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Gurung tries to soothe plains

- Morcha leadership assures Dooars members of support as more leave party

Feb. 25: Bimal Gurung today assured Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leaders from the Terai and Dooars that he would always stand by them, the message coming when disgruntled plains cadres have joined Trinamul and the Congress.

The Morcha president’s meeting at the Gymkhana Club with around 1,000 supporters from the plains came two days after 27 former Morcha supporters and leaders joined Trinamul in Calcutta.

Even as Gurung spoke, around 50 Morcha members in Jalpaiguri joined the Congress today.

The common complaint from the Morcha activists in the plains was about the hill party’s perceived indifference on bringing Terai and the Dooars in the GTA area.

Addressing the crowd at the Darjeeling Gymkhana Club, Gurung said: “I have never believed in the politics of betrayal and my thoughts are always there for the people of the Dooars and Terai. The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration Sabha is only an interim arrangement and we must continue our fight for Gorkhaland.”

Launching a vitriolic attack on those who joined Trinamul recently, Gurung said: “I had never accepted those leaders (who deserted the party recently) from my heart. I was always apprehensive about their real motive. I am convinced now that they are only a bunch of contractors running after contract work.”

Today, Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri sought to assure the plains cadres that the party had not forgotten them.

“We have been demanding the inclusion of the mouzas of the Dooars and Terai in the GTA Sabha and we had raised this issue even at a review meeting on the GTA attended by representatives of the Centre, state and the Morcha in Delhi on December 26.”

Giri told the meeting: “It was Mamata Banerjee’s party which did not want the inclusion of mouzas in the GTA but some of the leaders have joined Trinamul. This only proves that these people (who deserted the party) are against Gorkhaland and against their own people.”

The Morcha had demanded that 397 mouzas from the Dooars and Terai be brought under the GTA set-up. But the Justice Shyamal Sen committee, which had been formed to look into the Morcha’s demand, recommended the inclusion of only five mouzas in the GTA.

The government set up fact-verification committee to look into the Morcha’s grievances.

The Morcha has called the meeting to stem the flow of cadres to other parties. Gurung used the occasion to raise the Gorkhaland card again to whip up passions among his members in the plains.

“The agitation can take up different forms. We have started an agitation once again and everyone must come forward for Gorkhaland as statehood is a need for all Gorkhas. Even the panchayat elections are a part of an agitation as once our leaders get elected, they can make a strong case before the state government and the Centre for the inclusion of the plains area in the GTA,” said Gurung.

“I am always committed to my supporters, whether they stay in the Dooars and Terai or in other parts of the country like Meghalaya and Assam,” he said.

Gurung said those who had deserted the Morcha and joined Trinamul had no followers. “Those leaders claim that they have 12 lakh supporters behind them. I, however, believe that each of these leaders do not have more than three supporters.”

Shankar Adhikari, a Morcha leader from the Terai, said at the meeting that the state government was using all possible methods to weaken the outfit in the plains. “I even received a call from police officers who indirectly threatened me and other leaders for working for the Morcha. They said that I was already booked in 17 cases during the agitation and my involvement with the Morcha would not be in my interest,” said Adhikari.

The plain leaders admitted that the morale of their supporters was low at the moment. “We need to step up political activities in the plains. More public meetings must be held by the party ahead of the panchayat elections,” said Ashok Lama, a Morcha leader from Dooars.

Gurung assured the gathering that public meetings would be organised in the Dooars in the coming months and that he along with other central committee members of the Morcha would be present.

Today in Jalpaiguri’s Citizens’ Park, around 50 Morcha members joined the Congress. They were led by Shyam Thapa, the vice-president of the central Dooars committee of the Gorkha Janmukti Yuva Morcha.

“Since 2008, thousands of Morcha workers and supporters have been spearheading the Gorkhaland movement in the Dooars. Three of our supporters died in the police firing at Sibchu in 2011. Also, Akbar Lama, another supporter, died during the movement. We had fought for our rights and demands,” Thapa said.

“But our leaders in the hills are keeping mum over the inclusion of plains mouzas in the GTA. They have not taken up our issues and seem to be satisfied with the GTA. For the past few months, they have been ignoring us, which has prompted us to join the Congress,” he said after receiving a Congress flag from Jalpaiguri district Congress president Mohan Bose.

He said while functioning as Congress workers, they would forego the demand for Gorkhaland and instead, strive to meet the basic demands of the Gorkha population.

“As of now, our primary task is to work and achieve basic demands of the Gorkha population in the Dooars. The Morcha has done nothing to get any of our demands fulfilled. We now believe only the Congress can meet the demands,” Thapa added.

Many of those who joined the Congress said there would be further exodus from the Morcha in the coming days.

“Resentment is brewing among Morcha supporters in the Dooars and Terai and they have found that the central (hill) leaders have utilised them during the movement. These leaders are now sitting in Darjeeling and not taking any steps to achieve our demands. Given the present state of affairs, more leaders and workers will leave the Morcha in the coming days,” said a Morcha worker who joined the Congress.

Mohan Bose said those who had joined the Congress today were with his party earlier.

“They had left the Congress and joined the Morcha on an impulse. Now that they have realised their mistakes, they have returned to the Congress. Such return of former workers will continue in the Dooars in the coming days,” said Bose.