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Interim ‘open’ with territory in tow
Morcha plans reverse march

Kumani, Feb. 14: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today hinted that it was open to the proposed interim administration only if the Gorkha-dominated areas of the Dooars and the Terai were included in the mechanism — a condition unlikely to be met by the government.

In a challenge to the state government, Morcha chief Bimal Gurung said in Kumani today: “Territory is the main issue, not Gorkhaland or the interim set-up. We will first have to settle the issue.” Asked if he would take part in the tripartite dialogue for the set-up, he said: “I have neither said no nor have I said yes.”

In fact, just to underscore the importance of territory, the Morcha president announced that thousands of party supporters in the Dooars would begin a march from Jaigaon on the Bhutan border to Kumani from February 17. “I will not take a step beyond Kumani because it will hurt the government; they will lose votes. I had embarked on my padayatra to brief my supporters on 11 rounds of tripartite talks. Now 40,000-50,000 of my supporters will start a padayatra from Jaigaon to Kumani to meet me,” he said.

The padayatra will reach here on February 27 and culminate in a public meeting. “If the government does not allow my supporters to meet me, then I will go to the Dooars with 3 lakh supporters,” he said.

But the administration made it clear that no marches would be allowed as Section 144 was still in force in the Dooars. “Prohibitory orders are still in place and we will not allow any illegal assemblies that might create law and order problems in the region,” said Ranveer Kumar, the inspector-general of police, north Bengal, today.

The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad, a strong anti-Morcha forum which is vehemently opposed to the inclusion of the Terai and the Dooars in the interim set-up, also made it clear that Morcha marches would only attract problems. “Adivasis form 80 per cent of the population in the Dooars while there are only 8 per cent Morcha supporters. We have told the administration that it would be responsible for any breach of the peace if the Morcha marches take place,” said Birsa Tirkey, the Parishad state president.

The Morcha leadership, including Gurung, has been camping here on the fringes of the Dooars for close to a month, making occasional attempts to enter the Dooars. By refusing to budge from the Dooars border, the party is sending a clear message that it was not willing to compromise on territory.

“Subash Ghisingh made a huge blunder by compromising on the territory, but our president is not the sort to make such a mistake. He has been living in jungles of Kumani for nearly a month now to drive home the point that territory is non-negotiable for him,” said a senior party leader.

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