to voice protests and campaign against the statehood demand of the Morcha.
“We want to make it clear that police had once intercepted us at Dagapur on the outskirts of the town, but tomorrow there will be no stopping us. We are determined to walk up to Sukna and stop Bimal Gurung and his men from holding the meeting.
“We have been repeatedly telling the administration that the Morcha should not be granted permission to hold any public activity in the plains. Now that the administration has granted the permission, we have no other option but to take to the streets to vent our protests,” said Majumdar.
On February 4, when the Gorkha Janmukti Vidyarthi Morcha, the Morcha student wing, had resorted to road blockades at Darjeeling More after a police lathicharge, more than 300 Bhasha Committee members had marched towards Panchnoi with the intention of clearing the blockade.
However, the police had prevented the confrontation by stopping the Bhasha Committee protesters at Dagapur.
Morcha leaders, however, are firm about making their rally a success.
“We do not have any clue about what the Bhasha Banchao is planning,” Pradhan said. “Moreover, it is for the police and the administration to take care of law and order as we, being a political party, have the right to organise public meetings.”
The rally is significant for the Morcha. For unlike the meeting at Indira Gandhi Maidan where people from the hills had come as well, the rally this time is only for the people of Siliguri subdivision, where the party is yet to prove its clout.
“It is definitely a challenge for the Morcha leadership to prove their support base in the Terai and they will desperately try to bring in as many supporters as possible,” a political observer said.
Moreover, the Morcha will in all probability use this meeting to voice its displeasure and announce new plans in the wake of the state government’s hint that it would like to involve other political formations in the next round of hill talks.
The Madan Tamang-led ABGL, GNLF and the CPRM in the hills and the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad in the plains have welcomed the government’s move.
The Morcha wants some parts of the Dooars where the Gorkhas are in majority and the Terai, besides Darjeeling district, to be brought under an interim set-up for the hills. The geographical boundary for the new set-up will define the shape for Gorkhaland, which the Morcha wants in the long run.
Sources in the government said since there are other political outfits in the areas the Morcha wants, it is only fair to include the them in the talks.
State urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya said the next round of talks might be held in the first week of June. “Considering the civic polls, I have asked the chief secretary and the home secretary to request the Centre to hold the talks on the first week of June,” the minister said.
The threat from the Bhasha Committee has put the police on their toes.
“We will deploy adequate forces at all important road crossings and routes. There will be mobile police teams at strategic locations. The district commando force will be deployed along with the district police,” said Gaurav Sharma, the additional superintendent of police of Siliguri.