Hill strike off before talks

The Telegraph

Darjeeling, July 27: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has decided to withdraw its indefinite strike from tomorrow for a “congenial” atmosphere before talks but its president dared policemen to resign from their services for the cause of Gorkhaland.

Gurung made the announcements at Chowrastha today while observing “martyrs’ day” in memory of the 1,200 people who died during the 28-month-long statehood agitation under the GNLF in the eighties.

In 1986, on this day, 14 people were gunned down by the paramilitary forces in Kalimpong.

“In an attempt to create a congenial atmosphere for the August-11 meeting, we decided to withdraw the strike from tomorrow. We will review the outcome of the talks at a meeting on August 17 when we decide on the future of the agitation,” said Gurung.

However, the Morcha has asked people to continue boycotting the payment of all government taxes.

The party had earlier linked the withdrawal of the strike, which had started on July 13, to the transfer of senior police officers.

Today, Gurung, said: “At times, we must not be one-tracked.”

But he was quick to clarify: “I am not withdrawing the strike fearing that my people will go hungry. I have enough rations stocked for three months and it will be my duty to distribute them to every household.”

The Morcha leader who delivered his trademark fiery speech, however, created flutters by challenging the hill police to show their commitment to the statehood cause.

“In the plains, even a constable is determined to stop the partition of Bengal but policemen (from the Gorkha community) here are arresting our own people. If you are committed to the cause (Gorkhaland), I dare you to resign,” said Gurung.

He also had a message for Sikkim and said it was not his intention to keep the people of the Himalayan state hungry. “Unfortunately the highway passes through our area and you are bound to be affected when we start an agitation. Sikkim must understand that even their chief minister faces an identity crisis,” said Gurung, who had earlier said the Gorkhas in India were always confused with residents of Nepal. According to the Morcha president, Chamling, too, was the victim of the identity confusion.

The Morcha has urged the hill residents to form a human chain on August 11 for an hour starting from 11.19am, which according to Gurung is an auspicious moment. The chain is expected to extend from Lebong to Siliguri, a distance of 95km.

“Every individual should be part of the chain. This is an attempt to show our unity before the tripartite talks starts at 3pm,” said Gurung.

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