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Hill rivals chalk out comeback strategy
Arrest demand from ABGL

Darjeeling, June 7: Nearly 40 ABGL supporters today demonstrated in front of Darjeeling police station demanding the immediate arrest of the murderers of Madan Tamang, the protest more symbolic of hill opposition parties trying to regroup and make their presence felt.

They shouted slogans against the “black law” of the state government in front of the police station. The demonstration was withdrawn after I.J. Thapa, officer-in-charge of the Darjeeling Sadar police station, assured an ABGL delegation that all efforts were being made to arrest the culprits. Sources said Darjeeling police have sought help from their counterparts in Sikkim to conduct raids in the hill state.

Later, the ABGL supporters, most of them women, blocked Chowk Bazaar for about half an hour. “People are still terrorised and they have not been able to come up openly in our support. We are, however, confident that in the days to come, people will support us as we stand for democracy and peace in the hills,” said Mohan Sharma, the general secretary of the ABGL’s labour wing.

“We had come here to demand the immediate arrests of the accused and the masterminds behind the murder of Madan Tamang. We are planning to hold similar demonstrations in the days to come. If the police fail to act we will also organise an indefinite hunger strike in Darjeeling,” Sharma added.

The ABGL, however, has not set any time frame for the arrests.

In the evening, the Democratic Front, a conglomeration of seven hill-based parties opposed to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, plastered posters in town demanding the arrest of murderers. The posters appealed to the people to support the democratic forces in the hills.

Almost all the opposition parties believe that this is the right time to revive their activities, especially when the Morcha — that has been accused of masterminding the attack on Tamang — is on the back foot.

Sources said the front had held a meeting in Darjeeling on Saturday and finalised its political strategy.

Even a section within the GNLF that is not part of the front thinks that time is right for reviving party activities in the hills. Dawa Pakhrin, a senior GNLF leader, has decided to sever ties with party chief Subash Ghisingh for Gorkhaland.

“He (Subash Ghisingh) is my political guru and I respect him. However, he cannot be above my amma (mother), which is Gorkhaland. I have decided to sever all ties with Subash Ghisingh,” said Pakhrin over the phone from Siliguri, anguished over Ghisingh’s decision to demand the inclusion of the Darjeeling hills in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution instead of statehood. Pakhrin, however, said he would like to remain within the GNLF fold.

“The Morcha, too, is diluting the Gorkhaland demand by talking about interim set-up and now it is ready to re-christen it as Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh. Gorkhaland is about identity and not development. The Morcha might also rename the state as Gorkha-Adivasi-Kamtapuri and go on adding names of various groups, like Greater Cooch Behar,” Pakhrin said.

Morcha chief Bimal Gurung had recently tried to woo the tribal population in the Dooars by offering to rename Gorkhaland as Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh. The tribals under the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad want Sixth Schedule status for the Dooars and the Terai and have refused to be part of the Morcha statehood agitation.

Observers believe that the GNLF leaders could isolate Ghisingh — who had first coined the term Gorkhaland but later relented to the formation of an administrative council for the hills — within his own party.

In fact, sources said the front had sent feelers to Rajen Mukhia, convener of the GNLF’s Terai committee, to be part of a united Opposition. Mukhia is the only GNLF leader who has been able to demonstrate his strength since the Morcha was formed in 2007. Mukhia is yet to announce his decision.

The Morcha however said it was not worried about recent developments and cited the huge turnaround at the May 30 meeting as evidence of its popularity in the hills. “This is an answer to Asok Bhattacharya and all the people who thought the Morcha has lost support,” Harka Bahadur Chhetri, publicity secretary of the Morcha had said at the meeting.

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