The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rivals clash as GNLF harps on peace

Darjeeling, Nov. 14: GNLF and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters clashed at Pokhriabong Valley today even as the new youth wing of Subash Ghisingh’s party urged people to end violence in the hills.

Morcha leaders claimed that one of their supporters was injured while the shop of another was damaged.

This is the first confrontation between the two parties after the Morcha’s formation more than a month ago. Bimal Gurung, who was expelled by the GNLF for “anti-party” activities, went ahead to form the Morcha and challenged the viability of the Sixth Schedule status — Ghisingh’s trump card. Gurung said the people of the hills should demand nothing short of Gorkhaland.

The two parties clashed at Sangma Tea Estate, 40km from here. Morcha supporters claimed that they were threatened when they refused to observe the bandh called by the GNLF. The Morcha members were on their way back from Rimbick after a public meeting there yesterday.

“They beat up an innocent person Swadhin Mally who had to be taken to Siliguri and also damaged the shop of Hemanth Pradhan. Deepak Gurung had led the attack and we demand that they be immediately arrested,” alleged Binay Tamang, the press and publicity secretary of the Morcha.

Deepak Gurung, the president of the GNLF in the area, has denied the allegation. “We did not call the strike. The common man had taken the decision as our supporters were pelted with stones at Sangma.”

Darjeeling superintendent of police Rajesh Subarno said an inquiry has been started to ascertain the facts and additional forces have been deployed in Pokhriabong. “Things are under control,” said Subarno.

The police also held a meeting with leaders of both the parties urging them not to take law and order in their hands.

Ajay Edwards, who has been made a convener of the newly formed Gorkha National Youth Front of the Darjeeling branch today, said: “Everyone has the right to choose their political affiliations. Why is it that in the hills we have to fear for our lives when it comes to political leanings. We have lived our lives (during the Gorkhaland agitation) in fear and we do not want to do so now.” He was addressing hundreds of GNLF supporters at the Youth Hostel ground here.

Edwards’s words were assuring in the wake of apprehension over the GNLF's decision to mobilise youths in the hills just after the formation of the Morcha.

“We do not want to go to the jungles (as during the agitation period) and we want peace. Sixth Schedule is definitely good and we are about to achieve this without spilling a drop of blood. We do not want to fight with our own brothers,” said Edwards.

Niraj Zimba, a lawyer, said the Sixth Schedule was a “state within a state”. “Under the special status, we will be able to give land rights to garden and plantation residents,” he claimed.

The majority of the people here, who live in the tea estates or the cinchona plantation, do not have the patta because they live on leased out land.

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