Darjeeling, Aug. 30: The Gorkhaland Joint Action Committee today appealed to the people of the Darjeeling hills to stay indoors on September 2 and 3 when Mamata Banerjee is scheduled to visit Kalimpong to attend a felicitation programme by the Lepchas.
“We have decided to relax the ongoing agitation for a day tomorrow but from September 1 onwards, the current agitation will continue. However, on September 2 and 3, we appeal to the people to strictly support us in our ghar bhitra janata (people inside their homes) programme to show their support for a Gorkhaland state,” said Enos Das Pradhan, chairman of the committee.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is a constituent of the committee.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee is scheduled to reach Kalimpong on September 2 and attend the felicitation programme organised by the Lepcha community in Kalimpong the next day.
The government said the programme was unlikely to change. “We are supposed to go to Kalimpong and attend an event. We will go there and attend the event. One can’t say what impact the hill leadership’s decision would have in the area, but the chief minister’s programme is not going to change on account of it,” a senior government official said.
The Lepchas said that they were “determined” to go ahead with their programme but the announcement by the committee has forced them to rethink on the venue.
Asked if the call was given in view of Mamata’s visit to the hills, Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the Morcha Kalimpong MLA, said: “The ghar bhitra janata programme is the committee’s decision. That is all we can say.”
A Morcha source said: “The renewed agitation seems to be to counter the state government’s move…. When the previous phase of shutdown was about to be lifted a week ago, the arrest of Binay Tamang forced the Morcha to harden its stand.”
The Morcha hopes that the ghar bhitra move would serve three purposes: it would minimise chances of violence; it will drive home the message that the people want a Gorkhaland state; and it will be embarrassing for the government if only a handful of people turn up at the event to felicitate the chief minister.
The Lepchas had thought of holding the meeting on the Mela Ground in Kalimpong that can accommodate 20,000 people. After the ghar bhitra call, Lepcha leaders were wondering if it would be wiser to hold it in the Town Hall that holds 500 people. It would be difficult to mobilise people as transport will be off the roads.
A Trinamul leader in Siliguri said: “Many Nepalis stay in and around Siliguri and are pro-Trinamul. We will take them in escorted vehicles.”
The joint action committee meeting will take a decision on reopening educational institutions on September 1.
Enos Das Pradhan, the committee chairman, said: “A meeting of teachers and students has been scheduled for September 1… where the issue of keeping the educational institutions open will be discussed.”
The same day, the joint action committee will meet to discuss the future course of the agitation and an eight-member team of present and former MLAs and MPs will also leave for Delhi.
At the committee’s meeting, the Gorkhaland Rajya Nirman Morcha was absent. Dawa Pakhrin, the party’s president, said: “We will support every programme of the committee but we decided to keep aloof for the moment as the Morcha president had told the media he wanted something else other than Gorkhaland.”