Monday, 30 April 2012

Morcha snub for Mamata govt Gurung rejects plea to call off bandh

Morcha snub for Mamata govt 
Gurung rejects plea to call off bandh

North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb at the Darjeeling district hospital on Wednesday; and (above) Morcha chief Bimal Gurung on Central Dooars tea estate on Wednesday. Pictures by Suman Tamang and Anirban Choudhury
April 25: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today boycotted official programmes of the Trinamul-led government in the Darjeeling hills, expressing openly its displeasure for not being permitted to hold a public meeting in the Dooars.
The rebuff came on a day when Morcha chief Bimal Gurung delivered a snub to chief minister Mamata Banerjee by refusing to give any assurance on her government's request not to go on strike in the region and to defer by a fortnight any plans to hold meeting in the Dooars.
In Darjeeling this morning, where north Bengal development minister Gautam Deb chaired a meeting of the Darjeeling Rogi Kalyan Samity, local MLA Trilok Dewan and municipality chairman Amar Singh Rai stayed away. Dewan and Rai are both members of the patient welfare committee, a state body.
In Kalimpong, municipality chairman and Morcha study forum member L.B. Parihar did not attend the opening of the Sabala Mela, a fair organised by self-help groups which he was supposed to preside and where Deb had been invited to be the chief guest.
Deb was spared further humiliation at the Kalimpong fair ground when police arrested two members of the Vidyarthi Morcha, the student wing of the hill party, before they could wave the black flags they were carrying.
Back in Darjeeling, Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri spelt out his party's plans. "We have decided to boycott official functions till permission is given to us to hold a public meeting in the plains. Our leaders will not attend any government event," he said.
The minister refused comment on the Morcha boycott. "I do not want to make any comments. I am not sure why they did not attend the meeting," Deb said. "I have come to Darjeeling for an official programme and it would be inappropriate to comment on political issues as the government officials present here might be embarrassed."
The Morcha boycott move came as a surprise to the state government, officials said, as it came a day after the party decided to put on hold for 36 hours its agitation in the hills and the bandh in the Dooars as "goodwill gesture" towards the chief minister's peace appeal.
In Jalpaiguri's Jaigaon, the subdivisional officer of Alipurduar, Amal Kanti Roy, met Morcha chief Bimal Gurung with a request from the state government not to call a bandh in the Dooars after the 36-hour "relaxation" that ended on Friday. He also requested him to defer any plans for a public meeting in the Dooars by at least "10 to 15 days".
Once the situation turned "normal" in the Dooars and after about a fortnight, the district administration would consider granting permission to hold a public meeting, Roy told Gurung. But Gurung did not relent.
Morcha spokesperson and Kalimpong MLA Harka Bahadur Chhetri, who has been camping with Gurung in Jaigaon, said after the meeting: "The official asked us to withdraw the strike to restore peace in the region. We made it clear that the administration was solely responsible for the violence in the Dooars. Had we been given permission to hold our public meeting, the violence could have been avoided."
Without commenting on what form of agitation the Morcha would resort to if it did not get permission to hold a public meeting, Chhetri said: "We have made our stand clear. If the administration does not inform us by Thursday the date and venue of our public meeting, we will have to decide on the future course of action."
Subdivisional officer Roy said after the meeting: "I met the Morcha leaders and asked them not to continue with the strike and restore peace in the region first. Only then would we think of giving permission to them for a public meeting. Our first aim is to restore peace as normal life is being affected in the Dooars. We have not received any assurance."