Hunger strike ends, celebrations begin in the hills

Feb. 29: A phone call from party president Bimal Gurung in the afternoon was the trigger that ended the indefinite fast of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters at Dagapur near Siliguri.

“We were closely following the developments on TV,” said Lalit Thapa, the president of Sukna unit of the Morcha. “However, it was only after we got a call from the high command (read Bimal Gurung) around 4.30pm, that we decided to withdraw the strike.”

Gurung told his supporters that Subash Ghisingh was stepping down as the caretaker administrator of the DGHC within 10 days.

Although the 34 protesters broke their fast with glasses of water or juice, it was saline drips that proved to be more important. “Doctors have advised them to have soft rice from tomorrow,” Thapa said.

Eleven Mocha supporters had begun the indefinite hunger strike in front of Pintail Village on February 21.

Ghisingh had been holed up in Pintail Village for four days, as the Morcha prevented him from entering the hills. Other people joined the strikers later.

All those who were fasting — be it 21-year-old Bishal Sharma of Tindharia or Md Chand Mia of Darjeeling — were today anointed with green and yellow-coloured rice grains matching the colours of the Morcha flag, garlanded with marigold and given traditional silk scarves.

More than 500 men and women accompanied the protesters to the Sukna health centre. After they had dispersed, a steady flow of visitors kept the centre abuzz.

Till late in the evening, doctors were busy screening the patients, checking their condition and deciding on the line of treatment.

There was similar frenzy in Darjeeling too, as hundreds of people came to the district magistrate’s office to witness the end of the hunger strike there. The 44 fasting Morcha supporters were taken to Darjeeling Sadar Hospital.

In one incident of violence, a GNLF leader’s house was set on fire in the Seilimbong tea garden of Pokhriabong valley. “The house of D.K. Bantawa, the local GNLF head, has been gutted,” said Darjeeling additional police superintendent Jayanta Pal.

Kalimpong march

“LF ko jhanda hatai deu, Gojamumo ko jhanda lagai deu Gojamomu gojamamu om, gojamomu gojamamu om (Replace the GNLF flag with that of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. Blessed be the Morcha)”

Kalimpong reverberated with the refrain, sung to the tune of a popular Nepali folk song, as thousands of women supporters of the Morcha marched through the streets of the town today.

Midway through the procession, rumours started doing the rounds that Ghisingh had resigned. Shouts of “Litipiti litipiti, Ghisingh lai chuti (Ghisingh goes down the slippery path)” rent the air as the women started dancing, to the amusement of hundreds of people lining the streets.

However, the bystanders were taken aback when the women took potshots at them too. “Ramita haina saat deu, haina bhane taap deu (Join us or disappear, instead of just watching the fun)” teased some girls as they approached Thanadara. A bespectacled young man standing in front of the statue of Dal Bahadur Giri beat a hasty retreat; his political affiliation remained a matter of conjecture.

Morcha chief Bimal Gurung was clearly more popular among the marchers than Ghisingh. “Bimal Gurung lai cha hi, Ghisingh lai bye-bye (Hi to Bimal Gurung, to Ghisingh it’s bye-bye),” they shouted.

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