Darjeeling, Aug. 16: Hill parties today scaled down the statehood agitation, announcing another “people’s” shutdown from August 19 to 23 but only a programme of torchlight marches and human chains for the next three days.
“Realisation has dawned that achieving a Gorkhaland state would be a long-drawn affair and it’s not feasible to carry on with a shutdown of the hills indefinitely,” a Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader said, indicating an effort to maintain a degree of normality.
“The leadership has also (taken into account) that the tourist season is approaching and that tourism is a source of livelihood for the majority of the hill people.”
An all-party meeting in Darjeeling today formed a Gorkhaland Joint Action Committee, made up of representatives from nine hill parties, which would decide the future course of the agitation.
The committee called the August 19-23 shutdown “in deference to the wishes of the people” and named it “Ghar Bhitra Janta” (people inside homes). Calcutta High Court had earlier ruled the August 13-14 “janata” curfew illegal.
“If you say the (new) programme (involves) just a change of nomenclature, that is your interpretation,” Morcha leader Raju Pradhan said.
The agitation will be limited to torch rallies on August 24 and 25, followed by a two-hour human chain on highways and streets on August 26. On August 18, the joint action committee will chalk out the post-August 26 programme.
Morcha president Bimal Gurung chaired the all-party meeting, which nominated Enos Das Pradhan of the apolitical Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh as joint action committee chairman. J.B. Rai of the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists was made vice-chairman.