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Trinamul backs Jamuni landlosers

- Plot owners say they are ready to testify against Gurung in court

Darjeeling, June 23: Trinamul has sounded its support for nine landowners protesting the use of their plots for a tourism project by Bimal Gurung at a time the administration is facing local resistance in trying to build a hawkers’ market in Chowrasta.

The hill Trinamul yesterday held a meeting with the reluctant landowners from Jamuni, on whose plots GTA chief executive Gurung plans to build a water park, a garden and a Buddha statue.

The total land required for the project is 26 acres. About 13 acres belong to the nine families who have alleged that they were “repeatedly threatened” to part with their plots and not paid compensation. Two willing families owned two acres and received a compensation at the rate of Rs 8 lakh per acre. The rest of the land was already with the GTA.

The nine landowners yesterday released a signed document under the official letterhead of Trinamul saying they would fight for justice and testify against Gurung in court if needed.The signature of Rajen Tamang, Trinamul (hills) vice-president, was also on the letter.

Rajen Tamang, who presided over yesterday’s meeting at Dhobi Talow in Darjeeling, said: “The party will always remain beside poor people. People must be conscious and they must be able to speak the truth. The administration will also be on the side of the truth.”

The GTA has claimed that it would build houses for the landlosers and provide job to each member of each landloser family. Kaziman Lohagun, the GTA Sabha member from Bijanbari-Goke constituency where the disputed land is, said: “We are trying to do good for the hill people. But this is their choice. We have nothing to say.”

Jamuni is 20km from Darjeeling town.

One of the landowners, Manilal Tamang, on June 17 filed a complaint with the district magistrate alleging trespass and conspiracy and under the Prevention of Atrocities on Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribes Act against six men and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Gurung. Tamang alleged that the six men threatened him under Gurung’s instructions.

He also said the GTA was trying to take his plot forcibly. The six men were arrested and police seized two bulldozers, an excavator and a pick-up van on June 17.

Trinamul has for several months tried to gain a foothold in the hills. It lost the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat to the BJP, which won it because of Morcha’s support.

Earlier this month, residents of Darjeeling protested the plan to build a hawkers’ market in Chowrasta by cutting down trees in the town’s main promenade.

The hawkers’ market is a project that has chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s blessings.

Darjeeling district magistrate Puneet Yadav could not be contacted for comments today.

After Manilal Tamang filed the police complaint, on June 21, the Nari Morcha submitted a deputation to district magistrate alleging that the decision to slap the case against Gurung was “politically motivated”.

The statement by the landowners said: “We have come to know that the Nari Morcha has come out in support of Bimal Gurung, stating that we were not threatened. All of us are witness to this incident and if the need arises, we are all ready to testify in court. Bimal Gurung has repeatedly threatened us.… Now, he is sending messages for a settlement but if we have to reach a settlement, we will do so with the state government or under the supervision of the district magistrate.”