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Fast for plains in set-up

Siliguri, May 10: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s student and woman wings launched relay hunger strikes in the plains today as part of the pressure tactics ahead of talks at political and bureaucratic levels this month.

In the Dooars, seven persons each representing the Vidyarthi Morcha and the Nari Morcha are fasting at Bagrakote, Birpara and Kalchini. Similar fast is going on at Panchnoi in the Terai also.

“Members of the Gorkha Janmukti Vidyarthi Morcha and the Gorkha Janmukti Nari Morcha began relay hunger strikes this morning. They are demanding the inclusion of the Terai and the Dooars in the territory to be marked for the interim arrangement at the next round of political-level tripartite talks to be held at the end of May,” said Samuel Gurung, a central committee member of the Morcha.

The agitation had been announced by Morcha chief Bimal Gurung at a meeting in Sukna, 10km from Siliguri, on Saturday. “Seven members each of the Vidyarthi Morcha and the Nari Morcha will take part in the hunger-strikes. Each group will be on fast for 24 hours and the agitation will continue for 15 days,” Gurung had said.

As the hills and the plains are once again on the boil, tour operators in Siliguri said they would have to bear the brunt of the tension.

“While the Bangla O Bangla Bhasa Banchao Committee has called a statewide strike on May 14, the Morcha will enforce a shutdown on May 15 and 16,” said a tour operator. “We are keeping our fingers crossed as the Morcha leadership has made it clear that they will not take any responsibility of NH31A that connects Sikkim with the rest of India.”

Gurung had said the Morcha would not block NH31A during the two-day bandh in deference to a Supreme Court order. “However, we will not take any responsibility to ensure free traffic on the highway,” he had added in the same breath.

Some months back, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre and the Bengal government to ensure that NH31A remained free of blockades. The order was issued on a petition filed by a Sikkim resident who complained about the troubles the people of the Himalayan state had to face because of the frequent protest on the highway by the Morcha.

State urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya questioned the Morcha’s attitude at a time when the talks on the interim set-up were progressing. “The agitation by the Morcha when talks are in progress shows the party’s un-cooperative attitude. We perceive that such activities will disrupt life and might lead to tension and affect the scheduled talks.”

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