Pro-Gorkhaland parties to begin fast unto death
Kolkata: The Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee, an alliance of 15 parties fighting for a separate state for the Nepali-speaking population of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts of West Bengal, on Tuesday said it will launch a fast-unto-death from 15 July to intensify its agitation.
Representatives of all 15 parties will join the programme. And although the Central leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has said that the party does not support the demand for a separate state, Amok Pokhrel, a local BJP leader in Darjeeling, said the party will take part in the indefinite hunger strike to protest against the state’s misrule and oppression of Gorkhas.
The BJP’s state unit president Dilip Ghosh said local leaders from Darjeeling were asked to attend Tuesday’s meeting of the coordination committee, but no one had been authorized to take a decision on joining any agitation programme.
On Tuesday, the death toll from Friday-Saturday’s clashes with security forces rose to four after one man, identified as Ashok Tamang, succumbed to his injuries in hospital. The state did not officially confirm the death, but a key official, who asked not to be identified, said Tamang was injured in clashes with security forces on Saturday and taken to hospital.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) claimed Tamang was shot at by security forces and taken to hospital with bullet injuries in his stomach. But the official cited above claimed he was stabbed.
So far, at least eight persons have died in the ongoing agitation in Darjeeling, including a truck driver who was attacked by activists.
On Tuesday, it was also decided that the indefinite strike will continue. The coordination committee asked top officials of all tribal welfare boards created by the state government to step down by 14 July. Many of these boards have lately become defunct after members resigned.
Those who do not follow the order will be treated as “anti-Gorkha”, said Binoy Tamang, assistant general secretary of the GJM. The Gorkhas maintain that chief minister Mamata Banerjee created these boards to divide the larger Gorkha community.
Niraj Zimba, a spokesperson for the Gorkha National Liberation Front, said protesters will lay siege to key government offices such as those of district magistrates and sub-divisional officers from 14 July, and a march to Siliguri town in the plains will be organized on 17 July to protest against disruption in supply of essentials to the hills. He said this was being orchestrated by pro-government organizations.
Meanwhile, the chief justice of the Calcutta high court, Nishita Mhatre, slammed the Centre and the state for not doing enough to resolve the crisis in Darjeeling. Should people suffer because the parties in power at the Centre and in the state are opposed to each other, she asked. Tapabrata Chakraborty, the other judge on the bench, said the Centre and the state should work together to end the impasse, which has already claimed several lives.