The Telegraph
Friday , January 14 , 2011
Since 1st March, 1999
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Counter bandh for a taste of own pill
Plains plan to choke supply

Siliguri, Jan. 13: The Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee has announced a 48-hour general strike as part of an “economic blockade” plan on January 16 and 17, the two days when the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha relaxes its ongoing bandh.

The Bhasha Committee leaders said the purpose of the two-day strike in the plains of Darjeeling district and Jalpaiguri was to give the Morcha a taste of its own medicine.

The anti-Morcha apolitical outfit is popular in Siliguri and its bandh calls have triggered spontaneous response in recent times. Set up in 2002 by Mukunda Majumdar, a doctor, for the “reawakening of the Bengali”, Bhasha Committee boasts nearly 1,000 members and thousands of supporters.

The Bhasha Committee’s support base is on the rise precisely because it is not backed by any political party and its members are educated people, said Tanmoy Goswami, a software developer based in Siliguri. Goswami is not a member but “supports” the Bhasha Committee.

Majumdar’s outfit has already written to different market committees here and in Jalpaiguri, requesting them to support the strike and stop selling food grain to the hills when people come down to replenish their larders on the two days.

“Since the inception of the Gorkhaland movement by the Morcha, the party has resorted to several undemocratic acts and is creating inconvenience and an ambience of tension by observing consistent strikes,” said Majumdar today, the second day of the Morcha strike.

The 27-day strike of the Morcha is spread over three phases with breaks in between.

Morcha supporters gherao Darjeeling police station on Thursday protesting the arrest of party supporters in the Dooars; and (above) a deserted Darjeeling town during the strike. Pictures by Suman Tamang

“We have decided to observe a general strike for 48 hours to stop movement of food grain to the hills. Considering the present state of affairs and the highhandedness of the Morcha, there is no alternative, except for an economic blockade.

“On the basis of our decision, we have sent letters to different market committees in Siliguri and Jalpaiguri, requesting them to support the strike and stop selling food grain to the hills,” said Majumdar.

The counter strike in the plains, the business community believes, will put pressure on the Morcha, which is determined to go ahead with its shutdown till February 12.

“The in-between relief is aimed to facilitate movement of food grains and other items to the hills so that people there can replenish their stocks and participate in the strike. Now that the Bhasha Committee has called a bandh, shops, markets, establishments and private transport would be shut, leaving hill residents and merchants there worried. There will be little chance of the goods being ferried to the hills,” a wholesale grocery merchant in Khalpara said.

Asked if the traders would keep their shops closed, the wholesale merchant said: “Who would like to take a risk? Anyway people can’t do without food grain, so they will come back at some time or the other.”

Majumdar threatened that if the Morcha did not withdraw the strike, his outfit would call another bandh on the day the hills enjoy relief.

In the afternoon, the CPM brought out a rally here to protest the Morcha’s demand for Gorkhaland and the ongoing strike.

At Khunia More, 10km from Malbazar in Jalpaiguri district, 185 Morcha supporters were arrested for raising a road blockade.

They were shifted to Jalpaiguri where they shouted slogans and demonstrated against the police action. When other Morcha supporters set up a blockade at the same spot in protest, 70 others were also arrested.

“All of them were released on personal bond later in the evening. The situation, otherwise, was peaceful in Jalpaiguri district,” police chief Anand Kumar said.

In the evening, the Morcha announced a one-day relaxation for the Dooars tomorrow. The party has included the Dooars and the Terai in its shutdown call but the effect in these areas is not much, except for the Gorkha pockets.

“We have to come to know that Dooars Day would be celebrated tomorrow which is why we have decided to provide one day’s relaxation in the region,” said Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the media and publicity secretary of Morcha.

Inspector general of police (north Bengal) Ranvir Kumar said the CRPF was expected to arrive today. “They will report to the SP (Darjeeling). The paramilitary force would be deployed at certain specific locations of the hills to upkeep law and order,” said the IG.

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