Morcha hunger strike off

The Telegraph

Kalimpong, Feb. 13: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today withdrew its 16-day-old indefinite hunger strike after the state government gave a written commitment to consider five of its six demands.

The hill party has also announced that all government offices will be allowed to function normally from Monday except those which are related to the collection of revenue.

In a letter to Morcha president Bimal Gurung, state home secretary Ardhendu Sen, however, expressed the government’s inability to allow the party to hold public meetings in the Dooars as the atmosphere there was still not conducive.

The Morcha, however, won a major concession with the government reportedly agreeing to reopen three of the 13 closed tea gardens in the Dooars within the one to three months.

“The government has promised to look into the legalities of transferring the ownership of the other closed gardens,” said Binay Tamang, the Morcha spokesperson.

Tamang said the government was also willing to consider running the estates by forming workers’ cooperatives, and if need be, even provide financial aid both from the state and central pool. The government, he said, has agreed to enhance the financial aid— of Rs 750 a month— provided to workers of closed gardens.

“What the so-called leaders of the Terai, Siliguri and the Dooars were not able to do all this while, we have done in two months,” said Tamang. On the demand to drop cases registered against Morcha supporters in the plains and to arrest the Adivasi leaders named by the hill outfit, the government has agreed to expeditiously review them.

“Following our meeting with the chief minister yesterday, Sunil Pradhan, the Yuva Morcha’s Kalimpong unit president, was granted bail today,” he said. Pradhan was arrested during the January 16 Malbazar clash and booked under the Arms Act.

Tamang said the government has also agreed to pay adequate compensation to Gorkhas who had been victims of violence in the plains in the past one month and ensure the security of all its supporters in the region. “All these were the result of a very fruitful and positive meeting we had with the chief minister in Calcutta yesterday. While the hunger strike stands withdrawn from this evening, we will stay in Gorubathan for some more days as we have to complete some of our on-going works like the recruitment for GLP (Gorkhaland Personnel),” said Tamang.

The Morcha supporters had been on hunger strike since January 29. In all, 36 supporters took part in the fast for various period of time. Twelve of them from the first batch of 17 were shifted to the Kalimpong sub-divisional hospital earlier this week.

In Calcutta, Sen said the district magistrate of Darjeeling, Surendra Gupta, had informed him about the Morcha decision to end the fast. “I had written to them a letter, stating that we would pay compensation to those whose property had been destroyed in the series of violent clashes in the Dooars and Terai. I also told them about the chief minister’s concern regarding the hunger strike and his request to withdraw it,” Sen said at Writers’ Buildings.

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