| A hawker displays his wares at Haat Bazar in Kurseong town on Tuesday. Picture by Vivek Singh
Darjeeling, Nov. 27: More than 1,000 residents of the town took to the streets in a silent procession today with a message that was loud and clear: the hills want peace.
Around 11am, Chowrastha was brimming with people who turned up spontaneously to join the peace rally that was planned last evening. The handful of organisers were overwhelmed by the response, especially since only two posters announcing the event had been put up in town.
The participants, comprising people from all walks of life, marched from Chowrastha to Chowk Bazar, holding a solitary banner and placards that appealed to all to maintain peace and shun violence.
“In violence we forget who we are,” read one placard. Another said: “No one gets a gallantry award for threatening people.”
Boys of North Point School took part in the rally. Though there were no political banners, leaders and supporters of both the GNLF and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha could also be seen among the marchers.
One of the main organisers of today’s rally was B.K. Pradhan, a lawyer in town.
“On Friday, when trouble broke out, I was trying to go to an Internet cafe and see whether my son’s airline ticket from Delhi to Bagdogra had been confirmed or not. Suddenly everything shut down and things were in total disarray,” Pradhan recalled.
He was referring to the aftermath of the incident in which a GNLF leader was attacked with khukuris. The GNLF called a general strike after that.
Pradhan said the violence and the frightened faces of people prompted him to gather some of his friends and discuss the situation.
“We thought that something needed to be done to stop this senselessness,” said Roshan Kant Ghisingh, a businessman.
On Sunday, Pradhan and the others decided to meet the heads of police and administration.
“We thought the delegation would comprise six or seven people, but there were 48 of us who ultimately met the district magistrate, the police superintendent and the deputy inspector-general of police,” the lawyer said. “We wanted to know what we could do.”
Pradhan said the administration responded positively and opened a control room to monitor the indefinite bandh, which ends tomorrow. “We also met GNLF leaders like Deepak Gurung and Morcha president Bimal Gurung, urging them to shun violence.”
The organisers said the idea of a peace rally came up when a group of them met yesterday morning near the deputy superintendent of police’s office.
“We had to wait till late in the evening for permission from the administration and when we did, we put up two posters at Chowk Bazar.
Rajiv Thapa, a Class X student who had joined the rally with his family, said he was excited to be part of the march. “No one wants violence. Today, when we saw many people joining the rally, we, too, came out on the streets,” he said.
In fact, a lot of people in the rally were holding up placards with hastily written peace slogans on them.
In another development, the recently formed Legal Rights Awareness Forum has condemned the statement made by GNLF chief Subash Ghisingh about some “educated people” in the hills with “vested interest” who are allegedly spreading wrong information on the Sixth Schedule among the people.
“It is the moral duty of the lawyers to bring the facts in front of the people. Ghisingh actually does not know about the Sixth and the Fifth Schedules of the Constitution and is misleading the people of the hills. He has not even circulated the draft of the Sixth Schedule till now,” said the secretary of the forum, Poonam Kumar Sharma.