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Since 1st March, 1999
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Traffic to hills resumes amid barbs
- Drivers keep fingers crossed

Siliguri, Oct. 23: The CPM and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha continued to exchange verbal volleys even as governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi appealed to all political parties to maintain peace to resolve the crisis in Darjeeling and speed up growth in Siliguri and its surrounding areas.

“The tripartite talks have started and the second round will be held soon,” Gandhi said here today. “With political parties, the state government and the Morcha engaged in the talks, it is necessary that everyone works to keep peace and harmony in the region.”

Gandhi came down from Darjeeling this afternoon and visited Sitalapara to check out the infrastructure development done by the Siliguri Municipal Corporation under Integrated Housing and Slum Development Programme.

“Siliguri is fast progressing as one of the key cities of the state and people from different cultures and communities are consistently contributing to the development process,” he said. “To maintain this rapid pace of growth, it is important that amity prevails.”

District CPM leaders alleged that “anti-socials” were at the helm of affairs in the Morcha, which was forced to announce some relaxations in its agitation because of the people’s protest.

“Considering the incidents of ransack, loot and attack on people organised in the hills by Morcha supporters, it is evident that anti-socials hold the reins of the Morcha now,” said S.P. Lepcha, the Darjeeling district secretary of the CPM.

Jibitesh Sarkar, a district committee member of the CPM, said since the people in the plains and hills alike had started protesting against “unconstitutional and anti-national” steps of the Morcha like forcibly writing “GL” on number plates and imposing dress codes, it had no option but to retreat.

“We are, however, not satisfied and want the administration to curb all instances of law violation in the hills,” he said. “It is necessary to restore the democratic environment there as not a single person opposing the Morcha is safe in hills.”

Retaliating to the attack, the Morcha leaders said the CPM should first point the finger to itself.

“Their leaders should first clarify who were those people who ransacked three vehicles including an ambulance while wielding the Citu’s flag at Dagapur yesterday,” said Binay Tamang, the media and publicity secretary of the Morcha.

“As far as our relaxation of the signboard and number plate drives is concerned, we took the decision to honour the governor’s request. At yesterday’s meeting, the governor insisted that we soften the agitation to ensure a congenial environment before the second round of tripartite talks,” Tamang said. “There is no question of any pressure from inside or outside.”

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